Shelton’s push to protect open space received some significant support last week — thanks to an early Christmas present from the state of Connecticut.
Local leaders received word in mid-December that the city would receive a $187,500 grant — awarded through the state’s Open Space & Watershed Land Acquisition program — to be used toward the purchase of more than six acres of land known as Pearmain Preserve.
Mayor Mark Lauretti said this acquisition includes a portion of an approved, but yet to be filed, plan for a six-lot subdivision. This acquisition means the subdivision would be three lots, instead of the five- to six-lot subdivision that had been originally planned for the site.
Pearmain Preserve consists of 6.71 acres of woodland to be split off from property located at 69 Pearmain Road. The property was purchased by Key Development, LLC, in 2017 and subdivided. The final approved subdivision map has not yet been filed with the city clerk pending the city’s purchase. If not purchased, all building lots would be developed.
The city agreed to purchase the Pearmain Preserve portion for $375,000, and city officials submitted a grant request with the state for $240,500, or 64% of the average value.
The city’s grant application stated that the property contains significant wetlands that empty into a brook that drains to Means Brook Reservoir, a public drinking water resource. The property is located near, and drains to, Class 1 watershed land, and the Aquarion Water Co. has written in
support of preserving the property. The site is located near the center of the Means Brook Greenway, an area identified in the Shelton Open Space Plan as a priority for preservation.
Pearmain Preserve is located near the Shelton Land Conservation Trust’s Nicholdale Farm property, where there is a youth camp and popular hiking trail system. An existing trail called the “Pearmain Path” connects the Youth Camp to Pearmain Road. This trail runs through private property preserved under a previous OSWA grant called the Beardsley PDR, and is as close as 20 feet from the Pearmain Preserve property.
“If not purchased for open space, new homes and yards on the Preserve property will degrade the hiking trail,” stated the grant request. “The Pearmain Path is also vulnerable to potential future development of the house and driveway that can be built on the Beardsley PDR property, as allowed under the preservation agreement. This house and drive would be located next to the trail.”
The grant application states that the acquisition of the Pearmain Preserve would allow the trail to be rerouted onto open space if the Beardsley house is built.
“This project has the support of the abutting farmers, who maintain woodlots. Jones Family Farms is offering the right to create a return loop through their property and recently donated part of this property to the Land Trust,” according to the grant application.
The grants are being awarded through the Open Space & Watershed Land Acquisition program, which is administered by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and assists local governments, land trusts, and water companies in purchasing open space using funding from the Community Investment Act and state bond funds.
This grant program requires a match by the grant recipient and requires the open space land be protected by a conservation and public recreation easement, ensuring that the property is forever protected for public use and enjoyment.
“Connecticut’s tradition of preserving open space has helped define our landscape and preserve its important natural resources and geographical beauty,” said Gov. Dannel Malloy in announcing the grant approvals. “These grants continue our open space preservation legacy and will increase the availability of open space for our residents across our state.”
These open space projects move the state of Connecticut further in achieving its goal of protecting 673,210 acres of land — approximately 21% of land in the state, said Malloy. At this time, Connecticut has more than 500,000 acres designated as state or local open space land.
“Since the program began in 1998, more than $125 million in state funding has been awarded to municipalities, nonprofit land conservation organizations, and water companies to assist in the purchase of more than 36,400 acres of land, including farmlands, in 139 cities and towns,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee. “These important open space properties protect natural resources and improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.”