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A recent state grant has allowed the Madison Land Conservation Trust to move ahead with the purchase of Lowry Woods, a 73-acre parcel between Daniel Hand High School and Cockaponset State Forest. Image courtesy of the Madison Land Conservation Trust )
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On Dec. 17, Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced $4.8 million in state grants to protect nearly 1,200 acres across 14 towns in the state. Madison, specifically the Madison Land Conservation Trust (MLCT), was one of the recipients to the tune of $462,500 for 73 acres of land known as Lowry Woods.
According to the grant award, Lowry Woods, located just north of Daniel Hand High School, “is entirely within the Neck River watershed corridor. This undeveloped wooded parcel, abutting Cockaponset State Forest, will provide protection to several water-based wildlife habitats, ensure high water quality, and contribute to a recognized greenway. By adding to existing preserved parcels (state forest and other Madison Land Conservation Trust lands), the public will have access to and existing trail system with opportunities for expansion.”
The Madison Land Conservation Trust, founded in 1964, is a non-profit organization. Run by a volunteer board, the trust oversees close to 1,700 acres of woodlands and wetlands across the town and maintains the nearly 35 miles of trail on the land. MLCT President Benjamin Diebold said the trust is thrilled to receive this grant.
“The land is contiguous with both our land trust property and with Cockaponset State Forest, so it is great greenbelt of coastal forest land that is less then two miles from the shore and a mile from the center of town,” he said. “It’s really a conservation sweet spot, so we are really very pleased.”
The grants are awarded through the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition program, which is administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy & 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 according to the release.
Malloy said in a statement that Connecticut currently has more than 500,000 acres designated as open space and this grant helps push the state toward the goal of having 21 percent—roughly 673,210 acres—of all land conserved.
“Connecticut’s tradition of preserving open space has helped define our landscape and preserve its important natural resources and geographical beauty,” he said. “These grants continue our open space preservation legacy and will increase the availability of open space for our residents across our state.”
The Lowry Woods property is one of the largest, if not the largest, pieces of property the MLCT will acquire in the southern portion of town. The land is situated just north of Green Hill Road near the high school.
“It’s basically right across from the high school and in fact the cross country team has always used it as a running area,” said Diebold. “Part of the long-term plan for the property is we will put in some trails, but the town may be able to put in like a sidewalk that runs between the school and the entrance to the property for the kids.”
The land has been preserved and shielded from development over the years because its sits in a trust, specifically the Lowry Family Trust. MLCT Acquisitions Chair David Roach said the land belonged to Dr. Elizabeth Lowry.
“There is a huge legacy piece to this land with the MLCT,” he said. “Dr. Betty Lowry was very active in the land trust for many years, a past president...and I think the trust and the family had always felt that the destiny for this property was to preserve it in her memory. So now this destiny is reality.”
Lowry died in 2009 at the age of 100. Roach said the MLCT didn’t have to move to quickly on this property after she passed because of a program called Public Act 490. The program provides owners with significant property tax relief for forested land, ideally easing any financial pressures to sell forested land off to developers. Roach said now. however, members of the Lowry Trust wanted to make sure formal steps were taken to give the land to the MLCT.
“I think with these things there is never any degree of certainty and so we always feel better when it is a done deal,” he said. “From an acquisition perspective. the trust had a sense that it was really time to make a strong effort to bring the property into the MLCT portfolio.”
Roach said the MLCT entered into a purchase agreement with the Lowry Trust contingent on this grant award. The grant makes up about half of the total purchase price. The price tag on the land is roughly $1.2 million, but the Lowry family plans to make a donation back to the MLCT, bringing the total price down to $925,000.
“It’s great to be able to lock this piece of property up for conservation,” he said. “It’s great to have this money and now the MLCT really has to get to work fundraising because this will be a big piece for us so we have quite a bit of work to do.”
To learn more about the Madison Land Conservation Trust, visit www.madisonlandtrust.org.
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