Land Trust Celebrates Summer Hill Property
All the way back in June of 2017, the Madison Land Conservation Trust (MLCT) became the proud owners of two new parcels of land in North Madison. According to the MLCT, the parcels were purchased from the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority and connect three of their existing properties, creating one large conservation area with over 300 contiguous acres of protected woodlands and watercourses.
Chair of the MLCT Outreach Committee and MLCT Board member Julie Ainsworth said the generosity of donors combined with a grant from the State of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Program made it possible for the organization to raise the down payment needed to close on the 2017 purchase. This past June, the mortgage papers for that loan on the Summer Hill Preserve property were burned in a ceremony to celebrate the group’s ownership of the parcel.
Ainsworth said there were several reasons why the organization is excited about this important aspect of the process and why the parcel is so critical to the MLCT’s mission.
“For years, three of our properties—the Bailey Trails Preserve on the Hammonasset River (along Summer Hill Road), the Summer Hill Preserve (just north and east of Route 80), and the Indian Rock Shelters Preserve (a little farther north, and west of Summer Hill Road)—have drawn hikers to discover the wonder of our local woods, rivers, and uplands. At the same time, these beautiful areas provided protection for numerous species of fish, birds, mammals, and plants—some of them species of concern,” Ainsworth said. “What is neat about these two parcels that were purchased is that these properties now link together in a contiguous greenway, because Summer Hill property is connected to other Land Trust properties, so there is a 300-acre area that goes right from the Hammonasset reservoir all the way along the Hammonasset River.”
Ainsworth said the concept and implementation of contiguous greenways is a crucial factor for Land Trusts, as they can provide a safe corridor for all forms of wildlife, from mammals, to birds, to insects, and plants. The paying off of the loan is also a notable feat for the organization, according to Ainsworth.
“Preserving this greenway and protecting the Hammonasset watershed is really critical,” said Ainsworth. “As a non-profit we rely on grants and donations, and we are not a “town” group so we rely entirely on these donations and grants to fund actions like this. So, to be able to pay off a mortgage is significant because it frees up funding for other properties.”
Fillmore McPherson, former Madison First Selectman and current vice president of finance for the MLCT, said one of the goals of the MLCT is to make residents aware of how important these acquisitions are to the town.
“Obviously, protecting the Hammonasset watershed has been one of our most important missions,” said McPherson. “Some of these parcels start up near Route 80, but are critical to protecting the Sound and the marsh areas that these waterways meander through. This parcel is very important because it protects a major piece of the watershed and because it connects with other Land Trust properties. We have seen that smaller, fractured parcels of preserved land are less effective in stabilizing habitat and promoting wildlife, than larger contiguous properties like the one on Summer Hill. The Regional Water Authority has been very helpful in recent years in helping Land Trusts acquire property, and helping us finance it. They provided an interest free five-year payment plan in this particular instance, and have really helped with the whole process.”
There will be a stargazing event sponsored by MLCT on Sunday, Oct. 9th at 7 p.m. at the Madison Surf Club, the Autumn Moonlight Walk. Bring a flashlight and join MLCT members for an evening stroll on the Garvan Trail at the Surf Club. A bagpiper will lead the way. After the walk, refreshments will be served in the Surf Club building, and members of the Astronomical Society of New Haven will set up telescopes for viewing the moon, planets and stars in the night-time sky. Meet by the flag pole in front of the Surf Club.
For more information about the Autumn Moonlight Walk, visit madisonlandtrust.org