Wilkus Farm Protected

June 11, 2010
Connecticut

Historic Wilkus Farm has been permanently protected, The Trust for Public Land and the Town of Wethersfield announced today. The Town of Wethersfield will own and manage the land for both farming and passive recreational activities, including hiking.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, reached an agreement with the heirs of the Wilkus Farm in February 2009 to purchase and permanently protect the family's lands in Wethersfield, Conn. The 81-acre property includes three separate parcels, two of which are located on Willow Street and the third on nearby Thornbush Road, adjacent to the Town-owned 1860 Reservoir. The protection of these parcels was a top priority for the Town.

"Wethersfield residents seized a great opportunity to preserve the most significant open space in Town, while also preserving an important piece of the Town's agricultural history. The Wilkus Farm is truly one of those special places that defines this community and it was inspiring to see the residents rally to see it protected. TPL is proud to have been part of this important conservation effort," said Lisa Bassani, TPL project manager.

"We are pleased to finally be closing on the Wilkus Farm Open Space. We have fulfilled the wishes of the citizens while protecting the town," said Mayor Donna Hemmann.

The farm contains prime farmland soils and remains an important symbol of the Town's agricultural history. The property had been farmed by the late Wilkus brothers for much of the last century and included a dairy operation and hayfields.

"The purchase of Wilkus Farm is finally here. After a year of hard work by many parties, especially Save the Farm and The Trust for Public Land, the citizens of Wethersfield have acquired some of the most beautiful land in the state. We should be very proud of this achievement. I would also like to thank the former town council for supporting this effort and the current one for going forward with the purchase. The citizens of Wethersfield spoke loudly and clearly in May of 2009 and it's great to see this finally come to conclusion," said former Mayor Andrew Adil.

"The purchase of the Wilkus Farm honors and preserves Wethersfield's agricultural heritage and protects our townspeople's ability to have open space and agricultural land for the future. We have talked about it for over 25 years. Paraphrasing Mike Fallon's daughter, 'We are going to keep the "field" in Wethersfield.' Congratulations to all who worked so hard and had such foresight," said Judy Parker, former Deputy Mayor and a member of Save the Farm, a group of local volunteers that supported the purchase.

Funding for the $3.445 million purchase comes primarily from a $4 million bond authorized by voters in 2006 for open space purchases. Two other separate portions of the purchase price will come from the Town's Land Acquisition Fund and a $490,000 Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) grant from its Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program. The program, in operation since 1998, helps towns, land trusts, and water companies conserve important land for open space and water supply protection.

Amey Marrella, DEP Commissioner said, "The DEP commends Wethersfield for making protection and preservation of open space a priority. This acquisition not only protects an important stream that flows into the Connecticut River, but also preserves valuable hayfields within Wilkus Farm that provide necessary habitat for numerous grassland bird species."

"I am pleased that the town will finally be closing on the Wilkus Farm purchase. It has been a long time coming and is a testament of the good that can happen when our neighbors work together for a great cause. Our children and grandchildren will be the beneficiaries of this worthwhile effort," said State Representative Russell Morin.

"After many months I am very pleased that the town completed the purchase of the Wilkus Farm and preserved these lands for future generations of Wethersfield residents," said State Senator Paul Doyle.

In May 2009, voters approved the purchase of the Wilkus Farm at referendum. Subsequent environmental reports on the property disclosed conditions that required site remediation. The cleanup of the property was completed by the Wilkus family in May 2010 and approved by the Town's environmental consultant, allowing the transfer of the property to be completed.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization which conserves land for people to enjoy as working landscapes, parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. In Connecticut, TPL has protected more than 7,000 acres of open space, watershed land, working farms and forestland, and historic resources.