171 Acres Protected for Webb Mt. Park (CT)

Monroe, CT, 7/26/04: The town of Monroe announced today that it has completed the purchase of two properties totaling 167 acres to be protected as open space and added to Webb Mountain Park. It also received a conservation easement on an additional 4.46 acres bringing the total protected area to 171 acres. The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit conservation organization, prevented the properties from being developed by obtaining agreements to purchase the properties in the last year, and has been working with the town to enable it to permanently protect the land.

The first property, 106.6 acres formerly owned by Summit Residential, was purchased on June 14, 2004. It had previously been approved for a development of 70 housing units. The second property, 60.66 acres, was acquired Friday and lies adjacent to Webb Mountain Park, connecting the Park with the former Summit property. A conservation easement on an adjacent 4.46 acres was donated to the town by a private landowner at the same time.

TPL began negotiating with the landowners to purchase the properties last fall at the request of local officials. The purchase price of $5.15 million for the two properties is over $1 million less than appraised values and is a bargain sale to the town of Monroe.

“This is a tremendous acquisition for the town of Monroe,” said Andrew Nunn, Monroe’s First Selectman, “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it met our highest priority for open space acquirement, including the fact that it is adjacent to town-owned Webb Mountain Park. Additionally, it will be a critical link in an emerging greenbelt of protected open space and trails available to all Monroe residents. I am thankful our residents saw the wisdom in preserving this land for future generations.”

The purchases were overwhelmingly approved by Monroe voters by a margin of 171 to 32 at town meeting in February. The town and TPL applied last month for matching grant funds in the amount of 50% of the purchase price from the State of Connecticut DEP for both parcels. Announcements of grants are expected to occur sometime this fall. Any amount awarded by the DEP will be a reimbursement to the town. A private contribution of $50,000 was also received to help the town with the purchase.

“The Trust for Public Land is glad to see this addition to Webb Mountain Park come to fruition,” said Alicia Betty, Project Manager for TPL. “It has been rewarding to witness the enthusiasm of the people of Monroe in preserving the character of the community and protecting this important watershed and natural resource area. We are grateful to the group of dedicated Monroe citizens and leaders in the community who worked very hard to ensure the permanent protection of these properties.”

The area’s legislative leaders were all in support of this project, including Congressman Christopher Shays, State Senator George Gunther, State Senator Bill Finch, and State Representative Debralee Hovey. “By purchasing this land, the town of Monroe, the State and the Trust for Public Land is ensuring open space near Webb Mountain Park remains just that — open space for today’s residents and future generations to enjoy”, said Congressman Shays. “As an early supporter of this important preservation effort, I am grateful for the all the work from so many community leaders that has gone into making this project a success.”

“I was pleased to support this wonderful opportunity to add 167 acres of protected land to Webb Mountain Park and protect the natural resources of the area”, Senator Gunther stated.

“I extend the highest compliments to the Trust for Public Land and the town of Monroe”, said Senator Finch. “Monroe stepped in at a critical juncture and was willing to make an investment in the future. This project will save money for the town in the long run while expanding recreational opportunities and open space for generations to enjoy”. “I am very excited for the town of Monroe”, stated Representative Hovey. “This project will provide crucial open space for the citizens of Monroe and its neighbors.”

Also, a number of organizations supported the project; including Connecticut Audubon, National Audubon Society, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Monroe Fields and Woods, Webb Circle Association, Connecticut Forest and Parks Association and Aquarion Water Company. The United Technology Corporation played an important role in helping to accomplish this open space project by providing pro bono environmental services and expertise to the Trust for Public Land.

Tom Ellbogen, a neighbor stated, “On behalf of our neighborhood association, I’d like to sincerely thank our town’s leaders, most notably First Selectman Andrew Nunn, and of course, the Trust for Public Land, for their indispensable role in helping create an enduring legacy of open space in one of the few remaining rural enclaves in Southern Fairfield County. After more than five years of our neighborhood association’s arduous attempt to protect this environmentally sensitive area, this remarkable conclusion occurred because of the faith that disparate parties placed in TPL and the bridge TPL presented toward a better path.”

The Webb Mountain Open Space properties serve as a critical link in the town’s emerging greenbelt system by connecting town-owned Webb Mountain Park to Bridgeport Hydraulic Company owned watershed land and other dedicated open space located in northeastern Monroe. On a regional level, these properties help establish connections to the Means Brook Greenway in Shelton (>2,000 acres) and provide improved trail access to the Housatonic River and Lake Zoar, as well as Indian Wells State Park to the south. With the addition of these 171 acres of new open space, there will be a block of adjoining open space totaling nearly 700 acres in Monroe.

“We are extremely grateful for the overwhelming support by the community, our legislators and the many groups that made this acquisition possible”, stated John Brooks, Chairman of the Monroe Conservation and Water Resources Commission. “The Commission is currently working on plans to construct an environmental inventory of the parcels and a management plan to outline potential uses for the area”, Brooks added.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization that works with others to conserve land for people to enjoy as working landscapes, parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.9 million acres in 45 states, including over 3,000 in Connecticut. For more information, please visit www.tpl.org/connecticut.