450 Acres on Skiff Mt. to be Protected (CT)

KENT and SHARON, Connecticut, 5/20/03: The Kent Land Trust and the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization, announced today their purchase of 245 scenic undeveloped acres on Skiff Mountain in Kent from Kent School for $1.28 million. In addition, TPL announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire a second property, approximately 200 acres in Kent and Sharon, from the school for $1.3 million by the end of the year.

“We are delighted to announce our agreement to protect the Skiff Mountain property,” said Whitney Hatch, acting Connecticut director for TPL. “Kent School has taken a momentous step in agreeing to a conservation sale of this spectacular land, and we applaud the Board of Trustees and the entire school community for a decision that will have a permanent and beneficial impact on the character of the two towns.”

“The chance to protect the Skiff Mountain property is of major importance to our conservation efforts in the Northwest Corner,” said Tony Zunino, president of The Kent Land Trust. “Thanks to the tremendous community support that this effort has already received, we will be able to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“The Kent School property on Skiff Mountain is part of an extensive network of highland wetlands that contain many rare and endangered species. We are delighted to be working towards the permanent protection of this property,” said Larry Power, president of the Sharon Land Trust.

The Reverend Richardson W. Schell, headmaster for Kent School said, “I am so pleased that the beautiful landscape on Skiff Mountain will be preserved for generations to come. Since its founding in 1906 on the Housatonic River, Kent School has been committed to the protection of its beautiful natural surroundings. This outcome represents the fulfillment of the school’s long-term plan of 1985, drafted by the late Robert A. Ward ’53, Vice President of the Board and First Selectman of Kent.”

Approximately $3 million is needed to complete the purchase, cover project costs, and create a modest maintenance endowment. The Mountain Laurel Trail Association has assisted in raising roughly $1.3 million in gifts and pledges from private supporters and the Kent and Sharon land trusts received two grants totaling $1.264 million from the state’s Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program earlier this month. The organizations are launching a campaign to raise the roughly $400,000 needed to fill the gap by Labor Day.

“The Mountain Laurel Trail Association is pleased to have been helpful in moving forward the preservation of these two extraordinary parcels,” said Dennis De Paul, president of MLTA. “Our mission is to preserve open space, expand our equestrian trail network, and protect fragile wetland communities. The completion of this project will greatly contribute to realizing these ends.”

“The Housatonic Valley Association congratulates the Kent and Sharon Land Trusts, the Trust for Public Land, and the Kent School on their successful partnership to protect these important open lands,” said Elaine LaBella, director of land protection for the Association. “Protection of the Skiff Mountain properties is a tremendous step toward permanent conservation of an entire natural landscape on Skiff Mountain.”

The land purchased today, known as the Skiff Mountain South parcel, is located off of North Kent Road. It lies directly adjacent to 1,146 acres of protected land owned by the National Park Service along the Appalachian Trail. The Skiff Mountain North parcel, which will be purchased for $1.3 million, is located off of West Woods Road on the Kent/Sharon border. A portion of the property, approximately 60 acres, lies in Sharon.

The North and South parcels lie within a 5,300-acre corridor of conservation land that includes the Macedonia Brook State Park, Appalachian Trail corridor, and land trust-owned properties. Predominately forested, both properties provide important habitat for wildlife including bear, bobcat, and coyote, as well as declining songbird species, such as golden-winged warbler, blue-winged warbler, and wood thrush. They also contain many trails for hiking, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding. The parcels are separated by the Marvelwood School, an independent co-educational boarding and day school (formerly the Kent Girls School campus).

The entire 445 acres will be owned and managed as conservation land. The Kent Land Trust will own the South parcel, and ownership of the North parcel will be divided between the Sharon Land Trust and the Kent Land Trust. Through a settlement reached with Kent School, Skiff Mountain Associates (SMA) will acquire an adjacent 17-acre building lot and will retain the right to construct a single residence. A permanent conservation restriction will prohibit additional development of this land. SMA had previously proposed residential development of the North parcel.

The Kent Land Trust was formed in 1989 to help preserve the rural character of the community. Since then its conservation activities have resulted in the acquisition of 499.5 acres of land in fee and the placement of 940.7 acres under easement. With the addition of the Skiff Mountain property, 2,000 acres of open space in Kent will be preserved forever for the enjoyment of the community. The Kent Land Trust is also sponsoring the establishment of a farm on its land along Route 7 to grow organic produce for area residents.

Founded in 1982, the Sharon Land Trust has 278 family members representing more than 25 percent of the town’s families. The trust owns about 800 acres and manages another 851 acres under conservation easement, most of which were acquired in the last four years.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit conservation organization conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.6 million acres of land in 45 states, including more than 3,000 acres in Connecticut. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information, please contact us at (203) 777-7367.