Campaign to Save Darien (CT) Meadows

Darien, CT, 1/14/02: The Land Trust of Darien and the Trust for Public Land announced today that they are launching a campaign to raise $3.8 million in public and private funds by November 2002 to permanently protect 9 acres of scenic meadows near the intersection of Stephen Mather and Brookside Roads. Owned by the McPherson family, the property is known as Mather Meadows because it borders Darien’s only National Historic Landmark, the Mather Homestead, which was built in 1778 by Deacon Joseph Mather.

“Without question, this is the most ambitious purchase ever attempted by our Land Trust,” said Jay Shutts, president of The Land Trust of Darien, which hopes to own the land permanently. “Acquisition of this stunning piece of property perfectly matches our mission to conserve beautiful areas in our town as natural and open space. We are very fortunate that representatives from the McPherson family approached us before talking to developers.”

The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization that provides real estate and technical assistance to land trusts, municipalities, and government agencies, has negotiated an agreement to purchase the property on behalf of The Land Trust of Darien and will be a partner in the fundraising campaign. “We are delighted to announce our agreement to purchase the Mather Meadows on behalf of The Land Trust of Darien. There is now a window of opportunity to pull together the funds needed to protect this historic property permanently,” said Alicia Betty, project manager for the Trust for Public Land.

“We regard the conservation of this land as having great merit in that it will preserve open space—something that is now scarce in Darien. It has multiple benefits, such as protecting the environmental integrity of the Goodwives River watershed and preserving an area that has local historic significance,” stated Bob Harrel, First Selectman of Darien. “These multiple benefits make this an important project for the Town of Darien, and we are grateful to the Land Trust of Darien for initiating conservation action and to the Trust for Public Land for providing vital assistance.”

“Our family is very pleased to be working in cooperation with the Land Trust of Darien to preserve the acreage at the corner of Stephen Mather Road and Brookside Road in Darien,” Stephen Mather McPherson stated. “These beautiful fields have been in my family’s hands for over 200 years, and we feel the Land Trust of Darien is ideally suited to be the steward of this property for the benefit of this community for generations to come. Preservation in perpetuity of this property will be a major milestone in the life of our land, which has a history in Darien going back to the American Revolution. We are pleased also that the Trust for Public Land, a nationally known nonprofit land preservation organization, is assisting us.

Mather Meadows is made up of two parcels located near the border of Darien, New Canaan, and Norwalk. The roughly 6-acre West parcel and 3-acre East parcel face each other across Brookside Road, and both include frontage on Stephen Mather Road, as well. As indicated in its name, it is made up mostly of lovely meadows with numerous wild flowers and grasses, surrounded by specimen trees. In a town with very little remaining open space, the scenic meadows are one of the community’s defining landscapes.

The Mather Meadows is located between two other parcels of conservation land. A 1.2-acre parcel owned by the Darien Land Trust lies directly to the North and a 2-acre parcel also owned by the Land Trust lies to the South along Mather Pond. This half-mile long greenway will provide both habitat for wildlife and scenic views from the road.

The success of the fundraising campaign will depend heavily on the generosity of local residents. “We have a daunting task ahead of us – at a time when financial markets are not in our favor,” explains Bruce Orr, fundraising co-chair for The Darien Land Trust. “Yet, the opportunity is upon us now to protect this open space from development – and in so doing, to help retain the character of our area for future generations. We hope others will take our lead and generously donate to this effort.”

Preservation of this local historic property is also important from a national perspective, because Stephen Mather (grandson of Deacon Joseph Mather) was the founder of the National Park Service and helped to double the number of National Parks during his tenure as Assistant Secretary of the Interior from 1915-1929.

The Land Trust of Darien, founded in 1969 is dedicated to preserve and protect open space in Darien. Approximately 133 acres of land and 14 acres of conservation easements have been conserved in Darien since the founding in 1956. For more information, contact Jay Shutts, President, The Land Trust of Darien at 655-8700.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.4 million acres nationwide, including nearly 100,000 acres in New England. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity for the second year in a row, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs.