Conservation of Former Griswold Airport Secured through $500K State Grant

The State announced today that it approved a $500,000 grant, requested by The Trust for Public Land, for the conservation of 17.4 acres of the 42-acre former Griswold Airport land.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), on behalf of the Town of Madison, submitted an application in May and has now secured $500,000 in funding from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program. The DEP grant monies will reduce the Town bonds for the May 2010 purchase of the property from Madison Landing Company, LLC, a subsidiary of LeylandAlliance LLC.

The 42-acre property, located on the Boston Post Road, is adjacent to Hammonasset State Park and includes prime wetland habitat, upland forest, and significant frontage along the Hammonasset River. This grant will secure the conservation of 17.4 acres, the most ecologically significant area of the new park, adjacent to the River, through a conservation easement. The Madison Park Design Committee is diligently working toward a final design of the remainder of the land.

“We’re delighted that the State of Connecticut has recognized the significance of this important coastal land and is contributing to this effort to assist the Town of Madison and many donors that came together to protect the land at Griswold Airport and to transform it into a park for all to enjoy”, said Alicia Betty, project and philanthropy director with The Trust for Public Land.

Fillmore McPherson, First Selectman of the Town of Madison, remarked, “The Town of Madison appreciates this help from the State in buying the airport property. We felt that saving this environmentally valuable piece was most desirable, and we are pleased that Governor Rell and the State agree with us.”

“Audubon Connecticut applauds Governor Rell and the DEP for supporting the permanent protection of the Griswold Airport as a park for people and for wildlife,” said Thomas R. Baptist, vice president and executive director of Audubon Connecticut, the state office of the National Audubon Society.

“An Important Bird Area of global significance, the Airport and Hammonssset Marsh are akin to a four-star hotel on the avian migratory highway known as the Atlantic Flyway that stretches from Canada to South America,” added Baptist. “Imagine if you had to drive from Canada to South America without a place to rest and refuel. The protection of the Griswold Airport will safeguard a critical rest stop along this migratory route, and provide a park where people can experience nature and enjoy outdoor recreation.”

LeylandAlliance purchased the former airport property in 2007, after holding an option to buy the land since 2000. Approvals of a plan to build 127 housing units on the land were finalized in 2008. The development plan faced opposition from some Madison citizens, especially Stop Griswold Over Development, who successfully held the proposal at bay for years. In 2008 the Town of Madison invited the Connecticut office of TPL, to negotiate with LeylandAlliance for a conservation solution. TPL announced an agreement to purchase the property in September 2009, and in January 2010 Madison voters approved a $9 million referendum to cover $7.8 million of the $9.5 million purchase price and $1.2 million for improvements to the land.

TPL, with support from Audubon Connecticut, Stop Griswold Over Development, and local volunteers, agreed to raise the remaining $1.7 million needed for purchase and costs. TPL and Audubon Connecticut secured bridge financing to enable the Town to purchase the land in May 2010. Fundraising efforts continue through this fall and progress is being made toward repaying the bridge loans and closing the final funding gap.

A conservation project at Summer Hill in Madison was also awarded $500,000 from the DEP open space funding program today.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization which works with partners and communities to conserve land for people to enjoy as working landscapes, parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has protected over 6,000 acres of open space, watershed land, working farms and forestland, and historic resources in 32 communities across the state.