Darrow Pond Conservation Completed

The Trust for Public Land announced today it has completed the voter-approved purchase of lands along East Lyme’s Darrow Pond. The 301-acre property, which includes Smith Hill, which offers scenic views of the pond, is now owned by the Town of East Lyme and will be open to the public for passive recreation.

“This is a unique opportunity to preserve a large tract of open space and significantly enhance the town’s public water supply infrastructure with one purchase. This remarkable property will serve our townspeople in many ways for generations to come” said Paul Formica, East Lyme First Selectman.

The Town of East Lyme announced in May that The Trust for Public Land had offered the town an opportunity to purchase the Darrow property. At a September town-wide referendum, Town residents voted to appropriate $4.23 million toward the purchase. The margin of victory was 77 percent. The final purchase price was $4.1 million.

“The Trust for Public land is proud to have assisted the Town of East Lyme in conserving another important landscape,” said Alicia Betty, The Trust for Public Land’s Connecticut state director. “We are thankful for their enduring commitment to this effort, and to Webster Bank for standing behind their dedication to a conservation outcome at every turn.” The Trust for Public Land will host a community party to celebrate the project’s success in the spring of 2012.

Once a farm with grazing sheep, the Darrow property is a mix of open fields punctuated by ancient tulip tree and an old oak and maple forest, which along with wetlands and vernal pools are all important for wildlife habitat. The land is adjacent to the town’s Aquifer Protection Area and is nestled between 3,558 acres of existing open space including Camp Pattagansett, the Yale Sheffield Scientific School, and Nehantic State Forest. Its protection will help safeguard clean drinking water for East Lyme.

“This is a valuable purchase of open space, and represents another step toward the goal of providing clean drinking water and a natural, peaceful environment for our community,” said Art Carlson, Chairman of the Conservation of Natural Resources Committee.

The Darrow property was once slated to become an 18-hole golf course and country club facility. It was approved most recently for the construction of a 600-unit active adult community, with a mix of single-family detached, multi-family, and condominium units. Webster Bank acquired the property from the previous owner in an uncontested foreclosure action in 2008 and subsequently sought buyers for the property

“By working with The Trust for Public Land and town leaders, Webster Bank is ensuring that East Lyme’s water supply and open space are protected for future generations,” said James C. Smith, chairman and CEO of Webster Bank. “Webster Bank is committed to the communities we serve, and Darrow Pond demonstrates our commitment in action.”

Over the past two months Webster Bank completed environmental clean up of portions of the property, including remnants from a former J.C. Penney warehouse. Subsequent testing concludes that the property is clean of environmental hazards.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization with an office in New Haven, works 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 more than 6,000 acres of open space, watershed land, working farms and forestland, and historic resources in 40 communities across Connecticut.