First Phase of Ethel Walker Woods Protection Completed (CT)
Simsbury, CT, 7/13/2007: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today that the sale of 334 acres of the Ethel Walker Woods to the Town of Simsbury is complete. The official closing of the deal marked the end of the first phase a multi-year effort to permanently protect the forests and meadows surrounding The Ethel Walker School (EWS). TPL helped facilitate the complex project, in partnership with the town, the school, the local conservation group Keep the Woods, and a volunteer fundraising committee, which helped raise $2.75 million in a private donations towards the purchase.
Tom Vincent, First Selectman of Simsbury, said, “This is a day for celebration, as we’ve come to the end of many months of effort to protect an open space priority for the town and the state of Connecticut. Many people have worked hard to preserve the present character of our town, and we hope that future generations will look back and value the investment we’ve made today.”
Conservation of the Ethel Walker land has been a longstanding priority due to its proximity to the town’s water supply, its scenic vista along a major town road, and its extensive trail system. The School’s property on Bushy Hill Road includes forests, open fields, trails, and wetlands. It sits atop the Stratton Brook aquifer, the source of 73% of the town’s drinking water. Its acquisition by the town guarantees permanent public access to the land and its trails.
Last fall, Simsbury voters approved $7 million in town spending to acquire Phase One of the Ethel Walker Woods project. The town later learned that its $7 million contribution would be reduced by $917,000 due to Open Space grants from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.
The Town also agreed to place a $1 million deposit on an additional 90 acres of EWS property, to be purchased for a total price of $4.1 million by 2014. This second phase of the conservation effort may be bolstered by state funding, which has been requested by State Senator Thomas Herlihy and State Representative Linda Schofield. The town has also requested Phase Two funding under the federal Highlands conservation program.
Melissa Spear, TPL’s state director, praised the untiring help of numerous project partners, including the fundraising committee, The Ethel Walker School, The Town of Simsbury, Keep the Woods, the Farmington River Watershed Association, and Trout Unlimited.
According to Spear, “For TPL, this has been our story of the year in Connecticut. Conserving the heart of the Ethel Walker Woods is an accomplishment we’re extremely proud of, but it’s also a testament to the kind of community focus it takes to complete a large project like this one. We commend the town and the Ethel Walker School for their persistence in pursuing a conservation outcome for the land, the fundraisers who achieved great results in a short time frame, and also Keep the Woods for galvanizing the citizens of Simsbury to save it from development.”
Diane Nash, a leader in Keep the Woods, said, “Simsbury has shown its true colors today, and they are green. For the 40 years I have lived here, I have benefited from the Ethel Walker School land in its natural state. I am proud to have been a part of the process that gives this lasting benefit to all forever. We want to thank The Trust for Public Land for their instrumental role in bringing everyone together, as well as our elected officials, the Ethel Walker School, all the members of Keep the Woods who worked so hard, and last but not least, the many private donors who gave so generously.”
Hugh Hildesley, President of the Ethel Walker Board of Trustees, said, “The Ethel Walker School community is thrilled that this land will be preserved in perpetuity and is deeply grateful to the many who have come forward and contributed to this effort, recognizing at the same time the extraordinary effort that has been made by the people of Simsbury, The Trust for Public Land, Keep the Woods and Walkers alumnae. This achievement fulfills the Board of Trustees’ recent adoption of a green policy for the entire Ethel Walker Campus.”
When later phases are complete, the entire 424-acre conservation project will remain the centerpiece of approximately 1400 acres of protected open space in and around Simsbury, and will provide connections to parks, town forests, the Farmington River Greenway, and more conservation land in a north-south corridor stretching to Massachusetts. The Ethel Walker property is used for activities such as bird watching, hiking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing. The property also supports over 300 plant and animal species in a diverse set of habitats.
Susan Masino, a spokesperson for Keep the Woods, said, “We know that preserving this property is critical for clean drinking water, and it is a wonderful recreational asset to the town now and for the future. I look forward to this property becoming a major resource for environmental education, with its diverse wildlife, archeology, water resources, and many different habitats. It ties perfectly into the national trend that started here in Connecticut – No Child Left Inside.”
An outdoor ceremony to celebrate the project’s closing, which will take place on the Ethel Walker land, is being planned for September. The public is invited and more information will be available at www.keepthewoods.org .
The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit organization, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has protected more than 4,000 acres of open space, watershed land, working farms and forestland, and historic resources in 32 communities across Connecticut.
The Ethel Walker School, founded in 1911, is an independent, college preparatory boarding and day school for girls in grades 6 to 12. This diverse community of learners and friends strives to live according to the values of honor and excellence. Each young woman finds her unique voice and learns to contribute it to the pursuit of these values.Visit www.ethelwalker.org.