Fundraising for Ethel Walker Woods Successful (CT)

Simsbury, CT, 3/26/2007: A major milestone in the effort to preserve 424 acres of woods and pastures in Simsbury, currently owned by the Ethel Walker School, was reached today, as The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit organization, and Keep the Woods (KTW), a local grassroots organization, announced they had achieved their $2.75 million fundraising goal.

In Phase I of the project, the town will buy an initial 334 acres for $9.75 million this spring, using the $2.75 million in private donations to defray the cost. Simsbury voters approved up to $7 million in municipal funds for this purchase in a referendum last November. The $7 million will be reduced by $917,000, thanks to grants awarded to the town by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.

Melissa Spear, project manager for TPL, said, “The many generous gifts have really inspired all of us who worked on this campaign. We’re grateful to all who stepped forward, telling us with their donations how important it was to keep this part of Simsbury’s landscape intact and accessible to the community.” Spear said over 1,000 individual donations were received, with most of the contributors being either Simsbury area residents or Ethel Walker alumnae.

Spear also credited The Ethel Walker School, Trout Unlimited, the Farmington River Watershed Association, and Keep the Woods for their important contributions to the fundraising effort. She noted in particular that “the persistent efforts of Keep the Woods throughout this project really paid off. It’s hard for us to think of another group of local citizens who have ever worked so hard on a conservation effort.” Spear also singled out the work of a dedicated Campaign Committee made up of several ex-trustees and alumnae of The Ethel Walker School, who joined the fundraising effort many months ago, and raised almost $1 million of the total.

Susan Masino, a spokesperson for Keep the Woods, said, “So many people have been working for so many months on this effort, and we can hardly believe the end is in sight. It has been an incredibly broad-based fundraising effort to save these 424 acres in Simsbury. Keep the Woods and all of the donors are jubilant that we have achieved the best outcome for this land.”

Katie O’Brien of New Canaan played an active role with the Campaign Committee. She is a former trustee of the EWS and her two daughters were students there. According to O’Brien, “Our family always believed that preservation of the Ethel Walker Woods was the best option for the school, the town, and the environment. It was a true team effort that made this a success, and I want to thank everyone in Simsbury and especially The Trust for Public Land for their dedication and hard work.”

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.”

The Town has also placed a $1 million deposit on the remaining 90 acres of the Ethel Walker Woods, and has until 2014 to complete that purchase, at a price of $3.1 million. The School’s property on Bushy Hill Road includes forests, meadows, trails, and wetlands, and sits atop the Stratton Brook aquifer, the source of 73% of the Town’s drinking water. The preservation project will protect the public water supply, retain a major scenic vista in town, and guarantee permanent public access to the land and its extensive trail system.

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. For more information, visit