Gov. Rell Awards Grant to Help Preserve Phillips Farm (CT)

New Hartford, CT, 10/16/2007: At a ceremony in Southbury last Thursday, it was announced that the Town of New Hartford was awarded a grant in the amount of $365,000 to help purchase a conservation easement on Phillips Farm. The grant was prepared by the Trust for Public Land and submitted jointly with the Open Space Preservation Commission of New Hartford and amounts to 50% of the purchase price bringing the Town’s contribution for the purchase down to $365,000.

At the ceremony, Governor M. Jodi Rell presented $9.9 Million in grants to help purchase or preserve approximately1,714 acres of open space in 39 cities and towns across Connecticut.

If the effort is successful, the 59-acre property, located on East Cotton Hill Road just south of Route 202, would be permanently protected as open space and working farmland. The conservation easement would permit passive recreational access on trails and would help create a 300-acre continuous swath of protected land, from the Goula property, to Surdam property then Antolini School. The conservation easement also allows for the Phillips Family to continue to own and farm the property as they have done for generations. The easement will stay in place forever, even if the property is transferred to another family in the future.

Bill Michaud, Chairman of New Hartford’s Open Space Preservation Commission stated, “We are very pleased about the State grant award. It’s more than we expected and makes this an even more sensible project. The grant money will enable us to continue to invest wisely in our community – to protect our water resources and wildlife, provide opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, and help preserve our agricultural heritage. We can do this and meet the other pressing needs of the Town. If we put the grant money to work and preserve Phillips Farm, our children and our children’s children will look back and thank us for our foresight.”

Alicia Betty, Project Manager for TPL, said, “The Trust for Public Land is grateful to the State of Connecticut DEP for this grant which would allow the Town, upon positive town vote, to pay $365,000 for the easement, a true bargain to protect land worth far more. We are also thankful to the Phillips Family for allowing us this opportunity.”

Bill Baxter, First Selectman of New Hartford, added, “This is another opportunity for the town to preserve farmland and open space. While the process of final approval to acquire the development rights to the property is before us, townspeople should view the parcel before deciding. It is pristine. We are working on resolving property easements that satisfy all the parties, and we think we can find open space dollars in the budget or encumbered amounts heading for that budget line to reduce taxpayer costs. Coupled with the DEP grant of 50% the opporunity deserves thorough consideration.

The Phillips Farm has been a priority for the New Hartford Open Space Preservation Commission due to its shared wetland and border with the Goula property, its high quality streams, and its agricultural resources that are part of the town’s farming heritage.

The Phillips Farm Property has historically been a dairy farm and is now used for hay production. The parcel contains forests, several open fields, and a large, pristine wetlands areas that was partially protected when the Town purchased Goula Farm a few years ago. The streams on the farm drain into tributaries that feed the Nepaug Reservoir, so its protection will also safeguard drinking water supplies of the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC).

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 nearly 5,000 acres of open space, watershed land, working farms and forestland, and historic resources in 35 communities across Connecticut.