Mono Pond State Park Reserve Expanded by 400 Acres
The Trust for Public Land, in partnership with the Town of Columbia, the Town of Lebanon, and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection today announced roughly 403 acres have been added to Mono Pond State Park Reserve, nearly tripling the park in size. The property, which lies primarily in Columbia, spans the border with Lebanon and connects Mono Pond State Park Reserve and a new 10-mile trail network to the wildly popular Air Line State Park Trail.
“Mono Pond State Park is nothing short of majestic. It showcases what makes Connecticut’s parks truly special,” said Walker Holmes, Connecticut State Director for The Trust for Public Land. “When our state begins to heal from the coronavirus pandemic, access to the outdoors like Mono Pond State Park Reserve and the Air Line State Park Trail will be more important than ever for reconnecting with our neighbors and providing solace and peace. We are immensely thankful to our partners who made this project possible, and to the community for their support.”
“We are pleased to be able to acquire these 403 acres to connect Mono Pond and Airline Trail State Parks. These lands will serve our recreating public as well as maintaining this large habitat block” said Tom Tyler, Director of Connecticut State Parks. I wanted to thank The Trust for Public Land and the Towns of Columbia and Lebanon for their technical support and funding to enable these acquisitions. Pursuing such public lands expansions is a high priority for Governor Lamont and Connecticut State Parks. Offering the public places to get outside for a solo walk in the woods is particularly important at a time when we are all grappling with the implications of the COVID-19. We ask that all visitors continue to practice social distancing and appropriate precautions.”
In addition to providing new access to the Air Line State Park Trail for thousands of people in Eastern Connecticut, this newly protected property also provides important habitat. The acquired acres are part of a 1,000-acre forest block that is unbroken by development., Conserving forests at this scale are one of the region’s most important and suitable areas for conserving biodiversity, allowing wildlife to migrate and providing habitat for wood warblers, herons, and woodpeckers – all of which need large, uninterrupted forests to thrive. Casual hikers may spy deer, bobcat, fox, otter, and spotted turtle, to name a few.
“The expanded Mono Pond State Park has the potential to be a recreation destination for the region driving new business opportunities and improving quality of life for our small town. We envision building new trails for hiking and mountain biking offering a chance to experience a backcountry setting in Central Connecticut” said Steven Everett, Columbia First Selectman.
This park expansion was truly driven by the community. The Columbia Open Space Committee envisioned this land as protected open space more than a decade ago. They have been working with local government and non-profit partners to protect Mono Pond State Park Reserve and connect it to the Air Line State Park Trail, creating a trail network for their local community. The project would not have been possible without their drive and support.
This state park expansion was made possible by funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the State of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Town of Columbia, the Town of Lebanon, and many private donors, including support from the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, the M.L.E. Foundation, and Sustainable CT by way of the Community Match Fund. “Through the Community Match Fund, we aim to put residents at the forefront of creating positive, impactful change,” said Abe Hilding-Salorio, community outreach manager for Sustainable CT. “Match Fund projects are community led and community funded, demonstrating the power of people working together to make change in their communities.” The LWCF funding was part of a formula grant to the State of Connecticut from the National Park Service. Congress is working on legislation called the Great American Outdoors Act that would provide full and dedicated funding to LWCF, enabling more successful park projects like this one.
The newly protected property is immediately available to visitors to explore on foot. Over time new trails and recreation opportunities will be added. An initial step is to update the management plan to incorporate the newly acquired acres. The planning process is collaborative between Connecticut State Parks, which owns the land and the Town of Columbia, which will take on day-to-day management. Residents and other stakeholders are encouraged to participate via the Columbia Open Space Committee.
The acquisitions announced today are intended to be Phase I of a long-term effort to protect more of the landscape known informally as “Wells Woods.” The Trust for Public Land is in touch with several other landowners and aspires to conserve another 600+ acres making an open space resource of state-wide significance. Once fully realized, Mono Pond State Park Reserve and Wells Woods will be a significant new recreational and economic asset for the Towns of Columbia, Lebanon, and Hebron.
About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live near a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.