Nearly $1M Awarded for Mather Meadows (CT)

DARIEN, Connecticut, 4/4/02: Today, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced an award of $950,000 to the Land Trust of Darien from the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program. The grant will be applied towards the purchase of 5.8 acres located near the intersection of Stephen Mather and Brookside Roads, the first phase in the larger 9-acre Mather Meadows project. The award was hailed by the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization, and The Land Trust of Darien, which are leading a campaign to protect the land.

“We commend the state for realizing the importance of this project to the local community and are grateful for this generous award of $950,000,” said Alicia Betty, project manager for the Trust for Public Land. “This project will be possible only through the partnership of the State, the Town and the many individuals contributing to raise the funds for the purchase.”

Jay Shutts, president of The Land Trust of Darien, said, “Land protection is a cooperative endeavor. The Land Trust of Darien thanks Governor John Rowland, Lieutenant Governor Jodi Rell, and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Arthur J. Rocque for making a commitment to protect open space and keeping their commitment in focus. We are appreciative of the McPherson family as a willing seller in this project and thank them for their support. We are also grateful to our partners in this project, especially the Town of Darien, First Selectman Bob Harrel, and the Trust for Public Land.”

In January, The Land Trust of Darien and the Trust for Public Land announced the launch of a campaign to raise $3.8 million in public and private funds to permanently protect this 9-acre scenic historic property, which lies adjacent to the 1778 Mather Homestead. The funds must be raised by November 2002, and the DEP’s generous award gives the Campaign Committee a significant boost towards this goal.

“It is wonderful to have a grant from the State Department of Environmental Protection for this environmentally sensitive area, which is also important to the Town of Darien for its historical significance,” stated Darien First Selectman Bob Harrel. Bruce Orr, co-chairman of the Campaign to Save Mather Meadows Fundraising Committee, added, “This grant will provide us with further momentum on our private fundraising efforts, which we started soon after the contract signing with the McPherson family. To date, we have commitments from the Darien Land Trust endowment, the Land Trust Board, and numerous neighbors. We are seeing a high level of passion and enthusiasm from donors for this project, as well as for the broader issue of preserving open space in Darien. Over the coming weeks, it is our intention to secure several major private donations and start a town-wide effort.”

The Mather Meadows property is made up of two parcels located near the border of Darien, New Canaan, and Norwalk. The roughly 5.8-acre West parcel and 3.4-acre East parcel face each other across Brookside Road, and both include frontage on Stephen Mather Road, as well. The property is made up mostly of lovely meadows with numerous wild flowers and grasses, surrounded by specimen trees. In a town with very little remaining open space, the scenic meadows are one of the community’s defining landscapes.

The Mather Meadows is located between two other parcels of conservation land. A 1.2-acre parcel owned by The Darien Land Trust lies directly to the North and a 2-acre parcel also owned by the Land Trust lies to the South along Mather Pond. This half-mile long greenway will provide both habitat for wildlife and scenic views from the road.

Preservation of this local historic property is also important from a national perspective, because Stephen Mather (grandson of Deacon Joseph Mather) was the founder of the National Park Service and helped to double the number of National Parks during his tenure as Assistant Secretary of the Interior from 1915-1929.

The Land Trust of Darien, founded in 1969 is dedicated to preserve and protect open space in Darien. Approximately 133 acres of land and 14 acres of conservation easements have been conserved in Darien since the founding in 1956. For more information, contact Jay Shutts, President, The Land Trust of Darien at 655-8700.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.4 million acres nationwide, including nearly 100,000 acres in New England. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity for the second year in a row, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs.