The Preserve is Permanently Protected

The Trust for Public Land today announced that the last large unprotected coastal forest between New York and Boston, a 1,000 acre parcel known as The Preserve, will be permanently protected, instead of being developed with houses and a golf course. The land is now owned by Connecticut, the town of Old Saybrook and Essex Land Trust.

“The strides we’ve made today protecting The Preserve will make the future brighter for generations to come,” said Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy. “By protecting our waters and wildlife in the short-term, we are building a Connecticut for the long-run. Our efforts are final, and that means our state, as a result, will be an even greater place to live, work, and raise a family. This was a decades-long conservation effort successfully brought to a close thanks to the collaborative efforts of the state, the Town of Old Saybrook, the Trust for Public Land, and the National Park Service.”

Alicia Sullivan, The Trust for Public Land’s Connecticut state director, said, “This has been a long effort which began 17 years ago, but ultimately, we have been successful. This land will forever remain a natural place for the enjoyment of everyone who lives here and visits. The $10 million campaign was a success due to a large coalition which included the state of Connecticut, the Connecticut congressional delegation, the Towns of Old Saybrook, Essex and Westbrook, many nonprofit organizations, and many individual donors.”

Conservation easements held by the State of Connecticut and The Nature Conservancy will prohibit future development and require the land to be open to the public to enjoy for activities likes hiking and wildlife viewing. The easements will forever ensure the connections to more than 500 acres of existing town parkland and miles of hiking trails.

Located in Old Saybrook, Essex and Westbrook, the property includes 38 vernal pools, 25 miles of trails, and more than 3,100 feet of streams. A variety of birds, amphibians, and animals inhabit the property, including many which are of special conservation concern. The dense forest and the Pequot Swamp Pond are used as a refueling stop by migratory birds. Protection of the property will also insure water quality for the area because the land drains to three different watersheds: the Oyster River, Mud River and Trout Brook, all of which flow into the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound.

The money for the project came from a variety of sources. Connecticut contributed $3.87 million from the Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Fund, Stateside Land and Water Conservation Fund, and Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program. Voters in Old Saybrook contributed $3 million by giving 89% approval of a referendum last July. The Town of Essex contributed $200,000 in open space funds.

The Trust for Public Land led a successful private fund-raising campaign, in partnership with the Essex Land Trust, The Old Saybrook Land Trust, and local volunteers. It raised $2.93 million to pay for the balance of the purchase price and costs and create a stewardship fund to assist with future management. Donations to the campaign came from more than 700 individual and institutional donors, including Newman’s Own Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Acres for America Program. Two-thirds of the money came from outside the three towns where The Preserve is located, including more than 20 gifts from donors in other states.

Two years ago, The Trust for Public Land agreed to buy the land from River Sound Development, LLC and began fund-raising. The protection effort dates to 1998, when plans were announced for a housing development of more than 200 homes, along with a golf course. Local residents and conservation organizations were galvanized by the threat and the Alliance for Sound Area Planning led the opposition, bringing a number of lawsuits to prevent the development. Over the years, multiple attempts were made to acquire the land for conservation, but an agreement was not reached and efforts to develop the property continued until 2013.