Treetops Campaign a Success (CT)

Greenwich and Stamford, Connecticut, 7/20/01: The Treetops estate was permanently protected as open space today, bringing to a successful conclusion a 10-month campaign to save the property from proposed development. The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit conservation organization, purchased 94 acres from International Paper this morning for $11.5 million and then granted a conservation easement over the entire 94-acre tract jointly to the municipalities of Greenwich and Stamford, Greenwich Land Trust, and Stamford Land Conservation Trust. A second conservation easement over a 39-acre portion of the property within the Mianus River watershed was also granted to the Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut. The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection then purchased the 94-acre parcel. International Paper retained ownership of the Treetops mansion and approximately 17 acres of adjoining land.

Funding for the property’s protection came from the State of Connecticut, City of Stamford, Town of Greenwich, and more than 1,400 private contributors. In addition, pending federal legislation may provide $1 million to reimburse a portion of the state and local funds committed to the project. Critical support was provided by several public officials, including Governor Rowland, Senators Dodd and Lieberman, Congressman Shays, State Senator Nickerson, House Speaker Lyons, DEP Commissioner Rocque, Stamford Mayor Malloy, and Greenwich First Selectman Prince.

“The acquisition of the Treetops property continues the state’s commitment to protecting and preserving open space, ensuring that this parcel will remain in pristine condition for each succeeding generation to enjoy,” said Governor John G. Rowland. “Acquisition of Treetops, as well as other properties DEP has acquired throughout the state, is an investment in our future while enhancing the recreational opportunities available to all who visit these unique areas.”

“This ensures that these ‘tree tops’ don’t fall over time,” said Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT). “I commend all of the people that worked together to make this public-private partnership a reality.”

“Treetops represents a significant conservation opportunity for the State of Connecticut to protect nearly 100 acres located within the Mianus River Watershed,” said Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT). “I’m thrilled we seized the opportunity to protect the property. People throughout the area recognize the unique value of this land, and they recognize that once these precious few open spaces are gone, they’re gone forever. This is a win for the people of Fairfield County.” Representative Shays played an instrumental role in facilitating a conservation outcome for the property.

“The acquisition of this property along the Mianus River corridor is a significant addition to Connecticut’s open space holdings,” said DEP Commissioner Arthur J. Rocque, Jr. “Thanks to Governor Rowland’s open space initiative and the support it has been given by the General Assembly, we can afford to bring meaningful financial support to partnerships like this. This acquisition adds to the Mianus River Greenway and to the preservation of this unique and ecologically valuable habitat for future generations to enjoy.”

“Speaking on behalf of the Town of Greenwich, we are thrilled that the Treetops property has been preserved,” said Greenwich First Selectman Lolly Prince. “Thanks to the success of the public-private partnership, citizens will be able to enjoy these pristine acres for walking, hiking and connecting with nature. No doubt, future generations will reflect on the Treetops preservation as showing foresight and a cooperative spirit. Congratulations and a sincere thank you to the individuals who made this a reality.”

For the last three years, the land was marketed for sale first by Champion International and then by IP. Last October, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced that it had reached an agreement to purchase Treetops from IP for $11.5 million. To protect the property permanently, TPL joined forces with the Greenwich Land Trust and the Stamford Land Conservation Trust in the ‘100 Days to Save Treetops’ campaign, with the goal of raising the needed funds in public and private contributions. The State of Connecticut was the first to commit funds for the acquisition, providing $3.5 million from the Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Program. The City of Stamford and the Town of Greenwich each subsequently committed $1.5 million, and private supporters donated approximately $5 million.

“The protection of Treetops is a testament to the power of teamwork and partnership. It began with the State’s initial commitment, strong local leadership, and encouragement from our Congressional delegation, and ended with an outpouring of support from local residents,” said TPL state director Tim Northop. “TPL was delighted to be able to assist with the protection of this outstanding resource. The Treetops coalition has not only left a legacy for future generations, we have created momentum for continued open space protection in Fairfield County and Connecticut.”

“We are pleased with this win-win solution,” said John Dillon, chairman and chief executive officer of International Paper. “It presented the opportunity to strike a balance between the community’s need for open space, and International Paper’s wish to sell the property.”

Once the estate of torch singer Libby Holman, Treetops straddles the border between Greenwich and Stamford. Except for the mansion on the Stamford side, the property is undeveloped, making it one of the largest parcels of open space in Fairfield County. Because it lies along the Mianus River—the primary source of drinking water for 130,000 residents of lower Fairfield County and parts of New York—the Treetops property plays a critical role in buffering local drinking water supplies. It also connects to other protected open space and is home to several rare and declining species, including the Eastern box turtle, spotted salamander, and fairy shrimp.

“This is the ultimate dream come true for land preservationists—an historic private-public partnership that gathered $11.5 million to buy one of the most beautiful undisturbed major tracts of land in this whole area to protect the Greenwich/Stamford watershed and to add this amazing property to the 220-acre Mianus River Park,” said David Ogilvy, chairman of the 100 Days to Save Treetops Campaign. “This is a day of pure joy and gratitude to the State of Connecticut, Town of Greenwich, City of Stamford, Connecticut’s Congressional delegation, and the remarkable 1,400 citizens who contributed $5 million in private funds—and who did it in only 100 days from start to finish.”

“The financial and volunteer support from our friends, members and board were remarkable,” said George Host, president of the Greenwich Land Trust. “David Ogilvy and his committee were exceptionally effective in igniting a firestorm of enthusiasm in the community. We are particularly pleased that the transaction includes a conservation easement. TPL was very effective in creating this commitment to restrict the use of the land. The easement ensures that the public and private interests that came together to buy Treetops will remain aligned in its ongoing and permanent protection as open space.”

“I am so proud of the people who gave to Treetops, especially the kids that gave to this effort,” said Stamford Land Conservation president Percy Lee Langstaff. “Treetops is an investment in immortality. It will be here long after we’re gone.”

“Open space and conservation are critical issues. I am proud that the Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut could be a part of helping to bring this initiative to fruition,” said Jim Perry, vice president and manager of the Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut.

The Trust for Public Land is a national conservation organization dedicated to protecting land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, the Trust has protected more than 1.2 million acres nationwide, including nearly 75,000 acres in New England. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs.