Water Works Brook Could be Protected (CT)

Windsor Locks, CT, 10/7/2008: Windsor Locks officials announced they have reached an agreement to purchase a conservation easement on 224 acres of land on South Center Street in Windsor Locks from the Connecticut Water Company. The town has been working for several months with the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit conservation organization, and the Connecticut Water Company, to structure a deal that would allow for the permanent preservation of the land in a way that minimized the cost to the town.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Town of Windsor Locks would purchase a conservation easement on the 224-acre property, known as the “Water Works Brook” parcel, for $2.16 million, if approved by voters at referendum. The conservation easement would permanently protect the property from development and would guarantee public access to the land for passive recreation. The Board of Selectmen voted to send the acquisition to referendum to be held on December 9th, in conjunction with a special election for probate judge. This follows the action of the Board of Finance who, at its September 30th meeting, approved the purchase of the conservation easement.

Steve Wawruck, the First Selectman of Windsor Locks, said, “The Town now has an opportunity to preserve a pristine tract of land for all to enjoy. If approved by the residents in December, this would embrace a key component of our current Plan of Conservation and Development, which was recently adopted. This land would be preserved in its natural state so our residents and future generations may enjoy such passive recreational activities as hiking, cross-country skiing, and have the ability to enjoy the natural beauty of this land.”

While the town will ask voters to authorize the full $2.16 million for the purchase at referendum, there may be State grant money awarded that will help defray the costs to the Town. The Trust for Public Land and the Town of Windsor Locks jointly submitted an application, with support from Connecticut Water Company, to the state’s Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant program in June 2008. Awards are expected to be announced at the end of this month.

The Water Works Brook parcel has been owned by Connecticut Water Company for over 50 years and was used as a public drinking water supply source. When the company determined that it no longer needed this wellfield for water supply purposes, the Town expressed strong interest in preserving the site for open space and recreational purposes – a stated goal in the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development. In late April, the Town of Windsor Locks contacted The Trust for Public Land to assist in this land conservation transaction.

The 224-acre forested parcel is the largest remaining open space parcel in town and contains an extensive trail system for hiking, cross-country skiing, and wildlife viewing. In addition to its recreational value, the parcel contains pristine water resources, and a forest type that is recognized by the State Department of Environmental Protection as a “Habitat of Conservation Significance.”Cornelius O’Leary, Chairman of the Board of Finance, said, “There isn’t a lot of open space left in the town and this is 224 acres. It’s a gorgeous, pristine piece of property. It’s full of mature trees, beaver ponds, streams and in the long run probably the least expensive things the town can do is own the land.”

Melissa Spear, State Director for The Trust for Public Land, said, “We are thrilled that the voters of Windsor Locks will have the opportunity to permanently protect this key property. We thank the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance for their support of this conservation effort and the Connecticut Water Company for working with the town to acquire the conservation easement. With the voters’ approval, this will truly be a wonderful asset for the town and will benefit the residents for generations to come.”Maureen Westbrook, Vice President of Customer Service and Regulatory Affairs for Connecticut Water Company, said, “Connecticut Water knows that residents value this property and consider it integral to the character of their town and quality of life in Windsor Locks. We are pleased we have been able to partner with the Town to see that this land can be permanently preserved for open space and passive recreation for current and future residents.”

For more information, voters are encouraged to attend a public information session to be held on Tuesday, October 21st. Details will follow. This information session will provide information on the property and the transaction and provide residents an opportunity for questions and answers. The Board of Selectmen has also scheduled a Public Hearing for Tuesday, November 18th , as is required under Town Charter. The November 18th hearing will be held at the Windsor Locks High School. In addition, Connecticut Water Company will be scheduling times on two separate weekends before November 18th for residents to walk the land and see its unique value. The details will be announced shortly.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization which works with others to conserve land for people to enjoy as working landscapes, parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has protected over 5,000 acres of open space, watershed land, working farms and forestland, and historic resources in 32 communities across the state.

About The Connecticut Water Company: Connecticut Water Company serves nearly 300,000 people in 54 towns in Connecticut. It is the largest subsidiary of Connecticut Water Service, Inc. (NASDAQ GS: CTWS), New England’s largest locally based investor owned water utility company.