Westbrook (CT) Considers Open Space Purchase

Westbrook,CT: The Town of Westbrook came one step closer to preserving the 24-acre King Property last week when the Board of Selectmen voted to appropriate $144,000 to purchase the property and referred the item to the Board of Finance. The Board of Finance will decide on January 10, 2001, whether to approve the measure and send it to Town Meeting at the end of January. The property is being offered to the town by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a nonprofit conservation organization that recently negotiated an agreement to purchase the land from the estate of Dale King for $144,000.

Alicia Betty, field representative for TPL explains, “In October, we were contacted by the Westbrook Conservation Commission and Board of Selectmen, who asked us to negotiate a purchase agreement so that Town Meeting could consider the acquisition before the land was sold for residential development. If the purchase is approved at Town Meeting, we hope to transfer the King property to the town by the end of February.”

Located on Horse Hill Road (Route 145), the King property has been identified as a priority open space acquisition by the Westbrook Conservation Commission because it 1) lies in an important water resource zone that recharges groundwater for active drinking water wells in Westbrook, 2) includes frontage on both sides of Plane Brook, an important tributary of the Menunketesuck River, and 3) lies adjacent to town-owned land and is part of a larger emerging conservation area known as Horse Hill Woods.

Horse Hill Woods is a proposed 4.5-mile network of protected open space stretching from the 15,600-acre Cockaponset State Forest in northwestern Westbrook (and adjoining towns) south to the 225-acre Salt Meadow Unit of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Westbrook. The King property is separated from Cockaponset State Forest by two properties. The first, the 100-acre Brose property, is earmarked for donation to the Westbrook Land Conservation Trust, a private nonprofit conservation organization. The second, a 10-acre landlocked property owned by the town of Westbrook, is likely to become part of the Westbrook Town Forest, in accordance with a recent proposal put forward by the Forest Commission. As a result, protecting the King property will link together more than 134 acres of potential conservation land next to Cockaponset State Forest and provide public access to existing town owned land for hiking, cross country skiing, and other low-impact recreational activities.

“I’m very pleased that the Board of Selectman voted to move this forward to the Board of Finance,” said Fran Russell, First Selectman of Westbrook. “I commend the Conservation Commission and the Trust for Public Land for their diligent work in helping to preserve this property and gain access to the adjacent town property. This is a proactive thing for the town to do, and the land will be available for generations to come to enjoy.”

“The agreement with the King family is a great beginning for protecting natural resources and linking open space land in Westbrook,” said Tom O’Dell, Chairman of the Westbrook Conservation Commission. “Realistically we would not have this opportunity to protect the King property and provide access to 10 acres of town land without the experience and skills of the Trust for Public Land. They have guided the process by providing assistance with negotiations and with the application for state matching funds. Our goal is to finalize the purchase in early 2001.”

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, TPL has protected more than 1.2 million acres nationwide, including nearly 60,000 acres in New England. For more information, contact TPL’s New Haven office at (203) 777-7367 or visit www.tpl.org.