Westbrook, CT, Enlarges Open Space

Westbrook,CT: Today, the Town of Westbrook acquired the 24-acre King Property on Horse Hill Road (Route 145) to protect it permanently as open space. The Town was assisted by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, which negotiated an agreement to purchase the property last December, holding the land off of the market until Westbrook could hold a Town Meeting to obtain funding for this important conservation project. The Trust for Public Land also applied for a DEP Open Space Grant to help fund the project. Grant awards will likely be announced later this month.

The King property was identified as a priority open space acquisition by the Westbrook Conservation Commission because of its importance to acquifer protection, its connection to an adjacent 10-acre town-owned property, and its location along the Plane Brook, a tributary of the Menunketesuck River. In addition, protecting the King property has linked together more than 134 acres of potential conservation land next to Cockaponset State Forest and provided public access to the existing town owned land for hiking, cross country skiing, and other low-impact recreational activities.

Alicia Betty, field representative for TPL explained, “Throughout this project, it has been very exciting to see the high level of commitment that Westbrook residents have to protecting both their watershed land and community character. TPL applauds the King family for their commitment to this project and all of the Town officials and volunteers involved for their leadership and support, including Random Acts Of Kindness, a group of middle school students who dedicated their time to this campaign to protect open space.”

“The residents of Westbrook are to be congratulated for the purchase of the King property,” stated First Selectman Fran Russell. “This parcel of open space is now a legacy to our town to be used, enjoyed, and preserved for generations to come. The spirit of Westbrook was obvious at the Town Meeting held to vote to gain access to its property. The diligence and efforts on the parts of the Conservation Commission, Town Planner, Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, and the Trust for Public Land are also to be commended. This opportunity emerged quickly with a short window of time for action, and thanks to all of those involved, Westbrook now owns the King property.”

Tom O’Dell, Chairman of the Conservation Commission, commented, “With the purchase of the King property, the first significant step in implementing a community-wide open space program is completed. The Conservation Commission would like to thank the hundreds of voters who turned out to support this important acquisition, which provides momentum for the next significant step, a town commitment to fund protection of open space.”

The King property is part of Horse Hill Woods, 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.

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 60,000 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. For more information, contact TPL’s New Haven office at (203) 777-7367 or visit www.tpl.org.