FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Both Fairfield and New Canaan are set to benefit from state grant money to help buy open space acreage, thanks to money Gov. Dannel Malloy announced Monday.
The money is part of nearly $5 million to be disbursed in 17 communities to purchase 1,170 acres of open space and to help two urban communities enhance or develop community gardens.
"Connecticut's tradition of preserving open space began in the early 1900s and continues today with a focus on land preservation that protects important natural resources and ensuring that our state maintains its natural beauty," Malloy said. "Through these grants, we will increase the availability of open space to provide our residents with protected lands to enjoy for outdoor recreation all across our state."
In Fairfield, an $83,750 grant will help the town buy the property at 5655 Park Ave., with its 2.8 acres. The lot abuts an existing 7.2-acre lot owned by the state, which is being discussed as a transfer parcel.
The site is within the Mill River Watershed, and it has wetlands and existing trails.
The project in New Canaan is the Silvermine-Fowler Preserve, and the New Canaan Land Trust is the sponsor for the $535,000 grant from the state. This woodland property is 6.4 acres, and abuts the 41-acre Kelley Upland Sanctuary, already owned by the land trust.
This parcel contains a range of wildlife habitats, including meadow, woodlands, wetlands and a small pond, which could be used for catch-and-release fishing. There is a house on the property that will be razed, and the infrastructure and driveway will be used by the public to access existing trails.
The Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition program, administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, assists local governments and land trusts to purchase open space. This grant program requires a conservation and public recreation easement that will ensure that the property is forever protected for public use and enjoyment.
Monday's announcement also included nearly $50,000 in grants to help create or enhance community gardens in two urban areas, New Haven and Hartford.
Open space projects like these are helping the state to achieve its goal to protect 673,210 acres of land and preserve 21 percent of our land by 2023, sate officials said. To date, Connecticut has more than 500,000 acres designated as state or local open space lands -- close to 75 percent of the goal, officials said.
"Since the Open Space Grant program began in 1998, more than $125 million in state funding has been awarded to municipalities, nonprofit land conservation organizations, and water companies to assist in the purchase of more than 32,000 acres of land, including farmlands, in 135 cities and towns," DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee said. "These important open space properties protect natural resources and improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike."
The Urban Green and Community Garden Initiative is available to targeted or distressed municipalities. The grants can be used to reclaim, develop or enhance an existing open space or community garden. The goal of the program is not only to open areas up to recreation and environmental education, but also to improve community health, whether through producing produce or providing much-needed green space in more highly developed areas, officials said.
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