Spencer’s Creek Preserve has special significance for me, both because of its natural beauty and because of the special way in which the efforts of numerous different parties combined to make possible the acquisition of this parcel by the Guilford Land Conservation Trust (GLCT). The preserve, which was acquired by the GLCT in 2000, consists of 11.5 acres abutting Three Mile Course and bordering the West River and Spencer’s Creek, a tributary of the West River. It includes stone walls, woods, a small pond, an open field that has been used for farming, tidal wetlands, and extensive salt marsh. The views of the salt marsh, Spencer’s Creek and the West River are stunning.
The acquisition of this parcel by the GLCT would not have occurred without the help of a number of different parties who recognized the importance of preserving the parcel in its natural state. The GLCT had long recognized the natural qualities of this parcel and had kept in touch with the owners to be sure they remained aware of the GLCT’s interest. When the owners decided that it was time to sell, they contacted the GLCT and offered to sell it at a bargain price if the GLCT would commit to keep the parcel undeveloped. The parties were negotiating the bargain price and were $50,000 apart when, by chance, I had a fortuitous conversation with a representative of the Guilford Yacht Club.
At the time, the Yacht Club was involved in discussions with Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) concerning alternatives to the construction of a pier providing public access on the West River, a condition of the original approval of the development of the marina. The GLCT and Guilford Yacht Club agreed that the purchase of the Spencer’s Creek property by the GLCT would be a preferable way to provide public access to the water while avoiding the damaging effects of construction of a pier. So the Yacht Club, with the GLCT’s full support, made a proposal. In lieu of construction of the pier, the Guilford Yacht Club would transmit to the GLCT $50,000 to be applied by the GLCT to the purchase of the Spencer’s Creek property, would pay the GLCT an additional $5,000 to maintain and improve public access to the water on the parcel, and would provide up to 40 hours of labor per year for 5 years to assist the GLCT in maintaining the land and public access. State Representative Pat Widlitz actively supported this proposal, and the DEP gave its consent. The GLCT was able to obtain a grant from Connecticut’s Long Island Sound Fund that was applied to the purchase of the property. In consideration of this grant, the GLCT granted a conservation easement to the State of Connecticut assuring the property would be preserved in its open state condition in perpetuity. In addition, the GLCT engaged in a fund raising campaign to help raise the balance of the money needed to complete the purchase. The willingness of an anonymous donor to match 50 cents on the dollar for the first $30,000 of contributions contributed to the success of the fund raising drive.
This is a classic example of the important role that numerous parties — a landowner willing to make a bargain sale to preserve the land, generous donors, concerned town organizations, and government officials — can play in preserving the natural beauty of Guilford.
As I sit on the rock near Spencer’s Creek looking out at the salt marsh with the sunlight sparkling on the water, it is easy to appreciate the results of the efforts and contributions of all those who made this preservation possible.
– Mike Macris