In an acquisition that will preserve critical wildlife habitat and a well-known scenic view, the Guilford Land Conservation Trust recently purchased “Soundview,” a 45-acre property south of the railroad tracks and near the mouth of the East River.
The name “Soundview” refers to the development proposed for the land that would have included a bridge over the train tracks. The land, also known as the “Guilford Sluice” and “Saw Pit,” features marsh, field, and upland.
“It provides the beautiful backdrop for the views across the salt meadows from the town landing, Grass Island, and all along the lower East River,” land trust President Stephen Besse said of the newly protected property.
The property is surrounded by the State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s East River Marsh Wildlife Management Area. The land trust, which paid $360,000 for the land, has an agreement with the State to sell the property to DEP to be added to the management area, pending the availability of funding. DEP was recently awarded a grant by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for $261,250 toward this purchase. In addition to the grant from the fish and wildlife agency, smaller contributions have been pledged to the State by a host of environmental organizations and the Town of Guilford. When it became evident that the State and federal government could not act within the timeline of the landowners, the land trust stepped in to ensure the property’s protection.
The importance of this property is difficult to overstate. For Guilford residents, a development on this land would forever alter what many enjoy as a quintessential Guilford scene from the Town marina. Historically, this land is thought to have been heavily used by Native Americans in the summer months and later became one of the first granite quarries on the shoreline. More recently, it was part of the Hunter farm, used for growing corn and harvesting salt hay.
In addition to its scenic and historic value, the land provides critical habitat for a variety of plant and animal species of the highest conservation concern. Birds that nest on the land or use it as a stopping ground include saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrows, common terns, seaside sparrows, great egrets, snowy egrets and purple martins. Asked about the possibility of the State not being able to buy the land from the land trust, land trust Vice President Sarah Williams, said, “Of course there is that risk, especially in these financial times, but this property is worth it. This acquisition illustrates the importance of a local land trust with a narrow focus. This is what we do and this is why Guilford supports us.”
“Soundview” is a critical link in the East River ecological complex that now has permanent protection. “The character of that entire area, which is of such importance to our quality of life, was at stake,” Besse said. “Our town would be diminished forever if it were lost.”