GUILFORD — The Guilford Land Conservation Trust can finally purchase “the Missing Piece,” the final parcel of Westwoods, due to a state grant.
The GLCT received the $162,500 grant through the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition program, administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The ‘Missing Piece’ is a 32.18-acre parcel in the middle of the 1,200-acre Westwoods, which is being purchased for $250,000. Donations, made over the last year, cover the difference between the sale price and the grant.
The first purchase of land by the GLCT was in 1968, said David Grigsby, GLCT president. Since then it has grown to a 1,200-acre forest, with 39 miles of trails used for hiking, bird watching, mountain biking and dog walking.
“The Land Trust has been acquiring pieces, around and kind of filling in holes, and adding pieces, and sometimes with the state’s assistance, sometimes on our own with gifts or donations or on occasion, the recent Missing Piece acquisition was a market rate transaction,” he said.
Grigsby stressed the importance of acquiring this specific piece of property.
“When you look at the map of Westwoods and you see The Missing Piece was surrounded on all sides by protected land, either state or Land Trust land and, yet, here this parcel had no formal protection,” said.
“This was a glaring hole in the forest, so acquiring that was essential to our mission,” he said.
The property, “is most directly accessed from the Three Corners Road entrance and is located just north of Lost Lake. It is crossed by the White Alternate, White Circle, Red Triangle, and Orange Circle Trails,” according to guilfordlandtrust.org.
Grisby gives credit to GLCT Secretary Sarah Williams and board member Julie Lister Feinberg for writing such a persuasive grant. He said the organization was surprised by the amount that Guilford was awarded.
“By no means did we think we were assured of getting this grant,” he said. “I think we had a pretty compelling narrative in the grant application in that the Land Trust and the state have worked together over the years on protecting Westwoods.”
State Rep. Sean Scanlon and state Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr., both advocates for the environment, assisted GLCT in procuring these state funds.
“Growing up in Guilford, Westwoods was always a place I appreciated and makes Guilford a special way,” said Scanlon. “It’s one of our greatest treasures.
“Open space is important to a lot of my constituents and one of the reasons why people live in town like Guilford,” he added. “When the folks from the Land Trust came to me and Sen. Kennedy and said that there was this 30-plus acre parcel in the middle of Westwoods that wasn’t protected, I was shocked to find that out.”
Guilford First Selectman Matt Hoey gives credit to all the people who, over the years, have worked to preserve Westwoods for public use.
“It’s been a collaborative effort, with Westwoods, between town parcels, state parcels and the GLCT parcels,” Hoey said. “This really allows them to afford the last parcel, which was an inland, wooded parcel.
“It’s just great evidence of the importance of preserving open space,” he added.
Grigsby is grateful for the public donations, coupled with the grant, that has resulted in ample funds to purchase this important tract of land. He stressed that donations are always accepted to ensure the Land Trust is ready, if and when any other property becomes available.
“We’re aware of other properties in Guilford,” he said. “We’re in communication with the property owners and, if and when they ever feel they might want to part with the property, we hope the Land Trust is the first party they call.”