The Guilford Land Conservation Trust (GLCT) rang out 2018 with some good news. In late December, the GLCT received a $162,500 state grant that will support the purchase of the final unprotected parcel in Westwoods.
GLCT, a non-profit, all-volunteer organization, announced the acquisition of the 30-acre parcel back in February 2018. The land, often referred to as “the missing piece,” is the final central holding in the forest. With this property in hand, Westwoods is now a 1,000-acre, conserved forest on the Connecticut shoreline.
GLCT, which was founded in 1965 and currently owns more than 2,800 acres, started purchasing land in Westwoods in 1968. This particular parcel has been of interest to the GLCT for decades, but only became available for purchase for permanent conservation early this year.
While an agreement to acquire the land had been reached, the trust still had to raise the funds to purchase the land, a total of $250,000. GLCT President David Grigsby said this grant gets the trust to the fundraising finish line.
“While we thought we had a pretty good story to tell in our application to the state for the missing piece, we were nevertheless pleasantly surprised to receive the state’s grant and it helped get us across the finish line of our $250,000 fundraising campaign,” he said. “We thank State Senator [Ted] Kennedy [Jr. (D-12)] and State Representative [Sean] Scanlon (D-98) for their assistance with the state grant, and all of the GLCT supporters and the Guilford community for helping us to preserve Guilford’s natural resources.”
As conserved land, Westwoods is a refuge for many native species. According to the GLCT website, “Westwoods also provides a natural filter for water flowing through Lost Lake, across Guilford’s shellfish beds, and into the Long Island Sound. Finally, we humans benefit greatly from this forest as well. From hikers and mountain bikers to birders and dog walkers, generations of people in our area have enjoyed the experience of this large and fascinating natural area located just a 1.5 miles from the Guilford Green.”
The “missing piece” parcel can be accessed from the Three Corners Road entrance to the forest and is north of Lost Lake. Additionally, the White Alternate, White Circle, Red Triangle, and Orange Circle Trails all cross the property. Like much of Westwoods originally, this particular parcel of land has been forested for at least the last 100 years. Many of the parcels in Westwoods were used as individual wood lots to heat private homes.
Guilford was one of many communities to receive grant money for open space. Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced $4.8 million in state grants to protect nearly 1,200 acres across 14 towns in the state on Dec. 17. The grants are awarded through the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition program, which is administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection and assists local governments, land trusts, and water companies in purchasing open space using funding from the Community Investment Act and state bond funds, according to the release.
Malloy said in a statement that Connecticut currently has more than 500,000 acres designated as open space and this grant helps push the state toward the goal of having 21 percent—roughly 673,210 acres—of all land conserved.
“Connecticut’s tradition of preserving open space has helped define our landscape and preserve its important natural resources and geographical beauty,” he said. “These grants continue our open space preservation legacy and will increase the availability of open space for our residents across our state.”
In a press release announcing the grant, Scanlon said he was pleased to get this money for Guilford.
“The Westwoods is one of Guilford’s greatest treasures and I am proud to have worked hard to secure this grant alongside Sen. Kennedy to ensure that, from now on, the entirety of Westwoods will be preserved for future generations to enjoy,” he said.
Kennedy, who co-chaired the Environment Committee for four years, said he was pleased to see communities along the shoreline receive grant money. Madison also received a significant grant to support the purchase of a large parcel known as Lowry Woods.
“The real credit goes to our shoreline’s local land trust members and supporters, who have never stopped fighting to ensure that our region’s most environmentally sensitive parcels are acquired and protected for generations yet to come,” he said in a statement. “Shoreline citizens know that environmental protection also makes strong communities and drives future economic prosperity.”