Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced on Monday that $6.05 million in state grants are being awarded to 23 municipalities across Connecticut to support the purchase of 2,005 acres of land that will be preserved as open space.
One of the grants is for the Belknap property in Weston which was purchased by the Aspetuck Land Trust in November to expand its 86-acre Honey Hill Preserve that extends into Wilton.
“Connecticut’s tradition of preserving open space has helped define our landscape and preserve its important natural resources and geographical beauty,” Malloy said. “These grants continue our open space preservation legacy and will increase the availability of open space for our residents across our state.”
A 2018 Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition grant in the amount of $165,497 was awarded to the Aspetuck Land Trust for the 38.35 acre Belknap property on Wampum Hill Road. When the trust purchased the property last November, it applied for an open space grant to help cover a portion of the $367,000 purchase price.
The $165,497 state grant is for the acquisition of 27.85 acres and the purchase of an easement over 10.5 acres of an undeveloped interior woodland. The parcel is adjacent to Asputuck’s 81-acre Honey Hill Preserve and is part of a greenway of 2,600 acres of land owned by Wilton Land Conservation Trust, Aspetuck, The Nature Conservancy and the towns of Wilton and Weston. The proposal serves to create trail linkages and enhance habitat preservation.
The grant is being awarded through the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition program, which is administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and assists local governments, land trusts, and water companies in purchasing open space using funding from the Community Investment Act and state bond funds. This grant program requires match by the grant recipient and requires the open space land be protected by a conservation and public recreation easement, ensuring that the property is forever protected for public use and enjoyment.
“Since his 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 33,300 acres of land, including farmlands, in 137 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.”
Open space projects help the State of Connecticut achieve its goal of protecting 673,210 acres of land by 2023 — approximately 21% of the land. Currently, the state has more than 500,000 acres designated as state or local open space lands — close to 75% of the goal.