The Day – The Open Space Commission presents another piece of the open space puzzle


Old Lyme – The Open Spaces Commission is seeking public support to spend up to $ 400,000 for approximately 35 acres of forest land which they believe will provide better access to existing trail systems.

Officials last week said the Whippoorwill Road property, which adjoins the 195-acre Ames open space, will allow people to park safely and enter the trails more easily.

Funding will come from a reserve fund of $ 418,000 set aside for preservation purchases. Open Space Commission co-chair Amanda Blair said officials hope a grant from the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will cover half the cost, so that the city will only have to use $ 200,000 from its reserves.

Blair said real estate owner Steven Ames is giving the town a two-year $ 200,000 loan based on current interest rates.

With the Whippoorwill Road trailhead closed due to beaver flooding, the only access to Ames open space is from the Evergreen Trail off Boggy Hole Road on the other side of the lot.

Open Space Commission member Gregory Futoma said the proposed purchase would give hikers a relatively flat place to enter the reserve, compared to the Evergreen Trail which allows hikers to enter a ridge.

“There’s a lot of elevation going up and down there,” he said of the existing entrance to the Evergreen Trail. “If you’re not the best hiker it’s a much harder hike to get to this point.”

Blair said the proposed purchase would allow hikers to enter Ames Preserve from Whippoorwill Road in a convenient location with caves on one side and beaver and bird watching areas on the other side. .

The commission received $ 2,500 from the Middletown-based Rockfall Foundation and $ 400 from the Hartford Audubon Society for hand-hewn benches and educational displays to showcase two habitat-focused wildlife viewing areas unique created by beavers.

Another highlight of the Ames trail system is a towering rock overhang that was used 4,255 years ago for protection from the winter elements by Native American hunters, according to city historian John Pfeiffer.

The Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance approved the purchase of the 35-acre property this month. It then goes to the Planning Commission and will require the approval of the voters at a municipal assembly.

According to Blair, about 20% of the land in Old Lyme is preserved. This includes land owned by the city, the Old Lyme Land Trust, the Nature Conservancy, and the state. She said the figure matches the state’s environmental protection goals for open spaces.

According to the DEEP website, the agency’s goal is to protect 673,210 acres, or 21 percent, of state land as open space by 2023. Less than half must be owned by the state. ‘State, the remaining 11% belonging to cities. , private non-profit land conservation organizations, water companies and the federal government, the agency said.

Open Space Commission member Greg Futoma said the purchase would also help the city pursue its goal of creating a city-wide interconnected hiking trail. The property sits across the street from the city-owned 312-acre McCulloch Family Open Space and the 205-acre Lay-Allen Reservation owned by the Old Lyme Land Trust.

“These pieces are part of a puzzle,” Futoma said.

First Selectman Tim Griswold reiterated last week the benefits of another Ames open space access point.

“It’s a good way to get to the property with a bit more parking,” he said.

Blair said parking plans are in the formation phase as a civil engineer and surveyor assess the property. She will also have to call in the state archaeologist to make sure that the construction of the parking lot does not disturb any artifacts, she said.

According to Blair, there is currently room for 8 to 12 spots in the cul de sac at the entrance to the Evergreen Trail.

The minutes of the Finance Council meeting show that the city would pay 40% of the road maintenance costs on the private road shared with three other properties in The Woods at Whippoorwill development.

The Open Spaces Commission will hold an information session on Friday at 9 am at the Town Hall. Those wishing to assist remotely can call (605) 472-5727 and enter the access code 3819718.

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