The Conservation Fund Issues Release on Sheep Farm Purchase

GROTON — Following is the text of a news release issued by The Conservation Fund, Arlington, Virginia, about GOSA’s acquisition of the Sheep Farm Dec. 14, 2010:

The Groton Open Space Association (GOSA) has purchased a 63-acre tract in the Poquonnock uplands of Groton with a loan from The Conservation Fund. The acquired parcel will be open to the public for passive recreation and will function as an outdoor classroom for all ages, providing opportunities for historical and natural studies and community enjoyment.

The property, known as the Sheep Farm, dates back to the early 1700s and includes remnants of agricultural and industrial operations among them an early 18th-century grist mill along Fort Hill Brook and the Samuel Edgecomb House. In a family celebrated for their great size and strength, Edgecomb’s son became famous for his efforts to fight off British troops during the Revolutionary War by effectively throwing 18-pound shots, one with each hand, over the walls of Fort Griswold in Groton.

The Sheep Farm’s mountain laurel forest, meadows, and highly productive wetlands, with three major and two minor vernal pools, provide ideal habitat for a wide array of plant, bird, amphibian and other species. The site’s 10-foot waterfall on Fort Hill Brook forms a natural barrier to migrating fish, with the exception of the American eel, which can scale the rock wall. Fort Hill Brook flows onward from the farm to Mumford Cove, which feeds the Long Island Sound.

GOSA won two state grants totaling $616,500 toward the $878,500 purchase price. These consisted of $534,300 from the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program and $82,200 from the DEP/Long Island Sound Fund Program. The balance of $262,000 was raised from seven foundations and many individuals. GOSA required a bridge loan from The Conservation Fund in order to close on the site prior to the scheduled expiration of the purchase option on Dec. 31, 2010, due to a time gap between the announcement of awards and actual funding.

This was GOSA’s second major acquisition in the last several years. In May 2008, it purchased the 75-acre Merritt Family Forest in Groton. GOSA and its members played a major part in the creation of the Haley Farm and Bluff Point state parks in the 1960s and 1970s.

Joan Smith, GOSA president, said: “Our organization faced a tight deadline on the Sheep Farm acquisition. Without timely cash, our option would have lapsed. We are grateful to The Conservation Fund for filling our need for a trusted, reliable and ready source of money to acquire this beautiful property.”

“Like so many of our local land trust partners around the country, the Groton Open Space Association is an all-volunteer organization that is doing amazing work,” said Reggie Hall, manager of The Conservation Fund’s Land Trust Loan Program. “We are ecstatic to have the opportunity to assist them in the protection of the Sheep Farm. The Conservation Fund is fortunate to call the Groton Open Space Association a partner.”

About the Groton Open Space Association

GOSA is a non-profit association founded in 1967. It seeks to promote, acquire, or maintain open space for public use, alone or in cooperation with local, state or federal agencies or with other nonprofit organizations. A further goal is to educate the public about the value of open space, water resources, conservation, and environmental preservation. For further information, see www.gosaonline.org

About The Conservation Fund

The Conservation Fund is dedicated to advancing America’s land and water legacy.  With our partners, we conserve land, train leaders and invest in conservation at home. Since 1985, we have helped protect more than 6.7 million acres, sustaining wild havens, working lands and vibrant communities. For more information visit, www.conservationfund.org.

Read More

GOSA Purchases Sheep Farm

GOSA Purchasing Sheep Farm

Joan Smith, President; Bill Kroll, GOSA lawyer; Michael Tansley, Groton Lenders lawyer; Sidney Van Zandt, vice president; and Sue Sutherland, treasurer at closing on Sheep Farm

GROTON — The Groton Open Space Association purchased Dec. 14, 2010, the 63-acre Sheep Farm on Hazelnut Hill Road for $878,500, climaxing a multi-year effort by GOSA to protect the scenic property.

The transfer of ownership to GOSA from the seller, Groton Lenders LLC, took place in a Waterbury law office during the early afternoon. Joan Smith, president, signed papers for GOSA.

GOSA has won two state grants totaling $616,500 toward the purchase–$534,300 from the Department of Environmental Protection’s Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program and $82,200 from the DEP/Long Island Sound Program. The balance of $262,000 was raised from seven foundations and many individuals.

The organization is seeking to raise an additional $86,000 to demolish seven disused structures on the site, restore natural habitat, create educational materials, and fund a $50,000 endowment for maintenance and insurance. An anonymous donor has offered to match additional contributions up to a total of  $25,000, provided they are received by Dec. 31, 2010. GOSA’s mailing address is: P.O. Box 9187, Groton, CT 06340-9187. Groton Open Space Association is a non-profit corporation under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions are income-tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

The property will be closed to the public for a short period while the seven structures are removed.

GOSA has sought for years to defend the Sheep Farm, site of Groton’s highest waterfall and host to expansive meadows that are relatively rare in Groton’s heavily forested open spaces. In January 2006, GOSA became an official intervenor in the Inland Wetlands Agency hearing on developer Otto Paparazzo’s plan for a 34-lot subdivision on the rugged, ledgy property. At Mr. Paparazzo’s invitation, GOSA worked with the developer to help produce an environmentally friendly plan.

Though Mr. Paparazzo won IWA approval in March 2006 and Planning Commission approval in September 2006, the project stalled. In May 2007 at the urging of then-President Priscilla Pratt, GOSA asked the Conservation Commission, without success, to place the tract on its list of properties desirable for protection. Mrs. Pratt died in June, 2009.

The project remained inactive, ground never broken, in 2008. GOSA–led by Director and now Treasurer Susan Sutherland–obtained a purchase option from Groton Lenders, successor to Mr. Paparazzo. GOSA hoped that it could win a state grant in 2009. When the 2009 grant round did not materialize, Ms. Sutherland negotiated an extension of the option to Dec. 31, 2010. In 2009, she published a history of the 300-year-old farm and milling site.

The Sheep Farm, located at 245-255 Hazelnut Hill Road, is traversed by Fort Hill Brook, which flows onward to Mumford Cove after spilling over a 10-foot rock ledge at the farm. It is the site of three major and two minor vernal pools and abundant wetland species, including Salamanders, Wood Frogs and Spire Snails. Its woods and meadows support Flying Squirrels, Red Fox, Bobcats, Fisher Cats, Coyotes and Deer. Birds include Great Horned and Barred Owls, Red-Shouldered Hawks, Northern Orioles, Brown Thrashers and Wild Turkeys. Further details on the property are available by clicking on the square green button that appears on the GOSA website: www.gosaonline.org.

Joan Smith, GOSA president, wrote both successful state grant requests. Her presentation April 27, 2010, to the Town Council on GOSA’s acquisition plan was instrumental in winning the council’s important endorsement by a 5-4 vote. Vice President Sidney Van Zandt headed fund-raising among private individuals. GOSA members Fred and Eleanor Fischer of Noank tapped foundation sources. Whitney Adams,  a director,  oversaw scientific studies of the site.

In 2008, GOSA acquired the 75-acre Merritt Family Forest on Route 1 between the top of Fort Hill and Fishtown Road.

Read More

GOSA Sheep Farm Project Gets Additional State Grant–$82,200

GOSA Sheep Farm Project

Gov. Jodi Rell Awards GOSA $82,200 Toward Sheep Farm Purchase

NOANK — The Groton Open Space Association was awarded on Dec. 2, 2010, a state grant of $82,200 toward the purchase of the 63-acre Sheep Farm on Hazelnut Hill Road in Groton.

The grant, from the DEP/Long Island Sound Fund, is in addition to a $534,300 sum awarded GOSA by the state Oct. 14, 2010, for the same project. State grants for the project now total $616,500 toward the $878,500 price of the farm.

Governor Jodi Rell presented the award in a ceremony at the Latham Chester Store in Noank. Seventeen awards made at the ceremony totaled nearly $4.5 million. The money will go to protect habitats and restore ecosystems across the state, including coastal areas along Long Island Sound. The Sheep Farm drains via Fort Hill Brook into Mumford Cove and ultimately into the Sound.

GOSA Treasurer Sue Sutherland, commenting later on the award, said that the state money, together with funds raised from institutions and private donors, has provided GOSA with enough money to close on the property. The closing is expected to take place later this month under terms of an option agreement with the owner, Groton Lenders LLC. Ms. Sutherland said GOSA still is raising money for an endowment fund to ensure and maintain the property. In addition, GOSA needs money to remove seven old and unsalvageable buildings, including two houses, from the land.

Commenting on the ceremony, GOSA Vice President Sidney Van Zandt said, “The energy level was high–happy people in the Latham Chester Store, that lovely, lovingly restored building that had been used at the turn of the century when this was a busy fishing boat-building village. There were hard-working recipients from all over the state receiving grants to further environmental protection. DEP Commissioner Amey Marrella has done so well at collecting a team to promote these efforts. So has Governor Rell. Despite all the removal of funds for general use, she has managed to set aside an impressive number of farms and pieces of open space. The whole event was such a happy gathering on this crystal sparkling bright day on the banks of the Mystic River.”

The earlier $534,300 grant was made under the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program of the Department of Environmental Protection. The governor’s office said that funding for the Dec. 2 awards comes from environmental enforcement settlements with the DEP and from the Long Island Sound Fund, which is supported primarily by the sale of “Preserve the Sound” vehicle license plates.

Gov. Rell also announced that $5 million in bonding money is expected to be approved when the state Bond Commission meets December 10.  She said, “We are close to preserving 20 farms this year,” and she hopes that pace will continue in the future. She said she ranks farmland preservation high among her achievements as governor.

For The Day’s account of Gov. Rell’s visit, click here.

Read More
DONATE