By Joan Smith, GOSA President
GROTON — The Groton Open Space Association has received the Connecticut Land Conservation Council’s prestigious annual award for Outstanding Land Acquisition Effort.
The award was presented at the CLCC 2011 conference Saturday, April 30 at the Exley Science Center at Wesleyan University in Middletown. Other categories for the CLCC’s Excellence in Land Conservation awards include Excellence in Stewardship, Successful Collaboration and Exemplary Fundraising or Outreach Project. The Connecticut Land Conservation Council, formed in 2006, is a coalition of land trusts, statewide conservation and advocacy organizations, town, and open space conservation commissions, garden clubs and private individuals working for the common interest of Connecticut’s conservation community.
The Connecticut Forest and Park Association, headquartered in Rockfall, serves as the fiscal sponsor of the CLCC. More information about the CLCC is available at www.ctconservation.org
GOSA was nominated for its efforts in acquiring the 63-acre Sheep Farm site at 245/255 Hazelnut Hill Road in Groton on December 14, 2010. Against long odds, this small group of volunteers secured two Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection awards (Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Program and Long Island Sound Program), eight foundation grant awards and donations from a wide range of local residents and businesses. GOSA reached out to the community and received 637 signatures for a petition seeking Town Council endorsement, which it received.
GOSA acted under time pressure, due to an expiring option, to secure a bridge loan from The Conservation Fund, of Arlington, VA, and to close the deal within two months of being chosen for the grant award in October 2010. GOSA then managed within a three-month timeframe to demolish eight structures involving lead and asbestos problems and in-ground fuel tank abatement issues, and received its DEP OSWLA check on March 16, 2011. A government holiday schedule and five major snowstorms in January had threatened to delay the project. Next, GOSA immediately met a two-week application deadline for a five-year Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
GOSA has benefited from a wide range of expert consultants, who have documented the Sheep Farm’s significant wildlife habitat diversity, historical interest and watershed protection value.
The property is a scenic gem with rugged land formations, meadows, forest, waterfalls, extensive wetlands and unique vernal pools. GOSA is proud of its accomplishment and grateful to the community, the CT DEP, the LIS Program, The Conservation Fund and our many contributors, contractors, and professionals who helped in protecting this site for generations to come.