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.