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The Day Urges Public To Pitch In On Merritt Fund

NEW LONDON — The Day urged in an editorial Jan. 17, 2008, that supporters of open space contribute to a GOSA fund to help acquire the 75-acre Merritt Property atop Fort Hill.

Following is the editorial:

The 75-acre Merritt property in Groton is a densely wooded tract with rolling hills, a pond and moss-covered stone walls that serve as vestiges of its agrarian roots.The land, like so much other open space in the region, is adjacent to an extensive residential development — and until last week it appeared it would undergo the same, all-too-familiar transformation from forest to housing.

But after five years of litigation, the Groton Open Space Association (GOSA) finally was able to declare victory when a developer that wanted to build 48 single-family homes bowed to a state Appellate Court ruling and decided to give up its claim to buy the property atop Fort Hill just west of Fishtown Road.

“We won!” Sidney F. Van Zandt, director of the open-space organization, trumpeted earlier this week.

But the fight to save the land — which serves as a key link in a greenbelt that runs through Bluff Point Coastal Reserve, Haley Farm State Park, the Mortimer D. Wright Preserve, Avalonia Land Trust property and Beebe Pond Park — is far from over.

Now GOSA, a private, nonprofit, grassroots organization that for more than 30 years has helped preserve such significant open spaces as the Haley Farm and Bluff Point, must raise money to help buy the property, which would become known as The Merritt Family Forest.

Landowner F.L. Merritt Inc. has agreed to sell it for $1 million. GOSA, which already has made a down payment and also secured a $650,000 state grant to apply toward the purchase, has launched a campaign to raise the final $175,000.

We urge all who value open space and recognize the significance of this parcel to pitch in. More information on how to donate is available on the group’s Web site,

“We turn to the citizens of southeastern Connecticut to help us save another piece of green space,” Mrs. Van Zandt said. “Once it is gone, it is gone. We will never have a chance again.”


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