The Putnam Parcel A Significant Conservation Opportunity
An extraordinary opportunity is available to create a substantial, managed wilderness area and public amenity in the Fern Avenue area of Litchfield. The Litchfield Land Trust seeks $200,000 in charitable contributions to supplement conservation grants that can largely fund the acquisition and activation of a substantial addition to the character of our community.
John Putnam is the owner of a 104.84-acre irregularly shaped parcel with 69.46 feet of frontage on Fern Avenue. This beautiful, wooded property has been identified as critical core forest. It is surrounded on three sides by preservation property with the potential to provide connectivity to 1000 acres of preservation land in north-east Litchfield. An abandoned Town road runs from Fern Road then north and east through the parcel. Topography is level along the flag-shaped access strip at 1,190-1,200 feet ASL. It then rises to the top of a hill at 1,250 feet and levels. The old Town road skirts this hill and runs to a generally level area in the central section of the parcel at 1,160-1,170 feet. The western section drops quickly from 1,150-960 feet. Selective clearing would reveal views from areas of the parcel. There are wetlands encumbrances near the road frontage, in the central section of the parcel and in the far western section of the parcel. Wetlands total 8.1 acres or 7.9% of the total parcel area. Zoning is “RR” Rural Residences (minimum of 80,000 square feet required). Subject property is a legal, preexisting use.
Mr. Putnam is conservation oriented and has offered the parcel to the Litchfield Land Trust (“LLT”) at an equitable price of $650,000. A recent appraisal commissioned by LLT has confirmed that $650,000 represents fair market value. The parcel has significant development potential that can be avoided in favor of a conservation alternative.
Mr. Putnam has signed a contract with LLT that includes a funding contingency providing 18-24 months to secure funding and complete the transaction.
The Connectivity Opportunity
The Putnam Parcel represents a “keystone property” that is surrounded to the north, east, and west with preservation properties. Together these properties include almost 1000 acres of conservation land with strategic core forests. The property is bordered to the north by a 21.5-acre LLT fee property. To the east the property connects with 213 acres of preserved land that includes LLT properties, a Morris Land Trust preserve, and the LLT Stillman-Danaher Preserve. To the south total connected conserved lands stretch out to embrace 641 acres which include LLT property, the NCLC Hauser Preserve, and Topsmead State Forest. This mosaic of preserved property stretches across an expanse of Eastern Litchfield providing powerful connectivity of core forest corridors. This parcel has been identified as highly strategic by the Litchfield Hills Green Print Collaborative and is featured on the Housatonic Valley Association’s Follow the Forest map. Hiking trails to be built on this property would connect to existing trails on the neighboring Morris Land Trust property and to the beautiful and popular Stillman-Danaher Trail System. This would open more than five miles of connecting trails with public access from three different roads stretching east-west across eastern Litchfield. The attached map provides clarity as to the extraordinary opportunity to create a large, natural, accessible wilderness area that would permanently improve the quality of this important Litchfield neighborhood.
Working with the NW CT Regional Land Trust and the Housatonic Valley Association, the LLT has reason to be confident that grant funding will be secured to fund 90% of the purchase price and related expenses. Grants are also available for a substantial portion of the cost of activating the conservation area with trails and other recreational amenities throughout the whole of the connecting mosaic of East Litchfield parcels. Proposals for such funding will be submitted to the following organizations:
- Open Space and Watershed Acquisition fund (“OSWA”) of DEEP from which up to 65% of the FAMV ($422,500) may be available.
- Highlands Conservation funds from US Fish & Wildlife, which has confirmed that this project qualifies for funding of up to 50% of the purchase price ($325,000).
- CT Conservation Partnership Program through CT Land Conservation Council (CLCC) in conjunction with OSWA, which could make up the difference between the potential OSWA grant and 90% of the purchase price ($162,500).
- Transaction Assistance Grant (through CLCC) which funds early -stage costs (up to $15,000) and grants for land acquisition. Application submitted July 26, 2023.
- CT Recreational Trails, (through DEEP) which awards up to 80% of the cost of building trails.
Selected private foundation grants from organizations that regularly support conservation projects (e.g., William P. Wharton Trust; Seherr-Thoss Foundation; etc.)
Charitable Donation Request.
The LLT seeks to attract conservation-oriented benefactors who, together, can provide tax-deductible, charitable contributions of $200,000, to supplement expected grant funds. This will allow for:
- Acquisition of the Putnam Parcel, attaching it to the surrounding conservation lands to create a 1000-acre region of managed wilderness areas with outdoor recreational amenities,
- Establish hiking trails and related amenities activating the whole of the East Litchfield Preserved Properties, and
- Establish a Land Stewardship Fund to ensure the maintenance and protection of this new acquisition and all other Litchfield Land Trust protected properties in perpetuity.
An initial estimate of the use of the funds raised through this campaign can be summarized as follows:
- $65,000 – 10% of the $650,000 of purchase consideration,
- $35,000 – to build trails, parking, and other outdoor recreational amenities, and
- $100,000 – to establish a fund for stewardship of this and other LLT properties in perpetuity