If there’s someone out there who thinks saving 34 acres of the Coogan Farm from development is a bad idea, they have yet to surface.
The conservationist: "I am so pleased … (to have the) opportunity to preserve this valuable property.” Maggie Jones, Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center executive director, has long championed the preservation of the Coogan Farm, which she described as “the last remaining open space near historic downtown Mystic.”
The builder/developer: “It’s a win-win, win-win.” Joe Mastronunzio of BROM Builders hopes to see his senior- and assisted-living facility built on an adjacent 18-acre subdivided parcel, another piece of the Clara Morgan Coogan Trust land. He called the plan to preserve “great for the nature center, great for us and the seniors who will be living right near, great for the town and great for the people in this town. We’re really excited. What a perfect neighbor.”
The town planner: “You do get both, the best of development and conservation.” Keith Brynes’ planners heart is more than satisfied with the deal: “It’s good. The assisted living (facility) developed and (next door) conservation restrictions will be set – the what-you-can-do and what-you-can’t-do. That won’t be developed. Both work well (together).”
Today’s announcement, that 34 acres of the Coogan Farm may be “conserved for recreation, habitat protection and connections to other natural areas” has nearly every stakeholder cheering.
According to a statement, the Trust for Public Land, a national conservation and preservation organization has signed a contract to purchase 34 Coogan acres. The land is located on Route 27 in Mystic. Once the deal is realized, the DPNC would become “permanent owner and manager.” The trust will also donate an additional 11 acres to the nature center as part of the original understanding with the proposed sale of the 18-acre parcel to BROM for its planned senior housing center.
Ed Coogan, Trustee for the Coogan Farm said he hopes “that TPL and DPNC are successful in making this happen.”
Under the terms of the agreement, the property would be purchased for $2.8 million by the end of March 2013. Over the next several months, both public and private funds will be sought to assist with the purchase with the overall fundraising goal being $3.5 million to cover the purchase price, costs, stewardship and renovation funds. According to Jones, the Trust for Public Land will also seek grants and other outside funding sources to help defray acquisition costs.
BROM Builders, in the meantime, had signed a contract to buy 18 acres of the Coogan site, on the market for years for $7.5 million. Last fall, the town Economic Development Commission came out in support of the plan and following informational meetings, testimony, presentations and public hearings, the plan was blessed by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The site and why it’s important
Brynes said there are myriad other benefits of the purchase including what Jones has cited as being an important piece: “connectivity.”
Jones has said that the site connects the nature center, Denison Homestead and Avalonia Land Conservancy properties to the Mystic River. She described the site as capturing the “essence of Mystic country.”
“…With stonewalls, meadows and vistas across the Mystic River to the west and southward over Long Island Sound. With a prominent location between Coogan Boulevard and Route 27, it offers unparalleled opportunities and connections for residents and visitors to Mystic Seaport, Mystic Aquarium, and adjacent neighborhoods and businesses."
"We are delighted to have the opportunity to pursue the conservation of this historic land that is so important to the fabric of this community,” TPL Connecticut State Director Alicia Betty said.
“The connections that this land has to existing cultural and natural sites gives it great potential to become a resource for all who live in this community and who visit it,” she said. “We're honored to be partnering with the exemplary Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center and with other local organizations that have joined in support of this effort."
And the DPNC says its mission is: "to inspire and nurture appreciation and scientific understanding of the natural world and foster a personal environmental ethic."
The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization with an office in New Haven. The agency has worked to conserve and preserve land for parks, gardens, and natural areas, “ensuring livable communities for generations to come,” and has protected more than 6,000 acres of open space, watershed land, working farms and forestland, and historic resources in 40 communities across Connecticut.
Founded 66 years ago, the DPNC is a private, not-for-profit organization funded by admission fees, memberships and contributions. The Nature Center maintains 10 miles of trails on 250 acres of land it owns or manages in partnership with the Denison Homestead and Avalonia Land Conservancy. In addition, DPNC holds a conservation easement on the 207-acre Manatuck Preserve in Stonington and serves as steward of the Peace Sanctuary, directly across the River from the Coogan Farm.