Commitment to Transparent Public Forums and Referenda on Land Use and Preservation Enabled the Permanent Protection of Fragile Mill River Trout Stream and Ecosystem
(Easton CT, Oct 4, 2023) Easton First Selectman David Bindelglass, with the leadership of the Aspetuck Land Trust, today announced the town’s sale of a 19-acre parcel of town land located on South Park Avenue to the Aspetuck Land Trust will be marked with a signing ceremony in the near future. The sale follows Easton voters’ overwhelming approval (65%) by town referendum in May 2022 to sell the property to Land Trust.
The Mill River is classified as a class 1 wild trout management area with streams cold and clean enough for wild brook and brown trout to naturally reproduce year-round. Only 9 such rivers exist in Connecticut.
The 19 acres of the South Park property adds to the ALT’s Green Corridor to protect land, wildlife, and water resources that extend through lower Fairfield county. The land trust has conserved 1,450 acres in Easton and will use a $188,000 state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection grant to purchase roughly 19 acres of the parcel, protecting the most ecologically sensitive portion of the property where the Mill River runs through it.. The selling price is $470,000 with the Land Trust making up the difference.
Bindelglass described the sale as significant not only because it assures that one of the most environmentally fragile pieces of land in Easton will be permanently preserved under the Land Trust’s stewardship, but also because the sale marks the first time Easton voters were able to decide the fate of town property by referendum as required by the Land Use Ordinance passed in 2021 by Town meeting and via referendum.
“It’s not only essential that we preserve priceless open spaces like this property along the Mill River, but that we enable broad and inclusive public discussion about how to protect and manage our open spaces in Easton, and ultimately decide those issues with a town wide referendum to ensure that everyone has a voice,” said Bindelglass. “Completing this transfer today is a stunning example of how we can work together to find the best preservation solutions together.”
Land trust president and Easton resident William Kragel said, “Aspetuck Land Trust is extremely pleased to partner with the Town of Easton in permanently preserving and conserving the South Park property. The Town began this preservation effort in 2008, through its original purchase of the entire property, and we look forward to providing safe public access to residents of the Town of Easton and the general public. We are naming the property in honor the late Bill Kupinse Jr. and his wife Patricia. Bill, a former ALT Director, and Easton First Selectman was instrumental in facilitating the Town’s purchase of the property.”
Executive director David Brandt added, “When Aspetuck Land Trust partners with local towns we can always do more for land conservation. We had good leadership in the town, and Easton voters made their feelings known in a town wide ballot voting overwhelmingly to permanently conserve the land and sell it to Aspetuck Land Trust. Thank you to our donors and to the CT DEEP OSWA open space grant program for supporting this acquisition. This is a win-win for the town and for the environment. “
Easton town government purchased the South Park property to shield it from development, but without a plan to permanently preserve or maintain it. First elected in 2019, Bindelglass campaigned on the need to make all local government decisions in Easton more transparent and on preserving open spaces, including the need to find a permanent resolution for the South Park property, which the town had struggled with for years. In 2020 Bindelglass appointed a bipartisan South Park Advisory Committee to study options for preserving the property and to engage the public in the process. According to the committee's final report they decided to not accept any one plan, but the majority was in favor of this sale.
“We really wanted to preserve this beautiful property forever, but we had to do it in a way that the people of Easton felt they were able to share opinions and have a voice in the process. While there is a small group in town that fixates on backroom deals and conspiracies when it comes to preserving our open spaces, the successful transfer of this property to South Park today shows that the path to preservation runs through transparent, open local government.”