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Watertown Land Trust saves 63 acre Schienda Property

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Land protection is meant to be forever, and sometimes it feels like it might actually take that long to accomplish.  Watertown Land Trust has been patiently working toward a conservation outcome for a remarkable property on Hinman Road in the southwest corner of town for more than a decade.  By 2011, the Land Trust and owner Joe Schienda had agreed to pursue the sale of a conservation easement (called conservation restrictions in Connecticut) that would protect most of his land.  It took four more years to finalize the terms and secure the $300,000 needed for this transaction, but on October 9th Watertown Land Trust was granted a permanent conservation easement over 63 acres of the Schienda Property.

The Schienda Family Preserve contains a variety of forested and wetland habitats and interesting geological features, as well as the remnants of the old Litchfield/Milford old stage road that dates to the late 18th century.  A parking area is planned providing access to a designated public trail within the conservation easement.

Conservation finance for this effort required the participation of several public and private sources. In 2012, Watertown voters approved a $50,000 contribution of municipal funds toward the project. Watertown Land Trust successfully applied for a Connecticut Open Space Land and Water Aquisition (OSLWA) Grant and was awarded $135,000 in 2013 toward its purchase of the Schienda Easement.  

The Litchfield Hills Greenprint helped identify another potential source of private funding that resulted in a $6,000 grant from the Fields Pond Foundation, and also provided technical advice and assistance at various times throughout the transaction.  Land Trust President Gail Sangree called the Greenprint's help "invaluable". "Combined with the state grant, all those loaves of pumpkin bread we cooked, and the town's help" said Sangee, "we are now in good shape to purchase the conservation easement...where people will be able to enjoy nature in perpetuity."

Watertown Land Trust protected its first parcel of land in 1975.  It accepted its first conservation easement in 2003.  In 2007 it partnered with Connecticut Farmland Trust to acquire and protect the 41 acre Osuch parcel, most of which is just across the town line in Bethlehem Connecticut.  Watertown Land Trust received a $258,750 OSLWA grant in 2006 for that project, matched by NRCS  funding secured with the help of Connecticut Farmland Trust. 

At 63 acres, the Schienda Easement is Watertown Land Trust's largest project to date. 

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