(press release courtesy of CT DEEP)
Westbrook, CT, Oct. 24—Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) today announced the acquisition of 155 acres of significant open space along the Menunketesuck River and Chapman Hill Pond in the towns of Clinton and Westbrook. The land was acquired from Harriet Sciongay, Westbrook and complements a previous 83-acre purchase of land by the Town of Westbrook from Ms. Sciongay and her late husband, Edward. The purchase of the property, acquired for $1.2 million, was made possible by a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Long Island Sound Study program.
“We have worked so hard since the 1980s to make sure this land remains as beautiful as it is today,” said Harriet Sciongay. “This is a wonderful result for the property and the people of Connecticut. I want to thank my daughter, Shirley Carroll for her extensive efforts to assure that this land is preserved in the public trust.”
“It is a rare and significant accomplishment to acquire over one mile of waterfront property within Connecticut’s coastal area with a single purchase,” said DEEP Commissioner Daniel C. Esty. “I want to thank the Sciongay family for their dedication in seeing this land preserved for the future residents of the state. I also thank the EPA for their invaluable assistance in helping us conserve one of the few lasting parcels of undeveloped coastal forest along a tributary to Long Island Sound.”
“Helping to protect the last remaining large ecologically important coastal area is an important contribution to maintaining a healthy Long Island Sound ecosystem,” said Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England office. “EPA is proud to have assisted in this acquisition through funding championed by the States of Connecticut and New York’s Congressional delegations.”
“This purchase will ensure the protection of 155 acres of pristine, environmentally rich waterfront open space—preserving this beautiful habitat for all to observe and enjoy,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. “I thank the Sciongay family for their stewardship of this valuable land, and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their continued investment and commitment to our state’s natural resources. I will continue to advocate for additional federal funds to ensure our state’s open spaces and ecological treasures remain vibrant, healthy ecosystems for future generations to enjoy.”
The acquisition includes 1.2 miles of shoreline on the Menunketesuck River and the west side of Chapman Mill Pond, resulting in 243 acres of protected open space on Chapman Mill Pond and 354 acres of the tidal section of the Menunketesuck River.
The property is expected to be accessible to the public for natural resource-based outdoor recreational uses consistent with the acquisition’s primary purpose of conserving its ecological values. DEEP staff will evaluate the property and make recommendations for its future public use.
The Sciongay property is primarily forested providing habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife, including osprey, horned owl, wood duck, otter and rare turtles. Vernal pools, increasingly rare wetlands habitat, provide critical breeding and overwintering sites for wood frogs, spotted salamanders and other amphibians that thrive under a unique combination of shaded, seasonal wetlands and drier upland forests.
The southern boundary includes several smaller streams, vernal pools, and forested wetlands that provide habitat for 71 species of birds, 17 species of reptiles/amphibians, 2 state-listed turtles and a rare plant. Migratory fish, including alewife, engage in spawning runs up the Menunketesuck River and the DEEP is considering options for getting these fish upstream past the dam on the property.
The Menunketesuck River flows from its headwaters near the Killingworth/Haddam town line through Clinton, along a portion of the Town of Clinton and Westbrook border, passing through the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge and Westbrook’s Harbor before discharging to Long Island Sound. The property includes a historically-significant mid-1700’s era dam on the Menunketesuck River that creates the Chapman Mill Pond, also known as Lake Laconia.
The acquisition increases the protected open space within the 5,000 acre Menunketesuck Greenway to nearly 1,800 acres. The Menunketesuck Greenway, one of 70 State-recognized greenways, follows the Menunketesuck River’s watershed boundary from its mouth on Long Island Sound north through the Salt Meadow Unit of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge on Long Island Sound up to the northern Clinton/Westbrook town line at the Cockaponset State Forest. The acquisition permanently protects a significant portion of one of only four unfragmented blocks of coastal forest greater than 200 acres. These forested areas constituted the core of the National Audubon Society’s proposed Menunketesuck Atlantic Flyway conservation focal area and the recently State-designated Menunketesuck Greenway.
CT DEEP recently expanded the boundaries of its Pachaug State Forest by acquiring 101 acres of forestland that straddles the Town of North Stonington and Voluntown boundary. The property was acquired from the estate of the late Jack and Drusilla Hansell, formerly of Kailua, Hawaii for $200,0000 with funding provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound Program and Connecticut’s Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Program.
The acquisition adds to the 28,000- acre Pachaug State Forest, Connecticut’s largest State forest that includes Pachaug Great Meadows, a National Natural Landmark in the Forest’s Mount Misery unit. The property abuts Pachaug State Forest along its eastern and southern property boundaries. It is within one of the largest unfragmented blocks of coastal forest in Connecticut and includes a segment of the Narragansett Trail, part of the state-wide ‘blue- trail’ system and Myron Kinney Brook, a cold-water trout stream.