30 acres of open space will be preserved at Routes 53 and 107

 By Christopher Burns- July 30, 2015

Sean McNamara of the Redding Land Trust walks through a 30-acre site that will soon become the latest addition to the town’s protected land. The trust, the town, the state and Aquarion Water Co. are working together to preserve the property, now owned by the Biehn family. Photo: H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

Sean McNamara of the Redding Land Trust walks through a 30-acre site that will soon become the latest addition to the town’s protected land. The trust, the town, the state and Aquarion Water Co. are working together to preserve the property, now owned by the Biehn family. Photo: H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

There is more of what makes Redding beautiful coming to town, now that 30 acres of open space near the intersection of Routes 53 and 107 will soon be preserved by the Town of Redding in collaboration with the Redding Land Trust and the Aquarion company.

The Biehn property, which many in town already mistakenly recognize as open space, lies next to the last stretch of the Saugatuck River before it dumps into the Saugatuck Reservoir.

“Environmentally, it's pretty hilly and rocky” says Laurie Heiss of the Redding Land Trust, but the land could have been divided into at least one to three building lots had the owner held out for a developer, she added.

Both the Town of Redding and the Redding Land Trust are contributing $170,000 each towards the purchase of the $400,000 property, while the Aquarion company is contributing $60,000. The town’s contribution is covered by a State of Connecticut grant for the acquisition of open space.

As a tenet of the grant, the Town of Redding and Redding Land Trust become deed owners of the land after the sale is final, while the state holds a permanent easement over the land. Aquarion will also hold a easement over the land, though that easement is secondary to the state’s.

“The grant finally got announced last October, and then the town could negotiate with the seller. There wasn’t quite enough money [between the town and the land trust] so then Aquarion kicked in a donation to make it a triumvirate partnership."

“That’s not typical,” Heiss said, but was a welcome partnership.

“It's really in the heart of Redding,” she said. “When you tell residents about this property, they already assumed it was open space,” she said. “It's already part of our town’s visual look.”

“The number-one reason for purchasing this land is its visibility,” adds Charles Couch, a member of the Redding Open Space Committee since it was first formed.

“The location stretches along the south side of Hill Road, which everybody travels on. It’s a beautiful piece of open space that everyone gets exposed to on a daily basis, including people commuting to and from work from outside of Redding."

“I always thought it would be a shame if it got developed,” Couch said.

First Selectmen Julia Pemberton, who led the town’s pursuit of the Biehn property, said Tuesday she’s very happy the acquisition will help Redding maintain clean water for itself and its neighbors.

“It’s an important part of our effort to preserve clean drinking water. There are three streams that run through the property right into the Saugatuck,” she said, adding development may have had the potential to affect the Saugatuck watershed area in a “negative way.”

In terms of woodlands, this piece of Redding’s open space roster is in great shape, Heiss says.

A map of trails to be connected by the Biehn property.

A map of trails to be connected by the Biehn property.

“It has good forest cover as opposed to being filled with totally invasive forest cover. And the woods come right up to the edge of the property, while the neighbor right next to the river is Aquarion,” which is why they are contributing to the purchase, Heiss said.

An additional feature of this parcel of open space, Heiss says, is its potential ability to connect to large systems of trails.

“This parcel can provide linkage between two extensive trail systems on the east and the west side,” says Heiss. “Toby Wells made a overview map of how the property would fit into the Redding system. That was maybe pivotal in helping us get money from the state.”

Specifically, the new parcel has the potential to connect Sandy’s Trail —which itself connects to Redding’s trail systems — and the Saugatuck Valley Trail, which runs down to the reservoir. 

Redding Land Trust

The trust is making a $170,000 donation for the purchase of this land in honor of the group’s 50th anniversary in town.

“We very carefully manage our money,” says Heiss. “We’ve been granted some wonderful endowments, and we spend infrequently and wisely. Mostly the only thing we want to spend money on is going to be open space."

“Because it's been 50 years, we wanted to clearly show the Town of Redding that 50 years is worth celebrating. It's also an opportunity to give back and do a partnership with the town."

“Land savings remains about partnership,” she added, “and this is a nice one. Its a nice tidy little package. We’re getting a good deal and the seller is getting a good deal. Everyone’s getting a good deal.”