Governor Ned Lamont on Wednesday announced that his administration is releasing $7.29 million in state funds to purchase and protect 1,013 acres of open space in 17 Connecticut communities, and $276,200 to restore and renew of green spaces in 6 urban areas.
The funds are provided through the state’s Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program and the Urban Green and Community Gardens Grant Program, which are both administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
“Connecticut’s preservation of open space has helped define its landscape and preserve its important natural resources and natural beauty and is one of the main things that makes this state such a great place to call home,” Governor Lamont said in a release. “These grants continue our open space preservation legacy and will increase the availability and quality of open space for all residents across our state, whether they live in an urban, suburban, or rural area.”
“Since the open space program began in 1998, more than $150 million in state funding has been awarded to municipalities, nonprofit land conservation organizations, and water companies to assist in the purchase of more than 41,200 acres of land in order to protect natural resources and improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said.
“Open space preservation and access to open space is fundamentally important to our well-being,” Dykes added. “It is critical in our fight against climate change, protects wildlife habitat, and provides recreational opportunities that benefit us physically and mentally, and supports our economy by helping to attract and retain residents who are increasingly looking for opportunities to be in nature.”
The Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program assists local governments, land trusts, and water companies in purchasing open space using funding from the Community Investment Act and state bond funds. This grant program requires a match by the grant recipient and requires the open space land be protected by a conservation and public recreation easement, ensuring that the property is forever protected for public use and enjoyment.
The Urban Green and Community Gardens Grant Program provides funding assistance to develop or enhance urban open spaces for public enjoyment and/or environmental education. Promotion of open space in an urban setting may include, but may not be limited to, the development of a community garden or reclaiming and enhancing existing open space for the public’s use. Grants are awarded to projects that demonstrate the highest ability to benefit urban communities in close proximity to population centers.
Section 23-8 of the Connecticut General Statutes establishes a goal of having 673,210 acres (approximately 21%) of the state’s land area preserved as open space. It calls for 352,634 acres (11%) to be acquired by DEEP’s partners – including municipalities, nonprofit land conservation organizations, and water companies – and 320,576 acres (10%) to be held by DEEP as part of the state’s system of parks, forests, fisheries, and natural resource management areas.
As of the end of March 2022, DEEP estimates that its partners hold approximately 251,099 acres (71.2% of the goal set in state statutes) and that DEEP holds approximately 262,211 acres (81.79% of the goal). In total, 513,310 acres have been preserved (76.2% of the total goal), leaving an additional 159,900 acres remaining to meet the 21% goal.
DEEP’s 2022 grant rounds for both of these grant programs are now underway, with applications due by September 30, 2022. Updated applications for the 2022 grant round can be accessed by going to DEEP’s Open Space webpage at portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Open-Space/Open-Space.
The grants announced today include:
Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grants
Town: Bozrah and Montville
Project Name: Glemboski-Ous Property
Sponsor: Town of Bozrah
Total Area: 160 acres
Description: This property, at the southwest corner of Bozrah (105 acres) and the northwest corner of Montville (55 acres) is mostly forested, containing scrub-shrub wetlands, large glacial erratics, vernal pools, wetlands, and stone cairns in the upper Trading Cove Brook Watershed. Trading Cove Brook is a Class A stream and cold-water habitat with gravel aquifers. The stream comprises a large portion of the boundary between this property and The Nature Conservancy’s 338-acre Milo Light Preserve (MLP). This acquisition extends a conservation corridor anchored by MLP, creating a nearly 500-acre contiguous block of preserved forest in a prime cold-water stream corridor. This property and MLP will provide a cornerstone for future potential conservation activities in this corridor, primarily to the north and east. Several species in the Natural Diversity Database are known to inhabit the property. It contains several key habitats identified in DEEP’s 2015 Wildlife Action Plan, and 7.7% of the land consists of Statewide Important or Prime Farmland soils. Passive recreational activities include hiking, nature observation, photography, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hunting and fishing. There are well-defined, woods roads laying the framework for a trail system connected to MLP. Mountain biking and equestrian uses will be considered. The parking area will be on South Road. A stone-dust path accessible to persons with disabilities is contemplated.
Town: East Haddam
Project Name: The Saunders Property
Sponsor: East Haddam Land Trust
Total Area: 68.88 acres
Description: This property on the west side of Tater Hill Road at its intersection with Honey Hill and Hedlund Roads in eastern East Haddam, contains multiple habitats at risk from climate change – mature forest, shrubby understory, 6.9 acres of forested inland wetlands, and at least two vernal pools. In the western section of the property, a cold-water stream feeds into Hedlund Pond, which feeds into Roaring Brook #2 in the Roaring Brook Watershed. The eastern section contains an intermittent stream that feeds the Eight Mile River Watershed (federally designated a Wild and Scenic River). Preservation of forested acreage surrounding cold-water streams and watersheds plays an important role in maintaining the water quality and temperatures of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. This property is part of a large, mostly undisturbed forest block connected to the Fox Hopyard Golf Club, East Haddam’s 212-acre Lena Reserve, the more than 1,000-acre Devils Hopyard State Park, and the 1,122-acre Burnham Brook Preserve. The property has state and federal-listed species, and a sliver of the property is within an Audubon Connecticut Important Bird Area. The East Haddam Land Trust plans to add trails through the two distinct and separate geologic terranes on both sides of the Honey Hill Fault for passive recreational uses.
Town: East Hampton and Portland
Project Name: Meshomasic’s Rattlesnake Brook Preserve
Sponsor: Middlesex Land Trust, Inc.
Total Area: 147.4 acres
Description: This property on Great Hill Pond Road in Portland and Cobalt Road in East Hampton will buffer and expand upon the more than 15,000-acre Meshomasic State Forest greenway. The acquisition protects the area’s water quality and habitats, expands upon existing passive recreation with additional hiking trails, bird watching, fishing, and improved access to hunting opportunities on state lands. The Middlesex Land Trust will add a connector, loop trail that connects to the Shenipsit Blue-blazed Trail, securing a key ridgeline section of the trail. The purchase will protect an existing wildlife migration corridor, a ridgeline forest, a large wetland, and a stream corridor. Many habitats at risk from climate change will be better protected, including forested swamps, core forests, and riparian lands adjacent to cold water streams (Rattlesnake Brook). Threatened and rare species will be protected.
Project Name: Duffy/Greer Property
Sponsor: Killingworth Land Conservation Trust
Total Area: 24 acres
Description: This property, located on Route 80, lies between other already preserved Killingworth Land Conservation Trust (KLCT) properties. Winkell’s Pond Preserve, to the east, contains an extremely healthy wetland/pond system and a rookery with a Great Blue Heron and the Winkel Pond (loop) trail abuts the property to the west. KLCT will add a trail on this property and a parking area to complement the existing trail. The northwest side of the property is forested, ledgey upland habitat. The parcel is wooded with scattered stone walls and logging trails, areas of ledge/rock and extremely healthy wetland systems, teeming with fish, wildlife and presumably numerous reptile and amphibian species. A bird watching/wildlife viewing area is planned, adjacent to the pond and marsh. This purchase will protect the forestland that filters water flowing off this property into the adjacent marsh and wetland system, in the Menunketesuck River Watershed.
Project Name: Birch Branch Meadow
Sponsor: Madison Land Conservation Trust, Inc.
Total Area: 29 acres
Description: This acquisition at 836 Green Hill Road is a critical link between two Madison Land Conservation Trust parcels, a 61-acre parcel to the north and a 20-acre parcel to the south, creating a contiguous 111-acre preserve on the Hammonasset River and adding nearly 4,000 linear feet of additional river frontage. This linkage enhances wildlife migration for the numerous listed species found here. It provides protection to three Hammonasset River watershed resources threatened by climate change – headwater wetlands, riparian areas, and floodplain forests, all found on this parcel. The Hammonasset River is one of Connecticut’s premier cold water fish habitats, a well-known and productive recreational fishing resource. It feeds into the Long Island Sound through one of the larger salt marsh complexes in Connecticut, and there is a burgeoning shellfish aquaculture industry at the mouth of the river that is dependent on high water quality. This acquisition protects a diversity of high quality, contiguous habitats – grassland, forest, wetlands and river, flora, and fauna.
Project Name: Vaill Property
Sponsor: Town of Oxford
Total Area: 78 acres
Description: The Vaill Property located at 117 Good Hill Road abuts approximately 200 contiguous acres of open space owned by the Town and Oxford Land Trust, expanding forested open space, wildlife habitat connectivity, and migratory corridor passageways. Approximately 98% of the property is classified as forest, so this purchase will protect the land from deforestation, a primary contributor to climate change and the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions. The town plans to create a foot trail, linking this property to the Lake Zoar Greenway Trail, which runs along the abutting open space parcels. This forested habitat is home to a great diversity of plant and animal life. Good Hill Brook, a small tributary, flows through the Vaill Property to Lake Zoar.
Project Name: Granskog Property
Sponsor: The Nature Conservancy, Inc.
Total Area: 99.1 acres
Description: This property located at 55 Dorothy Road is the last large, undeveloped parcel adjacent to The Nature Conservancy’s 1,833-acre Devil’s Den Preserve, the conservancy’s largest and most frequented preserve in Connecticut with more than 20 miles of trails within the “Saugatuck Core” of the Saugatuck Forest Lands. It is part of a 15,300-acre network of protected open space and contiguous forest with high conservation value including the Centennial Watershed State Forest, Aspetuck Land Trust, Redding Land Trust, Town of Weston, Town of Redding, and Wildlife in Crisis properties. This acquisition will preserve forest and freshwater resources, buffer the Devil’s Den Preserve from potential development and protect the integrity of important natural habitat and native species (more than 500 types of trees and wildflowers and 140 bird species). The mostly wooded property possesses traits with above average resilience to changes in climate by The Nature Conservancy’s Resilient and Connected Landscapes project. Protecting resilient, connected forested and freshwater landscapes helps to support the survival of plant and animal species as they move in response to the effects of climate change. There are four acres of open fields on the western boundary, areas of wetlands and rocky slope. Half of the acreage is within the public drinking water supply boundaries of the Saugatuck Reservoir.
Project Name: Belter Wack Forest
Sponsor: The Salisbury Association, Inc.
Total Area: 50 acres
Description: This 50-acre, forested property on Lime Rock Road lies in the center of a critical wildland corridor on the northern ridge of Red Mountain, capturing the ridgeline, summit, and riparian habitat supporting a wide variety of wildlife species. It is in an area of high resilience to climate change with core forest providing maximum carbon sequestration and storage. There are streams, steep slopes with bedrock exposures and boulders, 13.5 acres of statewide-important farmland soils, and two high gradient wooded tributary streams that drain to the Salmon Kill, a major tributary of the Housatonic River. A review determined that there is a sensitive state endangered species and five state-listed plant species within or near the area. The Salisbury Association will create a loop trail that connects to the adjacent town-owned, 55-acre Wack Forest Preserve, providing passive recreational opportunities for the public such as hiking, fishing, and birdwatching.
Project Name: Goldfrank Property
Sponsor: Sharon Land Trust, Inc.
Total Area: 81 acres
Description: This forested mountainside property on Millerton Road (CT Route 361) has over a mile of shared boundary with Sharon Land Trust’s 168-acre Von Ahn Farm (another OSWA funded property) and Goodbody Preserve, filling in a protected forest block of more than 400 acres. Rising to 1,200 feet on the western reach of Indian Mountain, the property is a scenic part of the gateway between Sharon and New York. The property features high-quality wildlife habitats, steep slopes with rocky outcrops and seeps. There is a 2.5-acre meadow/glade in the lower reach of the property, and 6 acres of U.S. Department of Agriculture Statewide Important farmland soils. It provides climate resilience and supports a wide diversity of plant and animal life. An endangered species and a species of special concern have been documented at or near the site. The Sharon Land Trust will create an attractive trail to the summit dome and ridgeline, rewarding hikers with an outstanding view of Indian Lake, the Taconics, and the Catskills.
Project Name: Bothwell Farm
Sponsor: Southbury Land Trust, Inc.
Total Area: 31.27 acres
Description: The Bothwell Farm at 786 Reservoir Road and 443 Woodbury Road has historic and cultural significance as a dairy farm in the early 1900s. Its perennial surface springs, with stable year-round temps between 50 to 60 degrees, were used to store and refrigerate the 10-gallon milk cans that were transported via the nearby trolley to Waterbury. It is in northeastern Southbury, buffering and providing a linkage between Woodbury’s 245-acre Trolley Bed Preserve (OSWA funded) to the north and Southbury Land Trust’s Sterling Woods Preserve to the south. It provides a rich mixture of habitats, such as upland forest, forested wetlands, surface perennial springs/seeps, meadows, a pond, and a stream, which support a variety of plant and wildlife species. The site contains an abundance of DEEP-rated Class AA watercourses and the headwaters of streams that feed the recharge area of Woodbury’s public water supply well. The site contains prime Farmland Soils and Soils of Statewide Importance. The Southbury Land Trust will clear trails and add boardwalks, if needed, to access a pollinator pathway, meadow, pond, and stream. The Southbury Land Trust will add a wildlife viewing platform on the northern side of the pond, a short and fairly level distance from the parking area, making it more accessible for visitors with disabilities.
Project Name: Margaret Lang Trust & Arthur Altshul Trust Acquisition
Sponsor: Stamford Land Conservation Trust
Total Area: 64 acres
Description: This acquisition, 4.9 miles north of the city, consists of 2 parcels with wooded areas and trails designed for hiking, walking, and nature observation. The property contains a pond, creek bed, sloping topography, ridges, and bedrock outcroppings. The northerly, Altshul parcel has frontage on Riverbend Road (across from Newman Mills Park), and the southerly Lang Trust parcel has frontage on Den Road. The parcels are within the Mianus River Greenway, which protects the Mianus River entering Cos Cob Harbor and Long Island Sound. Altschul Pond is located in between the two parcels. The pond provides a home for fish, salamanders, turtles, frogs, and snakes. The property provides vital woodland protection for various forms of wildlife and migratory paths of songbirds and other native birds that follow the Atlantic Migratory Flyway twice a year. The purchase will provide benefits to the local community through the protection of clean drinking water, increased recreation opportunities, and support the native flora and fauna.
Project Name: 264 Williams Road Rear
Sponsor: Town of Wallingford Water Division
Total Area: 95.281 acres
Description: The Town of Wallingford Water Division will purchase the rear portion of 264 Williams Road in the Wallingford public drinking supply watershed to be classified as Class I and Class II water company lands after its purchase. The Muddy River is a Class AA watercourse and the primary tributary for McKenzie Reservoir, one of the town’s public drinking water supply reservoirs. Muddy River traverses the middle of the property north to south, flowing approximately 2,500 feet south to the north end of the McKenzie Reservoir. Preservation of this property protects an undeveloped watershed area from environmental degradation, contributes to water quality purification in the open and forested areas, and protects a public drinking water supply for the residents and businesses of Wallingford. Public access and parking will be provided off Williams Road. A loop trail will be created that will connect to an existing wood road in the wooded section of the property. Passive recreational activities include hiking, cross country skiing, nature photography, and stream fishing (the Muddy River supports a native brook trout population). A scenic viewing area, with a stone dust pad and bench accessible to persons with disabilities, will be added, affording views of the meadow and the high ridge to the east, which acts as a highway for migrating flocks and wildlife movement and connects to other ridges offsite.
Project Name: Talmadge Estate
Sponsor: Town of Willington
Total Area: 16.17 acres
Description: This forested parcel has an address on Boston Turnpike, but its frontage is on the west side of Mason Road in southeastern Willington. It is southerly of the 28-acre Daniel W. Talmadge Conservation Tract (OSWA funded in 2005), westerly of the 138-acre Royal Knowlton Preserve (OSWA funded in 2008), and southeasterly of the 420-acre UConn Forest Block (has a 50-year conservation easement in place). Adding this parcel to this protected core forest expands it to more than 602 acres. The parcel contains wetlands, which drain toward a small, unnamed stream in the southern boundary. The parcel is close to the Fenton River, within its public water supply watershed, and Cold Water Supporting Drainage Basin, identified by DEEP. Approximately 75% of the parcel is within the Aquifer Protection area, which recharges the Fenton River and UConn’s wellfields. The Fenton River is regionally important as a fishery designated as a Class 3 Wild Trout Management Area. Protecting this parcel and its tributary stream helps maintain forest cover, reduces stormwater runoff in the Watershed and Aquifer Protection Area, supports local and regional surface and ground water quality goals for public water supply protection, and maintains the health of the fishery. The town will add a public access trail on Mason Road, leading to the parcel’s hilltop vista overlooking the wetland and forest below, and connect to the Talmadge Spur Trail. Two state-listed turtle species have been documented nearby.
Project Name: Montanaro Property
Sponsor: Aspetuck Land Trust
Total Area: 9.84 acres
Description: This 9.8-acre property consists of two lots on Old Two Rod Highway (a town-owned, paper road). One is 4.23 acres and the other is 5.61 acres. This is a small but important piece of a long-term assemblage project that the Aspetuck Land Trust has undertaken to create a 705-acre contiguous forest known as the Weston/Wilton Forest Block (WWFB). This will be the sixth acquisition by the Aspetuck Land Trust in the WWFB, providing passive recreation opportunities, with a public access trail heads at the Upper Parish Drive terminus (to the north), on the adjacent Fromson-Strassler Property and Old Two Rod Highway/Wampum Hill Road terminus (to the south). The Aspetuck Land Trust plans to connect the WWFB with the Norwalk River Valley Trail in Wilton through other open spaces owned by the town and Wilton Land Conservation Trust. The Norwalk River Valley Trail is a 38-mile, multi-purpose phased trail construction project from Norwalk to Danbury, connecting to the Norwalk Heritage Greenway (a Connecticut-designated greenway). The WWFB is one of the last un-fragmented forests in Fairfield County. Its preservation protects critical ecosystems, wildlife habitat and their linkages, wetlands, groundwater fed watercourses, clean drinking water, and natural beauty, which are all under threat from a warming climate.
Project Name: Rosgen Property
Sponsor: Winchester Land Trust, Inc.
Total Area: 60 acres
Description: This property on the southeast side of Old Waterbury Turnpike and to the rear of Rug Brook Road is almost entirely core forest, featuring wetlands, a diversity of terrain, and a brook under a mixed hardwood and softwood canopy. It links extensive protected areas and town drinking water lands. There are stone walls, a section of Rugg Brook, a range of elevations, and high-quality habitats utilized by a wide range of wildlife. To the north and east, 1,300 acres of undeveloped town drinking water lands link the property to Algonquin State Forest and Winchester Land Trust’s preserved lands. To the west and south, it links to the state’s Winchester Lake. Rugg Brook flows through the property feeding the town’s drinking water reservoirs, providing an excellent habitat for fish, amphibians, and turtles, and the convenient location provides a nice, accessible spot for fishing. Five state-listed species have been documented on or near the property. This property will expand upon the existing Ames OS hiking trails, which are well used by the public with recently added wildlife observation areas, benches, and signs.
Urban Green and Community Garden Grants
Sponsor: City of Groton
Total Area: 11,151 square feet
Description: This parcel is adjacent to Washington Park and Lake George and is home to the city’s public service offices, Groton Utilities customer care, the police department, and an auditorium used for community programs. The city seeks to install rain gardens, plantings, and educational signage to enhance the site’s stormwater management with green infrastructure and reduce pollutants entering local water bodies. The project will reduce impervious surface water run off to the stormwater drainage system, with approximately 293,610 gallons of water being treated annually through bio-filtration and 3.05-pounds of nitrogen, and .386 pounds of phosphorus will be prevented from entering local water bodies annually. Green infrastructure installments will complement the open spaces and ADA accessibility. The project will be a win in the city’s action plan to address resiliency and serve as a highly visible educational resource.
Sponsor: Town of Killingly and Killingly Community Garden
Total Area: 4,314 square feet
Description: This garden, located at 79 Westfield Avenue, is the site of the old Killingly High School, soon to be the Killingly Community Center. There is a main garden, a pollinator garden, a greenhouse, and a garden next to the greenhouse. The gardens are accessible via paths of pavers. The food, herbs, and pollinator plants are cared for by the Killingly Community Garden members, a group of 5 to 7 dedicated volunteers who continually improve plantings, make improvements, and maintain the property. Volunteers meet on weekdays to weed the garden and harvest produce for the food pantry, and on the weekends they complete chores, such as mulching, planting, and building new structures. This grant will improve accessibility and infrastructure with additional pathway pavers, add trellises to support the plants and row covers to protect vulnerable crops and increase the yield contributed to local food banks. It will fund weeding tubs and sickles, pruning shears, and a lopper. It will add new food and pollinator plants, a bench and raised planters.
City: New Haven
Sponsor: City of New Haven and Gather New Haven
Total Area: Around 80 acres, improvements to 27 community gardens and 3 preserves
Description: Gather New Haven supports more than 50 community gardens and six nature preserves in New Haven. This project is to improve and restore 27 gardens and 3 preserves based upon a comprehensive needs assessment. Some gardens received funding from previous UGCG grants (2010 and 2014) but have additional needs to ensure sustainability and community support. All sites are publicly accessible. Most need soil, many need raised beds and new tools, and several need new sheds (a safe, secure place to lock tools and equipment). Other needs include hoop houses, low tunnels to extend the growing season, fencing, signage, and improved trails and pathways to ensure safe walking conditions. Gather New Haven will work with community volunteers to increase the productive growing, enhance community spaces, and complement community engagement and food-related programs. Pre-pandemic activities included hosting school groups, community potluck dinners, art shows, musical performances, movie nights, yoga classes, and other workshops. Some of these are starting to return, especially hosting school groups. The gardens provide access to healthy foods of various ages and ethnic backgrounds. Gather New Haven’s Community Garden Manager and staff work closely with community members to create free events about the environment and healthy eating and engaging others in stewardship and cultivation of land for a healthier community and environment.
City: New Haven
Sponsor: City of New Haven and Urban Resources Initiative
Total Area: 10.9 acres
Description: The City of New Haven and the Urban Resources Initiative (URI) plan to transform Kimberly Field, the largest park in the Hill neighborhood. It is currently overgrown with invasives, has a neglected baseball field that drains poorly resulting in wet, unusable conditions, and a basketball court that is in need of repairs. The city and URI will create a walking trail around the perimeter of the field and connect it to the adjacent Betsey Ross Arts Magnet School Middle School so the school can use the space daily. The first objective is to create a safe environment, clear trash, remove existing derelict features, demolish baseball backstops and dugouts, and bring in social service agencies to relocate individuals. A 6-foot-wide walking trail accessible to persons with disabilities for recreational use will be constructed, with road millings, compacted and covered with stone dust. Twenty-four trees, shrubs, and wildflowers will be planted along the trail to provide shade and create a beautiful inviting space. To ensure safe access for people with disabilities, permeable pavers will be installed to cover the sloped area between the school and trail/field, and benches and trash receptacles will be added. URI will engage students, families, school staff, and residents in volunteer workdays to plant, mulch, and water the garden along the trail. Local youth will water the vegetation twice weekly, and after the improvements are completed, the city’s Parks and Public Works Departments will maintain the property to include mowing of the lawn and trash removal.
Sponsor: The City of Waterbury and Brass City Harvest, Inc.
Total Area: Approximately 0.5 acres
Description: This site at 359 Mill Street in the South End neighborhood is an area that was devastated by the Great Flood of 1955. It was recently developed as the Food Hub, operated by Brass City Harvest, an agricultural nonprofit that also operates a greenhouse/community garden with fixed seasonal and mobile farmers markets. The city and Brass City Harvest will create a community garden on the undeveloped portion of the property, which is currently barren scrub with overgrown deciduous trees and non-native overgrowth offering little habitat for small animals, birds, or beneficial insects. Planned improvements include 50 raised beds, picnic tables, and benches enabling residents to connect with nature and participate in garden talks and events. Brass City Harvest will plant native species, such as Mountain Laurel, Swamp Azalea, Winterberry, Butterfly Bushes, Common Milkweed and Big Bluestem, providing food for migrating birds and insects. A small urban bee project is planned for the southeast quadrant, next to Mad River, providing bees with an important water source, partial shade for the hive and access to the native plantings. An outdoor cooking area for food prep and educational offerings will galvanize the food-based campus and facilitate free community cooking classes and nutrition education, food demonstrations, and tastings. The culinary aspect of this project will be facilitated by a Brass City Harvest chef and nutritionist. These improvements will tremendously enhance this public asset and foster a community connection for residents in this neighborhood with a median income far below the U.S. poverty guidelines.
Sponsor: Town of Windham and Garden Club of Windham (a.k.a. the Friends of the Garden on the Bridge)
Total Area: 0.38 acres
Description: The Garden on the Bridge is a historic town property that served as a major roadway into downtown Willimantic until Thread City Crossing (a.k.a. the Frog Bridge) was completed in 2001. The bridge connects Route 32 and Pleasant Street on the south side of the Willimantic River, to Main Street and Route 66 on the river’s north side, providing access to downtown restaurants, shops, jobs, and public transportation. In 2001, the 1857 bridge was going to be dismantled but the residents came together to preserve its historic value. The improvements began in 2005 but over the years the collaboration weakened, and the bridge fell into disrepair. The Garden Club of Windham/Friends of the Garden on the Bridge came together in 2020 to improve the bridge and its access areas. Along with the city, they plan to improve the Main Street access area, which lacks shade and amenities, and the Pleasant Street access area’s cracked sidewalks to provide places to sit and rest, to clear sight lines, and add lighting. This grant will enable the town and Garden Club of Windham to complete the Phase 1 Hillside work, which includes clearing of brush, re-grading, creating terraces, and building a small amphitheater, and begin Phase 2 improvements on the bridge, such as finishing the threadway and plaza. Over the next two to three years, they plan to replace lighting and seating, reinforce cracked planters, add a bike rack and trash barrel, refresh the plantings, and introduce public Wi-Fi. When major work is completed, they hope to add signs identifying the plantings, provide information about Willimantic’s industrial history, and directional signs to the hiking and biking trails in the area.