George Hall/Pharos Farm Project Complete!
We are pleased to report that the Simsbury Land Trust and George Hall have successfully completed the placement of permanent agricultural easements on George’s 11 acre farm on Old Farms Road in December, 2013, and on his 39 acre Pharos Farm between Quarry Road and Terry’s Plain Road in March, 2014. Not only is this a significant achievement for George and the SLT, but for the community as a whole. These easements assure that another local farm and 50 additional acres of prime soil remain available for present and future food production. Each farm that is protected for the future strengthens the critical mass of agricultural activity in Simsbury and the Farmington Valley, without which no single farm would be viable.
Everyone benefits from this transaction which occurred in several steps over several years:
George was able to strengthen the farm’s economic viability by purchasing the 39 acres he has leased from the Town for over 35 years and by removing all liens from his land. In exchange, he gave up the opportunity to sell the land for residential development thus reducing the monetary value of the land. But this lower value has also made the farm more affordable in the future for young farmers that are just getting started, an additional goal for George.
The Town received $480,000 from its sale of the Pharos Farm which it can use to further its open space objectives. And it retains the benefit of having the same food production and the scenic beauty that this site has provided throughout the time that the Town had owned it.
The SLT purchased the combined easements for their appraised value of $550,000. Half of this, or $275,000, came from a grant that the SLT obtained from the USDA-NRCS- Farm and Ranchland Protection Program. The objective of this program is to preserve the Nation’s most productive agricultural soil types, those classified as “US Prime or State Important.” These soil types are one of this country’s most precious natural resources, one that is rapidly disappearing throughout Connecticut and the US. In this case, the USDA program achieves its goal at fifty cents on the dollar.
You and I, through the SLT, get to enjoy the fresh produce and scenic beauty of these sites for years to come. The SLT easements prohibit non-agricultural development and require fields not being used to be cut annually so that they remain available for future farming. The easements will allow for limited public access on marked paths (not yet established) for pedestrian use. As with other agricultural easements the SLT has acquired at Rosedale and Tulmeadow, these paths may be temporarily closed from time to time for health, safety and operational reasons and, because these fields are active work places, we will be asking visitors to remain on the paths.
We wish to thank the USDA- NRCS- Farm and Ranchland Protection Program for providing $275,000 for this transaction and the many Simsbury supporters who provided the private donations that matched these funds. We also want to thank George Hall for his vision and patience in making this opportunity available.
Time to Renew Your Membership for 2014!
It is membership renewal time! Your membership is based on the calendar year. The SLT depends on your membership contributions to fund our land acquisitions, trail work, hikes, educational events and more. Each year more than 700 families join as members.
Download our current membership brochure. A family membership is only $60 and will ensure you receive timely information about all SLT events and an SLT decal for your car.
Please consider renewing today!
Photos courtesy of Ray Padron.
Although we are $15,000 short of the $550,000 needed to provide permanent protection for the combined 50 acres consisting of the George Hall Farm at Old Farms Road and the Pharos Farm at Quarry Road, we are close enough that we have decided to begin the three step closing process this month. If necessary we will bridge the remainder with operating funds. In the first step the SLT buys a permanent conservation easement from the Old Farms Road property. In the second, George Hall uses the proceeds to purchase the Quarry Road land. And in the third step, the SLT purchases a permanent conservation easement on the Quarry Road land. Steps one and two will be completed by year-end. The third step is scheduled to occur by end of January. (Note that donations for this project are still gladly accepted!)
As you know, the SLT has received a commitment from the CT-DEEP-Open Space Grant Program for $500,000 and has initial pledges from individuals for over $150,000 to purchase the fee interest in this 92 acre hillside. Obtaining a substantial federal participation remains a major hurdle and the SLT is working hard to find a formula and ownership structure that works for all parties. The good news is that all parties, local, state and federal, as well as other conservation organizations, are unanimously enthusiastic and working equally hard to make this happen. In addition, the owners have recently agreed to extend the purchase and sale agreement to provide more time for the parties to work out a solution. We will provide further details and hopefully good news as it occurs.
Tanager Hill Documentary
The Simsbury Land Trust would like to thank Sam Feibel for his wonderful work creating this video.
Join us for Green Scenes
No Impact Man
Thursday, December 5, 2013 • Simsbury Public Library • 6:30 p.m.
The Simsbury Land Trust will present a FREE “Green Scenes” film and discussion program featuring “No Impact Man”, a documentary about a Manhattan-based family who abandoned their high consumption Fifth Avenue-lifestyle to try and live one year while making no net environmental impact. The film screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring three innovative experts in “green” living: filmmaker and environmental educator Dave Chameides; recycling wizard” CJ May; and Sotoria Montanari, Education Supervisor of the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority’s (CRRA) Trash Museum in Hartford. Admission is free, thanks to the generosity of the law firm of Reid and Riege, P.C.
The film, “No Impact Man”, chronicled part of the research for a book that author Colin Beavan was writing about making as little environmental impact on the planet as possible. For one year, Beavan decided to swear off plastic and toxins, turned off his electricity, went organic, became a bicycle nut, and tried to save the earth from environmental catastrophe while dragging his young daughter and his Prada-wearing wife, Michelle, along for the ride. Together, they attempted to make zero impact on the environment while living in the heart of New York City. This is the sensational, funny, and consciousness-raising story of how they did it. “No Impact Man” provides a front-row seat into the experiment that became a national fascination and media sensation, and a behind-the-scenes look at the marital challenges that result from Colin and Michelle’s radical lifestyle change.” The 2009 film was presented at the Sundance Film Festival and the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Dave Chameides (a/k/a Sustainable Dave) is a two-time Emmy Award winning cameraman/DGA director who, over a decade ago, suddenly decided to change his ways to leave a cleaner planet. He decided to stop taking out the trash for an entire year and, instead, kept everything in his basement, and listed all the waste he created on his website, www.365DaysofTrash.com to share what he was learning. After one year, Chameides had stashed 28.5 pounds of trash, not counting recyclables. The average American disposes of five pounds of trash daily, which adds up to nearly 1,700 pounds of garbage annually. But Chameides was able to limit his year’s waste to roughly the amount that an average American produces in six days, and his basement garbage dump was so small he tucked it in only 10 square feet of space. The West Hartford resident lectures nationwide about how people can lessen their footprint without living in a cave. The trash pile he created in 2008 is now a permanent exhibit in the CRRA Trash Museum, inspiring people to change their ways.
CJ May uses magic to entertain, educate and communicate the message of sustainability to his audiences. The strength of his Resourcery? performances comes from the combination of his years as an environmental professional, a magician and a storyteller. He created his landmark “Recycling is Magic” performance in 2005 and his blend of magic and message on issues of sustainability, has reached elected officials, civic organizations, and business and environmental communities. May grounds his presentations and performances in the real world knowledge of more than two decades as an environmental professional including 20 years of planning, implementation and coordination of Yale University’s recycling efforts in compliance with environmental laws, regulations and the school’s own sustainability goals. A long-term board member of the Connecticut Recyclers Coalition, he served as that organization’s president from 2002 to 2010, and is a member of the Connecticut Outdoor & Environmental Education Association.
Sotoria Montanari has worked for the past nine years as the Education Supervisor for the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA) Trash Museum in Hartford and served in the same role at CRRA’s Garbage Museum in Stratford, Conn. until its closing in 2011. She has been responsible for fundraising, grant writing, outreach and successful program implementation for the museums that have provided environmental education, recycling and sustainability programs to over 500,000 people from Connecticut and worldwide. Montanari’s past experience includes more than 20 years in the environmental field. This includes work for the City of Plano, Tx. as its composting coordinator and as director of Holcomb Farms’ Link and Learn program in Granby.
Admission is FREE for the December 5 “No Impact Man” film and panel discussion. Refreshments will be served. Advance reservations are requested by contacting the Simsbury Land Trust at (860) 651-8773 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out our fall/winter calendar of events!
The Simsbury Land Trust has planned a wonderful variety of hikes and educational programs for members and friends for the upcoming fall and winter. All are free of charge to members; a few have a small fee for non- members. Returning this year are the Dirty Boots Kids Club and Green Scenes: A documentary film series.
The Dirty Boots Kids Club is returning for the second year. Thanks to a generous contribution from Educational Playcare the program is free for children of member families. There is a $20 fee for non-member families. Each new member will receive a Dirty Boots Activity Guide, a knapsack and a water bottle. At least four Dirty Boots programs will be held each year. This year the theme is farms, and each of the four programs will be held on a different farm in Simsbury. The program is for children 12 and under and all children must be accompanied by an adult. Please contact the SLT office for additional information, and see the calendar that follows for information on program dates.
Dirty Boots Kids Club sign up form (PDF)
Green Scenes, our successful documentary film and discussion series, will also return this year with a new venue: the Simsbury Public Library. All films will be shown on the first Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in October, November, December, February, March and April. The event is free of charge to members and non-members. We would like to say thank you for generous sponsorship from Simsbury Bank, Fitzgerald’s Foods, UBS/Ted Almy, Reid & Riege, Mary and Chris Baier, and Becky Latimer and Alan Kreszko.
Calendar of Events
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Thursday, March 16, 2014
Thursday, April 3, 2014
The SLT has worked for many years to help provide permanent protection for places important to the character, scenic vistas, and environmental health of the Town. In doing so, it has helped protect large portions of several magnificent north/south corridors- the Metacomet Ridge, the Farmington River and the West Ridge- as well as large individual sites throughout the Town, like Tulmeadow and Rosedale, the Wagner Woods and the Bog.
Two important goals remain. There has been no east/west corridor enabling a hiker to walk easily from the Metacomet Ridge (the National New England Scenic Trail) in the east into the center of Town and across the river to the West Ridge, or beyond to the Appalachian Trail. And, one of Simsbury’s top three farms in terms of agricultural production has still not been protected. During 2012, the SLT entered into purchase and sale agreements to accomplish both of these goals and is now actively pursuing the funding for these projects.
George Hall Farm/Pharos Farm
George Hall Farm/Pharos Farm Brochure
George Hall’s 12 acre farm on Old Farms Road, has been the base for approximately 75 acres of other land that he has leased for his farming operations. The existing farm consists of several temporary greenhouses, shelter for farm equipment, a farmhouse, six acres of US Prime and CT Important soils and a popular farm stand. The proposed transaction between George Hall and the SLT will place a permanent conservation easement on his existing land and enable him to purchase an additional 38 acres of Prime farmland soils from the Town that he has been leasing from the Town since the early 1970s and that will also be subject to a permanent conservation easement. This additional 38 acres is known as Pharos Farm, located between Terry’s Plain and Quarry Roads near the east side of the Farmington River. Not only will this transaction protect the farm from future development but, providing as it does a combined 50 acres, the farm will have greater flexibility to meet future challenges and have a better chance to remain economically viable over the long term. Removing the development rights from both parcels will also reduce the farm’s market value, making the farming much more affordable for future farmers.
Additionally, the Old Farms Road site will provide off-street parking and public access for the trails on the SLT’s adjacent Wagner Woods property. The Pharos Field portion will preserve a working farm that has been farmed continuously at that site since it was first cleared by Native Americans long before the colonists arrived. Pharos Field is part of an area with State or National Agricultural, Historic, and Scenic designations. It is also adjacent to the CT Wildlife Management Area along the banks of the Farmington River. It is also within walking distance of the SLT’s Wegner Field and its Quarry Site.
The purchase price for a permanent agricultural conservation easement protecting the combined 50 acres is $550,000. The Town has already approved the sale of Pharos Farm as part of a transaction that will preserve that land and Hall’s Farm through the conservation easement. The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service has approved a $275,000 grant to contribute to this acquisition. We have received commitments totalling $150,000 but still need to raise an additional $125,000 in private funds.
Completion of a trail from the east ridge of Town to the west ridge and beyond has been impeded for years by three challenging barriers: 1) the steep escarpments near the top of the Metacomet Ridge, 2) the nearly continuous string of housing developments that run just below the escarpments between Tariffville and Folly Farm, and 3) the Farmington River. Of the three river crossings in Simsbury, only the Drake Hill Bridge is a practical pedestrian crossing. It has the least traffic, sidewalks run from the bridge through the Town Center connecting to trails to the west, and just east of the Drake Hill Bridge via Riverside Road is Tanager Hill and a spectacular route between developments and through the escarpment.
Approximately 1,600 feet wide, the 92 acre Tanager Hill is the only meaningful natural corridor that remains between the Farmington River floodplain and the top of the Metacomet Ridge. It separates the neighborhood of Pinnacle Mountain from that of Talcott Mountain Drive. It rises 500 feet from East Weatogue Street to Penwood State Park feet in a series of manageable slopes, and the remains of an cart road from the olden days provides rare access through the escarpment within Penwood from Tanager Hill to Lake Louise, the Pinnacle and the New England Scenic Trail (one of only two trails in New England designated as National Trails by the National Park Service).
Besides being the one remaining link to completing an east/west trail across town, Tanager Hill is forested with a wide variety of tree types typical of upper and lower elevations and transitional pasture land. A series of meadows scattered through the woods, the Lucy Brook Ravine and a network of three miles of paths winding through the site also makes this a spectacular stand-alone destination. Because of the size of this tract and its unusually varied habitats in close proximity, this site is also an important protection for the 17 state listed plants and animals found near or adjacent to the property. This property is immediately adjacent to the Owen Mortimer property already owned by SLT, and with access frontage on East Weatogue Streeet, acquisition of Tanager Hill will enable to create a premier hiking destination in Town.
The purchase price for Tanager Hill is $2,150,000 including a reserve for its long term management. The CT-DEEP has already approved a $500,000 grant, and a request from the National Park Service- National Scenic Trails program is currently going through the Interior Department’s review process. Present commitments to date from individuals exceed $375,000. Assuning we are able to obtain grant funding from the Department of Interior, we need at least $275,000 in additional funds from individuals.
These two projects demonstrate what the SLT can and has done for the Town. The SLT has consitently worked with landowners to create a conservation plan and obtain substantial matching funds from public sources, but as the late Herman Fonteyne would say, “It is up to you to make it happen.” Once again we need your help to bring it home! There will never be another chance to secure two important sites. Please be a part of the effort and respond with a generous contribution.