The town has closed on two open space acquisitions — a purchase off Ledges Road, and a donation off Bennett’s Farm Road — which have been a long time coming and made some headlines along the way.
“The thing that’s most striking is we’ve been at this donation for the better part of a year, and this purchase for the better part of three years, and they’ve both finally landed in the last week,” said Conservation Commission member Ben Oko.
The donation is 25-plus acres off Bennett’s Farm Road, given by Charles and Albert Knapp, the heirs of the late Bettina Knapp who had a home across the road on 16 acres but lived mostly in New York City. A town meeting had voted to accept the donation in July, but the closing was held up until Dec. 26.
“We will have parking and a trail in the coming year,” Dr. Oko said.
The purchase is the 28 acres of steep land between Ledges and Old Stagecoach Roads that a town meeting in early December voted to buy for $825,000. That vote ended a long saga that included a controversial and rejected 2011 proposal for a joint purchase by the Conservation Commission and the Board of Selectmen, with a small site to be used as a cell tower.
The purchase was finally closed on Jan. 4, with no provisions for a cell tower, although the commission does have the option of selling off three acres at the bottom, along Ledges Road, for a house lot.
“We’re not going to do anything with it now. We may decide to keep it as a connection with some open space across the way,” Dr. Oko said of the three acres.
“We may decide to sell it. It will depend on the market and the need for the money for some other purchases.”
While the town will benefit from both additions to its open space inventory, Dr. Oko said, he thought it would be a stretch to consider them as substantial progress toward the stated goal of having 30% of the town’s land as open space.
“The town is 22,000-plus acres, so a 50-acre addition represents well under 1% of the land, it represents 0.002% of the land in Ridgefield,” Dr. Oko said.
The town is currently at about a quarter preserved open space.
“We have 25%-plus protected, between town-owned land, Land Conservancy land, and State of Connecticut land,” Dr. Oko said.
The Conservation Commission is still very excited about the two acquisitions.
“We think it moves us toward better quality of open space in Ridgefield — both parcels do that,” Dr. Oko said.
The 29 Ledges acres is adjacent to nine other acres of dedicated open space, making a tract of about 38 acres of steep, rugged land.
“It preserves the ridge line, provides a walking trail with views to West Mountain and protects a vernal pool and other habitat,” Dr. Oko said.
The former Knapp tract backs up to the 386-acre Pierrepont State Park, providing another access to the state land.
The donors requested that the property be called “the Liebowitz-Knapp Sanctuary.”
Dr. Oko said it will be very significant when it is combined with an additional open space donation expected in connection with the subdivision of the 16 acres across Bennett’s Farm Road, land Ms. Knapp’s heirs sold to a builder.
“When coupled with the development of the property across the street, which will be going before P&Z in the near future, that property will give us a connection between Hemlock Hills and Pierrepont State Park, two of the largest open spaces in Ridgefield,” Dr. Oko said.
“It will have five acres of open space with a pedestrian access from Hemlock Hills to the donated property,” he said.
“It will also give us a new connection between Pierrepont State Park and the Ives Trail.”
The Ives Trail, an open space trail commemorating composer Charles Ives and running through parts of Ridgefield and Danbury to Bethel and Redding, is nearing completion, Dr. Oko said.