Ridgefield could soon add a significant piece of open space with $123,000 purchase

Ridgefield held a public hearing on Jan. 5 to consider the acquisition of roughly 58 acres of land by the Conservation Commission. If approved, the parcel would be designated as open space in perpetuity.

Ridgefield held a public hearing on Jan. 5 to consider the acquisition of roughly 58 acres of land by the Conservation Commission. If approved, the parcel would be designated as open space in perpetuity.

James Coyle / Contributed photo

RIDGEFIELD — Residents had the chance to weigh in this week on the possible purchase of a property in the Pine Mountain area that would expand the town’s open space by 58 acres.

The land is owned by the Boy Scouts of America’s Connecticut Yankee Council and is located at the Ridgefield-Danbury border. It comprises two separate parcels that were donated to the council over the years.

Ridgefield’s Conservation Commission is looking to convert the land into open space in perpetuity. It will need voters’ permission to spend $123,000 on the deal, which could lead to more trails in the area.

Background

In 1974, the Tuccio family donated 42 acres of land in that area to the council to be used for scouting purposes. The deed to the property provides that if the land went unused, the council would convey ownership to the town.

Some time later, the scouts received a 15.5 acre parcel from an unknown donor that abuts the 42-acre parcel, according to Mark Kraus, the council’s CEO. Unlike the larger parcel, the smaller parcel is not deed restricted, which means the council owns it outright.

The council is currently “divesting itself” of its unused land and plans to use the money it recoups from property sales to develop its campgrounds.

“We met with Jim (Coyle) and other members of the commission and had a discussion about whether they’d be interested in purchasing the property and the remaining acreage we have control over,” Kraus said in an earlier interview.

The commission has agreed to pay the council $123,000 of its own funds to purchase the 15.5-acre parcel with the condition it relinquish ownership of the 42-acre property. Kraus said the council would prefer to see the property used as open space.

If voters allow the commission to move forward with the purchase, the property would provide a continuation of open space that already exists on the north end of town. Open space is land a town conserves for the sake of maintaining biodiversity, scenic beauty and a place for outdoor activities.

Public comment

A few residents spoke favorably of the purchase during a public hearing Wednesday night.

Board of Finance member Greg Kabasakalian lauded the town’s open space, and noted the uniqueness of having nature trails close to home.

Mike Malwitz, president of the Fairfield County chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association, said he was happy to see the item up for consideration. The association works in concert with the commission to build and repair trails in open space areas for the benefit of hikers and bikers.

“If this is approved we (could) remediate several of the trails that are in there and provide sustainable trails that would last a good long time,” Malwitz said.

Resident Justin Scheer said the acquisition presents “an excellent opportunity” to enhance the town’s network of trails for mountain bikers and other recreational enthusiasts.

A town meeting is scheduled for Jan. 19.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com