With purchase of Pine Mountain land, Ridgefield could add 58 acres of open space near Danbury border

The Conservation Commission is looking to convert a large parcel land in the Pine Mountain area into open space. The roughly 58-acre property is owned by the Boy Scouts of America’s Connecticut Yankee Council and is located at the Ridgefield-Danbury border.

The Conservation Commission is looking to convert a large parcel land in the Pine Mountain area into open space. The roughly 58-acre property is owned by the Boy Scouts of America’s Connecticut Yankee Council and is located at the Ridgefield-Danbury border.

James Coyle / Contributed photo

RIDGEFIELD — The Conservation Commission looks to convert a large parcel of land in the Pine Mountain area into open space.

The roughly 58-acre property 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.

“We’ve been coveting this property for a long time,” Commission Chairman James Coyle said. “Decades.”

The commission will need voters’ permission to spend $123,000 on the deal. The purchase could lead to more trails in the area.

In 1974, the Tuccio family donated 42 acres of land in that area to the council to be used for scouting purposes, Coyle said. 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, Coyle said.

The council is “divesting itself” of its unused land and plans to use the money it recoups from property sales to develop its campgrounds, Kraus explained. In addition to the Pine Mountain parcels in Ridgefield, the council is also selling off parcels in Southbury, Wallingford, Monroe, North Branford, Guilford and Egremont, Mass.

“If the property does not play a role in our core mission, there’s no reason for us to have it,” Kraus said. “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.”

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 parcel, Coyle said. 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.

Earlier this year, Ridgefield received a $42,000 grant from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to tack on additional terrain to its Bear Mountain preserve. A portion of the grant was used to partially fund the purchase of a 14-acre parcel adjacent to Hemlock Hills, connecting a 3-acre parcel of town-owned space to the 386-acre Hemlock Hills lot in the Bear Mountain area.

“When you consider all these different properties, it’s something like 2,700 acres of continuous open space ... in the northern part of town, and that’s pretty impressive,” Coyle said. “I have several commissioners who are (chomping) at the bit to get this property in their hands so they can continue a network of trails.”

Selectman Sean Connelly was excited at the prospect of seeing more trails developed in the Pine Mountain area, noting its “amazing hiking views (that) see practically to the Long Island Sound.”

Resident Russ Porter agreed. “The hiking in that area is fantastic,” he said, “and at $2,200 an acre it’s a good bargain.”

A public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 5, with a town meeting to follow on Jan. 19.

Shayla Colon contributed to this story.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com