Monday, August 17, 2015

A special way to protect beloved land

By Beth Sullivan
This past week, several of us had the opportunity to meet with the owner of a special property, just over the North Stonington line into Griswold. Quincy Robe and his wife have long owned many beautiful acres here. These acres were once part of a much larger area that has been partly divided and developed but also preserved. Years ago, Avalonia was able to protect the Burleson Woodland and Billings Brook Preserves north of their property. Pachaug Forest abuts their land to the east. The Robes knew the value of large, unbroken swaths of undisturbed land. They also have loved and cherished their land for decades and wanted it to remain undisturbed. They wanted to be able to still have use of their land for camping and hiking, but living out of state, they are not here often enough to oversee it.

Cardinal Flowers grow along the Brook.

Avaloina volunteers joined Quincy and his brother Nathan on a hike to review the easement boundaries. Photograph by Joellen Anderson. 

Beautiful acres

We walked the beautiful acres, 47 of them, with Quincy and his brother Nathan, another steward of the land. There were high rocky ridges, low swales with brooks and seeps, rocky bald openings, fern glens, and gravel kettle-holes, each area providing a unique habitat. Quincy knew every twist and turn; he knew where the old historic pentways were, how the stone walls intersect, and how the brooks flow. He personally planted hundreds of native white pines which are now becoming large enough to create groves of evergreen habitat.
Quincy knows where all the walls intersect along the old pentways.

As a land conservancy, Avalonia holds about 3,500 acres, and almost all of it is “fee owned,” meaning the trust owns it outright. Land can come to us in several ways, such as through a generous donation, often a family wanting to preserve a homestead, woodlot, or farm in perpetuity. At times acres are set aside by developers who must leave a portion of their project to be open space. Some of these parcels can be truly lovely, others not quite so nice. Then there are the purchases. Those pieces of land that have something special, just begging to be preserved, and the land trust will undertake a fundraising effort to be able to buy the land. Babcock Ridge and Paffard Woods were two more recent purchases.
The big hollow in this tree could host a good-sized Raccoon and family.

Conservation Easement, another way to conserve land

Another way to ensure that a piece of special land is protected forever, is through a Conservation Easement. To create a Conservation Easement, the owner adds a legal clause in the deed that ensures that the land will never be developed or subdivided. A land trust, such as Avalonia, will hold that easement and be responsible for oversight of the land to make sure the conditions are met. The land can be sold, but all future owners must adhere to the conditions in the easement. There may still be farming, camping, even forestry practices in the future, as dictated in the easement language, but the land will remain forever protected.
Pachaug State Forest is the neighboring land to the east.

The easement adjoins Avalonia's Burleson Woodlands.

In 2012, the Robes established a Conservation Easement for their land, held by Avalonia Land Conservancy . The Robes maintain use of their land, and see a tax benefit knowing that it will never be assessed as house lots, yet the value is truly, greatly increased because it remains part of a much larger block of protected forest and watershed lands.
This man knows and loves his land.

The land remains in their family to use as long as they choose. As such, it is not open to the public. We know we will go back at least once a year to review the easement. There are more corners to inspect, swampy areas to walk into, but it is well worth the effort knowing this piece of well-loved land is protected forever by those who have cherished it.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.

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