Woodbridge is unique as the only town in Connecticut that borders a major city but feels like a rural community. Our open space is a precious, finite resource that supports the value of our properties. It is central to the quality of life in our Town. I believe that our open space must be preserved and protected, not frittered away to satisfy short term finances. Unfortunately the Board of Selectmen is currently contemplating selling off an important part of our Greenway trail system that was previously purchased with Open Space funds.
We Woodbridge residents are fortunate to have a remarkable network of hiking trails throughout Town. Many of these trails are part of the Woodbridge Greenway system, a continuous network of trails maintained by the Woodbridge Land Trust that encircles the entire Town. The Greenway has been built over many years through the hard work and dedication of prior Town administrations, and of volunteers who have served on the town’s Conservation Commission and on the boards of the town’s Land Trusts.
In 1999, the Town purchased a small (six acre) parcel at 31 Enoch Drive, a private road off Spring Valley Road. This parcel was purchased with Open Space funds, for the important purpose of connecting the Woodbridge Greenway to the vast trail system maintained by the Regional Water Authority on the east side of Amity Road, stretching up through Bethany to Lake Chamberlain. Before the purchase of 31 Enoch, the Greenway trail used a narrow, steep easement on a natural gas line. The problem with this easement, in addition to its being so steep as to be virtually impassable, was that it passed right through the backyard of a Woodbridge residence, very close to the house. This situation was uncomfortable both for the residents and for the hikers using the trail. The problem was solved in 1999 by moving the trail off the gas line easement and onto the adjoining 31 Enoch parcel.
When the Town purchased 31 Enoch, the Town became a member of a neighborhood association, since Enoch Drive is a private road. Therefore, like each of the neighbors in the association, the Town has been obligated to pay a share of the maintenance costs of the road each year. Two years ago, when the road needed re-paving, the Scalettar administration balked at paying its share of the cost and proposed selling the land instead.
When the sale was proposed in October 2014, Town Attorney Gerald Weiner was under the mistaken impression that the Greenway trail actually did not use the 31 Enoch parcel. He said at the time he believed the trail still used the original gas line easement. The trail has since been re-blazed by Town Trailmaster Mike Walter and carefully mapped to reflect the reality that the trail uses 31 Enoch extensively.
Notwithstanding this new information about the actual trail location, the Scalettar administration brought the proposed sale of this land to the Board of Selectmen last week. I oppose the sale of this land. It provides an important link in our continuous system of hiking trails, a system that is a tangible asset of our Town. Only by owning the land can the town assure complete control of this crucial portion of the trail into the future. Even if a sale required an easement allowing trail use, there would be increased potential for conflict with future owners of the land. Further, I am concerned about the sale of any property that was purchased with dedicated Open Space funds. A sale would be a breach of trust, and would set a dangerous precedent. The potential gain to the town – a tiny amount of money – is insignificant compared to what we risk losing by selling this land.
By Selectman Maria Cruz Kayne