December 2017

60 More Acres Preserved

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On the bank of an upstream portion of Stony Brook, Brian Benito of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, left, and Art Sikes of the Suffield Land Conservancy discuss birds they have seen. They were touring the Conservancy’s new Nicholson Nature Preserve on South Grand Street.

Photo by Lester Smith

On the bank of an upstream portion of Stony Brook, Brian Benito of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, left, and Art Sikes of the Suffield Land Conservancy discuss birds they have seen. They were touring the Conservancy’s new Nicholson Nature Preserve on South Grand Street.

In preserving the natural, rural character of our lovely town, every little bit helps, and the 60-acre property recently acquired by the Suffield Land Conservancy is a good help, indeed. The property was given by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company as part of its wetland mitigation plan and includes a great combination of farmland, woodland, and wetland, and even includes about 4,000 feet of Stony Brook and its tributary, DeGray’s Brook, as well as a great many vernal pools. The parcel extends east from South Grand Street, almost at the East Granby town line, with 447 feet of highway frontage but expanding north and south further east. Among other neighbors, it abuts the Airways Golf Course on the north and property of the Connecticut Airport Authority on the east.

The Land Conservancy’s newly preserved land, now tentatively called the Nicholson Nature Preserve, fulfills the requirements still imposed on major projects by our government’s environmental preservation concerns, compensating Mother Nature for the environmental damage done by such projects – in this case for the natural disturbance of installing Tennessee Gas’s new stretch of pipeline. The government agency concerned is the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Suffield resident Brian Benito was the Tennessee Gas environmental specialist who worked out this gift, in which two adjacent parcels, with different owners, were carefully defined and merged. One was the 35-acre farm of Stanley and Ann Kierkla, who lived at 1466 South Grand but have retired to Georgia. To the east of that is the remaining 25-acre parcel of remote woodland carved out of a larger parcel owned by the Nicholson Estate. Almost coincidentally, the gas pipeline runs southwest-northeast about 400 feet southeast of the Nicholson parcel. In January and February, 2017, the two parcels were purchased by Tennessee Gas for $232,000 and $155,000, respectively.

And in September, the combined parcel was given free to the Suffield Land Conservancy, along with a check in October for $100,499 for the immediate and future expenses of preserving the land in its natural state. The deed includes a detailed statement of “restricted covenants” defining the required preservation. The Conservancy has designated Norm Noble and Todd Mervosh as the volunteer stewards of this property.

On a nice afternoon in mid-October, Benito escorted Art Sikes, vice president of the Suffield Land Conservancy, and this reporter on an excursion through portions of the new preserve, partly in a four-wheel-drive SUV and partly on foot. A red-tailed hawk circled the old farm field, but was forgotten as we found our way through brambles and bushes and open forest to the bank of Stony Brook, which meanders through the property, about a dozen feet wide at that location. It was a delightful experience.


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