The Town of Old Lyme seeks to protect and preserve land.
Situated on the east side of the Connecticut River where it meets Long Island Sound, Old Lyme’s most outstanding natural feature is its estuarine environment. Hundreds of acres of protected tidal marsh fringe the river. Large estuarine islands, protected coves and rocky headlands enhance the riverfront. Along the fourteen miles of Long Island Sound shorefront, beach strands are narrow and interspersed with rocky bluffs, small rivers and streams. Inland from the coastal plain, three linear ridges run north to south, delineating the boundaries of the major drainage basins of the Lieutenant, Black Hall and Four Mile Rivers. Smaller streams are the Duck River, Mile Creek, Armstrong Brook and Swan Brook. An estimated 2,000 acres of inland wetlands are a major component of these drainage systems. To the north, Rogers Lake covers about 300 acres
in the Towns of Old Lyme and Lyme.
Water or wetlands, including rivers, ponds, lakes and their associated wetlands and tidal wetlands associated with Long Island Sound make up one-fifth of the town’s area.
One-half of the town is forested, predominantly in the northern portion along its boundary with the Town of Lyme.
In the decade leading up to 2000, Old Lyme took several steps to formalize its commitment to open space. In 1997, at the urging of the Planning Commission, the town approved the establishment of a land-acquisition fund whereby money would be set aside annually to aid in acquiring open space. The town created an Open Space Committee and drafted an Open Space Plan that forms the basis for the acquisition, preservation and management of town-owned open space. Following the formation of the Open Space Committee, a generous gift of 107 acres of land on Buttonball Road was donated to the town from the Bartholomew family in 1998. In 2010, the town via a new ordinance turned the committee into the present Open Space Commission with its members appointed by the Board of Selectman. Today, the town owns over 600 acres of open space land, with many
miles of hiking trails.
In addition to town owned land, the Old Lyme Land Trust, a private land trust established in 1966, owns over 70 properties covering over 1,000 acres of land in Old Lyme. The Open Space Committee and the Old Lyme Land Trust have a close working relationship, and hope to develop a town-wide trail system in the future.
Land should be set aside as open space in accordance with the town’s Open Space Plan to preserve important natural resources, protect drainage ways and bodies of water, provide for passive recreation and maintain the visual and aesthetic rural character of the town. Where possible, existing open-space parcels should be linked and augmented to form large, un-fragmented tracts of field and forest. Existing public trails should be connected to provide an extended system for hiking, bicycling, jogging, bird watching and nature study. Public access points for non-motorized water- related recreation should be encouraged. Farming and the production of local food sources should be supported. The habitat of those wildlife species that are identified in the State’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy should be given highest priority for
acquisition and protection.
TOWN OF OLD LYME WALKING TRAILS
Please note that new trails have been opened up on many of the Town-owned properties.
It is wise to have your GPS with you.
The 105 acre Bartholomew Open Space property is located just north of the railroad overpass on Buttonball Road. The loop trail is easy walking and takes about twenty minutes. Parking for two or three cars is available at the trail entrance.
The 195 acre Ames Family Preserve, which includes the Noyes parcel, has two entrances. The Whippoorwill Road entrance, located across the street from Pfeiffer’s garage, about one hundred yards north of the bridge over I-95, is flooded due to beaver activity. Visitors should use the Evergreen Trail entrance (off of Boggy Hole Road).
The entrance to the 204-acre Champlain Farm South property is located at the end of Meetinghouse Lane where there is parking for several cars at the cul-de-sac. A large sign showing the trails is at the entrance. There are several trails including a loop trail with connections to Library Lane and Whippoorwill Road. Hikers have the choice of following the old roadway or walking the loop trail that does have a few steep spots that may be slippery when wet. The ridge trail parallels the old wood road.
The entrance to the 65-acre Champlain Farm North property is located just north of the Old Lyme Inn by way of Wyckford Road. There is a parking available at this property entrance. The trail starts here and follows the wood road to the Barbizon oak (16.5 feet in circumference, one of Connecticut’s largest oaks). From the big oak there is a perimeter trail (orange markers) that heads north from the big oak to the stone wall marking the northern boundary, then it follows the stone wall to the east to a ridge where it turns south along the ridge all the way to the fence separating the
property from I-95, then west along this fence, to the foundation of a huge barn, then back to the big oak. Much of the trail is rocky. Keep in mind that the ridges run north and south and that I-95 is the southern border of the property. The power line runs generally east and west. The perimeter trail takes an hour
A tiny parcel called Lords Wood B provides access to the 185 acre Lay Property owned by The Nature Conservancy. Two parking places are located on the right side of Lord’s Meadow Lane in a designated graveled lot up against a wooden rail. Please do not block the private driveway.
The Four Mile River Road property of almost 30 acres has no designated trails, but you can hike in under the power line to the top of the ridge for a challenging walk.
Please bring out what you bring in, including all trash.
Please be sure dogs are under your control at all times (on leash).
Clean up after your pet.
Properties are accessible from dawn to dusk. Close at sunset.
No motorized vehicles are allowed on any property, especially ATVs
No fires are allowed.
No hunting or firearms are permitted.
No cutting or removal of any living thing, without written permission from the Open Space Commission.
Please respect the property of adjoining private landowners. Some properties are not well marked, and it is advisable to stay on the trails to avoid trespassing and other hazards of the woods including snakes and ticks.
Click here to view a 1-page Land Acquisition History document.
Click here to view an analysis of the town owned open space habitat.
A Brief History of Old Lyme's Open Space Program
The concept of setting aside open space has a long history going back to Colonial times, but the 1965 Town Plan of Development got the ball rolling by stating: “The general intent of the Plan is to retain the rural character of as much of the Town’s area as possible. The Plan proposes that considerable areas of land should become public open space, including all the wetland, salt marshes, and swamps, as well as extensive areas of rugged land in the interior. In addition, the future development of houses should be of the cluster type, so that each group or small colony can have some open space.” The Plan suggested the establishment of a town forest in the north part of the Town, additional beach area, recreational lands, and a Town marina. The Commission recommended the establishment of a land acquisition fund and an annual
appropriation of one mill on the tax rate.
The 1975 Plan of Development stated that about 68% of the land in Town was undeveloped. This situation presented an ideal opportunity to establish both passive and active open space to protect natural resources and enhance recreational opportunities. Public response to a Planning Commission questionnaire rated natural resource protection, development of a town beach, and control and direction of population of highest importance.
Again one mill was called for to finance open space acquisition.
In 1995 the Planning Commission created an Open Space Committee, a subcommittee of the Conservation Commission, charged it with the task of writing an Open Space Plan, and requested that one mill be set aside for the acquisition of open space in a permanent fund. The Open Space Committee finished its Open Space Plan in 1997 and it was adopted as part of the Town of Old Lyme’s Plan of Conservation and Development.
An ordinance establishing a permanent open space fund was passed in Jan. 1998, and $75,000 was deposited in the account. Each year since that time, the town has chosen to renew that contribution. The Open Space Committee became a Commission in 2011.
The Open Space Committee has worked closely with The Nature Conservancy, the Old Lyme Land Trust, the Gateway Commission, and the State of CT, through its municipal grant program. The Bartholomew family gave the Town its first protected parcel in 1998 with the gift of 105 acres on Buttonball Road. The Bartholomew’s also gave a Conservation Easement to the Old Lyme Land Trust over 23 acres on Old Shore Road to preserve the beautiful open vista overlooking Long Island Sound with a single tree in the center.
Dave McCulloch and his family, working with The Nature Conservancy, placed a conservation easement on over 400 acres of their land on the east side of Whippoorwill Road. The Nature Conservancy and the Old Lyme Land Trust, with the assistance of a municipal grant acquired the 185-acre Lay property, also in the Whippoorwill Road area. The Open Space Committee partnering with the Old Lyme Land Trust, negotiated a bargain sale for the 25-acre Noyes parcel.
Old Lyme and Lyme worked together to make possible the State’s acquisition of the 180 acre MacCurdy-Salisbury property on the east side of Town Woods Road. The Town and the State contributed to the acquisition of the 56-acre Roger Tory Peterson property. The Nature Conservancy sold the property to US Fish and Wildlife service in 2011. They will install a handicapped accessible trail to view the headwaters of the Lieutenant River.
The town also received contributions from the state and The Nature Conservancy to acquire the 269-acre Fairfax property, known today as the Champlain Farm North and South. The Town, with the support of Old Lyme Land Trust, has purchased almost 200 acres from Steve Ames, with the most recent acquisition in 2011.
With special thanks to George James for all his work to clear, establish and maintain the trails throughout Old Lyme.
The Open Space Commission’s work is moving into a new phase. Now that we have acquired land for both passive recreational use and natural resource protection, the Open Space Commission has the task of land habitat assessment and land management. Trails need to be easily identified and regularly maintained. The commission hopes to create habitat management plans for its properties to maximize wildlife habitat while responsibly managing our mostly forested acres. We would like to engage the community in providing it with their observations of interesting flora and fauna. The commission keeps a list of bird sightings and is working to make all information accessible on the Town’s website. We will be updating our signage as part of a trail mapping project underway. Volunteers are working on updating our trail data and will post trail maps
as we complete them.
Open Space Land Acquisition Priorities
Add to the Peterson, Champlain and McCulloch Greenways linking areas of Open Space and adding adjacent properties to form large, unfragmented tracts of field and forest.
Add properties that will connect existing public trails to provide a townwide system for hiking, bicycling, jogging, bird watching and nature study.
Provide points of access to the shoreline and tidal waters for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, crabbing and other water related activities. Add to or provide additional public beach areas.
Protect and preserve the habitat of various wildlife species, including endangered, threatened and species of special conservation need as identified in the State of Connecticut’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy
Protect and preserve wetlands, tidal marshes, streams, ponds, lakes, vernal pools, water recharge areas and aquifers.
Preserve and protect historical, archeological and scenic sites to protect the Town’s rich heritage.
Preserve and protect the remaining farmland in Old Lyme.
Establish a town forest.
Protect land that has special educational, aesthetic, scientific and/or recreational value.
Options for Land Protection/Acquisition by Town of Old Lyme
In order of Preference
1. DONATION TO THE TOWN
a. outright donation
b. donation upon death of donor
c. donation with donor retaining lifetime use (retained life estate)-tax deduction while alive, owner pays property tax, reduces estate value)
d. life income gifts: charitable annuity/remainder trusts
2. CONSERVATION EASEMENT IN FAVOR OF THE TOWN:
Landowner continues to own land, paying reduced taxes, while agreeing, through a legal document that land will be permanently preserved in its natural state. Town has right of inspection.
a. Flexible as to uses that can be retained; to get income tax deduction, has to meet conservation purposes test and be irrevocable
b. New 97/98 tax law allows post mortem easements, Executor can take additional 40% of residual value from estate tax
3. BARGAIN SALE (part donation, part sale)
Landowner sells to town below fair market value. If there is a low basis, uses adjusted basis to offset capital gains taxes. Gets tax deduction between fair market value and donation.
4. LONG TERM LEASE (5 to 10 years)
Used to protect rare species
5. STATE MUNICIPAL GRANT PROGRAM MATCHED BY TOWN FUNDS.
Landowner and town come to agreement on purchase price based on appraisals that must be approved by State as part of matching grant program. State can contribute up to 40%. Land must be open to public.
6. PURCHASE OF DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS
7. LIKE KIND EXCHANGE
8. DEED RESTRICTIONS
9. RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL
10. 15%-40% SET ASIDE AT TIME OF SUBDIVISION/PRCD/MULTI-FAMILY APPLICATION.
11. OUTRIGHT PURCHASE:
Open Space Commission has an established protocol including appraisals, property walks, approval by various boards and commissions, including approval at Town Meeting.
For more information, to volunteer or to discuss permanently protecting your property, please contact the Open Space Commission via the means at the top of this page.