8 Putnam Hill Road – $669,000


The exceptional success of the Town of Redding, Connecticut, in saving open space begins with the grit and vision of its leading citizens in the decade of the 1960′s when the nation was just awakening to its vast natural treasures under assault from development. Well-known economist and writer Stuart Chase wrote of his beloved Town, “Large holdings are rumored on the verge of development. The moment of truth has arrived.”

Redding, located in central Fairfield County, was ready to forge what that truth would be – a “clean and green” oasis free from the excessive residential displays to its south and the commercial emphases to its north. Already a rocky watershed area for the region, where almost 3,000 acres were owned by a water company, Redding was determined to conserve more. The Town’s first open space purchase took place in 1967, a marshy area across from he elementary school that would become a nature laboratory for students. This purchase was soon followed by a 312 acre tract across from the Town’s middle school, where a special town meeting voted unanimously to purchase the property from Bridgeport Hydraulic with or without government assistance.

Chase’s argument that buying open space land saved the Town money by limiting the growth of town services was embraced ty townspeople early on. The Town’s Conservation Commission, led by far-sighted conservationists such as Sam Hill, committed to the goal that at least 20% of Redding should remain as open space. Parcel by parcel, meeting by meeting, grant by grant, properties were preserved for public use. Today, at the end of the new century’s first decade, that goal has been reached – and exceeded.

How has such success been achieved? An extraordinary convergence of circumstances and forces was responsible for Redding’s success story at the beginning. Both federal and state governments were providing grants, totaling up to three-fourths of the purchase price. The Board of Selectmen, the Conservation Commission, the Planning Commission, the Board of Finance, the Redding League of Women Voters, the Redding Garden Club, Redding Open Lands, Inc. (a group of citizens buying property, recouping costs through development of a portion of the property, and conserving the rest as permanent open space), neighborhood associations – all supported the effort and voters came out in droves to approve a flurry of open space purchases. The momentum lasted until 1975, when suddenly grants dried up and the cost of land soared.

Since the end of the 20th century, however, hundreds of additional acres have been added to Redding open space holdings. Not only did the State of Connecticut announce that it would once more provide assistance grants to municipalities for open space purchases, but The Nature Conservancy became a major advocate for and purchaser of open land in Redding. As part of its effort to protect a large swath of forest and river lands called the Saugatuck Forest Lands, The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with the Town, (and in some cases the Redding Land Trust and Redding Open Lands, Inc.) has been able to acquire key properties earmarked for preservation. Further, a state law that provides that 10% of any property of over 10 acres that is being subdivided may be required to be set aside as open space has incrementally increased holdings.

In 2009, Redding has 4,640 acres of preserved open space. Of that total, the Redding Land Trust holds more than 1,600 acres in easements and fee properties. The total acreage of Connecticut Watershed State Forest (created when the State paid $80 million, plus $10 million paid by The Nature Conservancy, for 15,300 acres throughout the State) in Redding is 2,824. Huntington State Park and Putnam Memorial State Park account for another 742 acres devoted to public enjoyment. All the same forces, from elected officials and local governing bodies to the Redding Land Trust and informal conservation groups, continue with undiminished zeal to find ways to save Redding’s last remaining open spaces from the bulldozer.