NEWINGTON - Town officials are working to secure more land on Cedar Mountain.
In 2014 the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Office of Policy Management determined that a 28-acre parcel had no economic value and recommended it be conveyed to the town through a conservation easement. Time passed and no action was taken.
Then in September 2017, Town Councilor Gail Budrejko sent legislators a letter signed by the council to finally move the transfer forward.
“It’s something that was sitting in limbo and we wanted to get going on it,” she explained.
“It has been over three years since the recommendations were finalized,” the letter read. “This land has little to no value to the state but is of value to the residents of Newington, and contributes towards Newington’s long term goal of securing and preserving available properties along Cedar Mountain. There will be no cost to the town.”
Budrejko joined state Rep. Gary Byron, R-Newington, Mayor Roy Zartarian and Town Planner Craig Minor at the State Capitol this week to testify for Senate Bill 502, “An Act Concerning the Conveyance of Certain Parcels of State Land.” The bill would allow the Commissioner of Mental Health and Addiction Services to convey the land, formerly belonging to Cedarcrest Hospital, to the town. The plan is to preserve it as open space and create hiking trails for the community.
Minor said the town would be “a good steward” by protecting the parcel, which the DEEP identified as crucial to the nesting of threatened peregrine falcons and other wildlife.
Budrejko has been involved in efforts to protect Cedar Mountain from the start.
“Newington residents care deeply about Cedar Mountain, not only for its ecological value, but also for its vistas and natural landscape,” she pointed out.
People have long recreated there, walking and biking on trails between North Mountain Road and the Connecticut Humane Society on Russell Road.
Efforts to secure additional land began in the late 2000s, when national homebuilder Toll Brothers presented an application to build luxury housing there. This proposal ignited a firestorm from residents and environmental activists alike. The grassroots movement ‘Save Cedar Mountain” formed and the company relinquished the land several years later .
The Government Administration and Elections Committee has until March 28 to act on the proposed legislation.
If approved, it will move to the full House of Representatives and Senate for debate and vote.