Land trust buys ‘Soundview’ with intent to sell to state

Published: Thursday, February 19, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — The Land Conservation Trust has completed the purchase of the “Soundview” property near the mouth of the East River, but is planning to sell the land to the state in the near future.

Stephen Besse, president of the Land Conservation Trust, said that the organization moved to buy the land, fearing that a deal could fall through while the state Department of Environmental Protection waited to secure funding for the purchase.

The 45-acre parcel of salt marsh and forest is surrounded by the East River Marsh Wildlife Management Area, which the DEP owns.

It lies south of the train tracks near Soundview and Saw Pit roads.

The Land Conservation Trust has agreed with the DEP to sell the property to the state once it secures funding.

“This has been a priority piece for the DEP for a long time, but they don’t stay as up on local things, so it was really the Land Trust that approached the owners and put the deal together,” Besse said. “We talked with DEP, but DEP wasn’t willing or able to close on it in the time frame the owners wanted.”

The Land Conservation Trust paid $360,000 for the property and the DEP has secured a $261,250 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service toward the purchase, but the money has not yet become available, Besse said.

He added that he expects the trust to sell the land to the DEP for $360,000 later this year.

Several other groups have also committed funds toward the state purchase, including the Land Conservation Trust and The Nature Conservancy, both of which have pledged $15,000, Besse said.

“This is not really a public-access piece so much as it is going to be wildlife preserve,” he said. “It’s wonderful habitat.”

The property is also known as the “Guilford Sluice” and “Saw Pit,” according to the Land Conservation Trust.

A proposal was put forward several years ago that would have seen the land developed with high-end housing, but there were issues with access to the area requiring a bridge over the railroad tracks, Besse said.

“The project didn’t go forward at that time and so we approached the landowners and came to terms with them,” he said.

The area is visible from the Guilford marina at the end of Old Whitfield Street.

“It’s a view that people probably take for granted but it would certainly be very missed,” Besse said.

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