Sacred Heart Greenwich Donates Preserve to Land Trust

Sacred Heart Greenwich is donating an eight-acre keystone property to Greenwich Land Trust to connect 165 acres of protected open space along the Byram River. Bordered by previously protected preserves, the eight-acre parcel creates a significant, continuous greenway and wildlife corridor in this important watershed.

“We are excited to contribute to the preservation of such a unique and precious resource that is so important to the community,” said Pamela Juan Hayes, head of school for the all-girls independent college preparatory school. “We are pleased to partner with Greenwich Land Trust and be part of their tradition of open space protection and stewardship. This gift underscores the foundational principles of Sacred Heart Greenwich’s mission, which includes teaching respect for creation and preparing our students to be stewards of the Earth’s resources, while building a global awareness of the issues surrounding human development.”

“Sacred Heart Greenwich gives our community a priceless gift that will forever help protect this watershed and all the benefits it offers,” said Matt Bostock, president of Greenwich Land Trust. “We are grateful for their commitment to the community and for their collaboration as we seek to preserve these last great tracts of open space.”

Congressman Jim Himes praised the gift, saying, “The future will judge us by how well we fulfill our role as stewards of the Earth. In Connecticut, we are blessed with incredible natural beauty and open spaces, but these delicate places need our protection on the federal, state and local level. By its action today, Sacred Heart Greenwich is setting a shining example, teaching its students the importance of preserving the environment for generations to come. These protected areas create something much larger than the sum of their parts with many economic, ecological and social advantages for the community.”

Sacred Heart Greenwich is donating eight acres of its 118-acre campus located at 1177 King St. The school will retain access to the Byram River for its Lower, Middle and Upper Schools’ science classes to enable students to pursue their studies and research of the natural environment.

“The science teachers are looking forward to this new partnership with the Land Trust to continue studies of wildlife, invasive species, ecological systems, water quality monitoring, trout conservation, as well as other independent projects in our award-winning Science Research Program,” said Upper School science department co-chairs Amy Dillane and Mary Musolino.

The donated preserve will become part of a series of contiguous preserves beginning at Sherwood Avenue extending as far as Cliffdale Road that comprise a greenway over a mile long on the banks of the Bryam River. It includes two Nature Conservancy properties and an Audubon sanctuary, which border Sacred Heart Greenwich.

Several Greenwich Land Trust preserves totaling about 30 acres are nearby, including an eight-acre conservation easement. The Boy Scouts’ Camp Seaton Reserve lies to the northeast. Protecting additional properties in the area will further connect conservation land, protect the watershed, and counteract forest fragmentation and loss. Among the Land Trust’s 76 properties, many have become connected with additional acquisitions of open space, greatly increasing their conservation value as native species are more likely to thrive in larger, undisturbed areas.

The new preserve, while varied in habitat and topography, is dominated by a forest of eastern hemlock and chestnut oak growing among steep slopes and rock outcrops. Its many large, mature trees form a dense canopy that help reduce opportunity for invasive plants to become established. The healthy understory includes lush swaths of ferns and stands of mountain laurel. It is a uniquely pristine tract that provides vital wildlife habitat and many educational opportunities for the community.

The main stem of the Byram River is estimated to be about 20 miles long, beginning in North Castle, N.Y. and draining into Long Island Sound at the state border in Port Chester, N.Y. Its branches and watershed cover about 29 square miles, most of which, about 60%, fall within Greenwich. Many government and conservation entities have collaborated to protect the watershed and to work towards improving its water quality. Issues, particularly in its southern portion, include flooding, erosion and upstream pollution. Protecting its upper reaches from development and providing a buffer from discharge are critical to water quality.

Greenwich First Selectman Peter J. Tesei applauded the announcement. “This donation by Sacred Heart Greenwich ensures not only a partnership between two highly respected institutions, it also guarantees a lasting legacy that generations of current and future students and nature lovers will be able to study and enjoy,” Tesei said.

“The Land Trust accomplishes its mission through the foresight and generosity of its members and neighbors. All that we do is made possible by community support. We are eager to partner with property owners and other conservation organizations on land preservation efforts,” said Will Kies, Land Trust executive director. While land donors rely on their own legal and financial advice, the Land Trust can assess the conservation value and stewardship needs. Its mission is to protect natural resources and habitat, including waterways and create greenways that benefit the health of the community.

From left to right – Matthew Bostock, president of Greenwich Land Trust; Pamela Juan Hayes, head of Sacred Heart Greenwich; Christopher R. Ryan, chair of the board of trustees of Sacred Heart Greenwich; and Will Kies, executive director of the Greenwich Land Trust, in Mrs. Hayes office, in a signing ceremony.

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