The Guilford Land Conservation Trust (GLCT) is always looking to acquire privately owned land that borders Westwoods trail system.
Presently they are in the process of raising $200,000 to complete the acquisition of “17 acres of woodlands in the geographic center of Westwoods from a private landowner, moving the group a step closer to fully protecting the land on which the public Westwoods trails run,” states the GLCT website.
“We’re calling this acquisition the ‘Heart of Westwoods,’” said GLCT President Sarah Williams. “Because we’ve done so much work in the area trails already cross this piece and it’s just absolutely critical that it’s protected."
To date, $100,000 of this price tag has been paid; the group has until 2014 to raise the remaining $200,000.
Less than two miles from the Guilford Green, in a couple of different directions, Westwoods entrances beckon visitors to the intricate array of trails that hikers and bikers, alike, use to enjoy nature and fresh air.
“For its location, in relation to the population center of Guilford, Westwoods is a very large forest to be found in such a residential area,” said Williams. “It’s very close to the Long Island Sound. So when you enter Westwoods it can seem as if you’ve really left the whole Connecticut Shoreline. It’s a very wild experience because it’s so big.”
To date, 3,000 acres of land have been acquired through gifts, bequests, purchases or through the subdivision process. Once acquired, these trails are maintained by the over 1,500 GLCT members and are available, free, for outdoor recreation.
“We make it clear to people who own the land that the land matters to us,” said Williams. “So that they call us if they need to do something with the land there are many ways we can work with them to protect it.”
Presently, in the front display case at Guilford Town Hall, there is a photo display to bring attention to the recent GLCT acquisition project. Local resident and past member of the GLCT Board of Directors Peter Otis has spent many hours photographing the beauty of Westwoods, both for the land trust and his own personal pleasure.
“I absolutely love Westwoods and everything the land trust is doing,” said Otis. “I love the physical surroundings, the excitement of just walking out in different seasons and finding things that are on the Westwoods maps that might be indicated as some of their iconic locations. I love being able to take people or just going by myself to explore just the variety or just the beautiful spots that we do have.”
While some property owners have granted permission to have trails run across their land, the GLCT works diligently to acquire land when and if it becomes available. This has been an ongoing priority since 1968.
“In Guilford, the land trust has assembled an open space tapestry of 3,000 acres,” said Williams. “But it starts one acre at a time, one acquisition at a time, building relationships in the community.”
Building relationships with land owners and Guilford residents, alike, is essential for the GLCT to complete its mission of preserving this open land for future generations.
“I think the residents of Guilford appreciate the open space that’s here,” said Williams. “I’m not sure they all understand the work that is yet to be done.”