The Norwalk Land Trust announces it has an agreement in place to purchase the 15.4-acre White Barn property in the Cranbury area of Norwalk on the Westport border. Major donations from James and Deborah Fieber and William Fieber of $1 million have kick-started the fundraising. NLT must raise $1 million in additional donations towards the $5 million purchase price by April 1, 2018. NLT is in the process of applying for a loan from The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit, for the remainder of the purchase price.
The Norwalk Land Trust proclaimed itself “delighted” that 78 Cranbury II LLC, which has permits to build 15 luxury homes on the property, is willing to work with the land trust to come to an arrangement that will preserve the property as open space in perpetuity. The NLT currently stewards and protects 90 acres of Norwalk open space, including an existing easement on 5.5 acres of the White Barn property. The property was home to the White Barn Theatre, founded by Lucille Lortel, from 1947 until 2002.
The White Barn property is one of the last, large, privately-owned, open space properties in Norwalk. Seeley Hubbard of the NLT said: “Given its unique biodiversity and benefit to the community it is critical for the community to help NLT save this this property.”
This wooded property, located along Newtown Avenue/Cranbury Road, includes a one-acre pond fed by Stony Brook, a Class A stream that is part of the larger, multi-town Saugatuck River Watershed drainage basin, eventually feeding into Long Island Sound. The Stony Brook watercourse system plays a major role in filtering and providing underground drinking water through a bedrock aquifer system. The majority of households in this section of Norwalk and Westport rely on private drinking water wells.
James Fieber said: “Our family has a long history of preservation and responsible development. Conserving this 15.4-acre tract of woodlands, watercourses, and pond, preserving open space, protecting wildlife and opening up trails for educational purposes and the public to enjoy, continues our commitment to a sustainable environment and social responsibility. We will continue to play an active role in fundraising to assure the success of the efforts of the Norwalk Land Trust. We encourage others to support the Norwalk Land Trust to preserve this open space for future generations to appreciate.”
Wildlife-dependent on this open space are abundant and include great horned owls, turtles, deer, great blue heron, wood ducks, egrets and countless other birds, mammals, and reptiles. In addition to the pond and woodland, the property also has a significant amount of wetland and a meadow. The entire property embraces a unique, inter-connected biodiversity that is highly valuable for humans and wildlife alike. It is also a place for public enjoyment: trails, a planned native plant garden and extending the NLT Outdoor Classroom program for Norwalk fourth- grade students.
The NLT announcement said the Cranbury neighbors are instrumental in this purchase effort. In addition, NLT is exploring joint fund-raising efforts with other organizations such as the White Barn Theater Foundation that intend to create the opportunity to build a contemporary White Barn Theatre.
NLT is launching a fund-raising campaign to save what it describes as “a beloved and biodiverse property for the entire community.” Donations at this stage of the effort are critical and leveraged because they facilitate obtaining and paying down debt- financing.
To learn more about the land trust and to donate, visit norwalklandtrust.org.