Royal Knowlton Preserve dedicated with ceremony and hike

By Wally Robinson - ReminderNews
Willington - posted Wed., Oct. 26, 2011
The Willington Conservation Commission held a dedication ceremony and hike on Oct. 15 at the Royal Knowlton Preserve. Photo by Wally Robinson.
The Willington Conservation Commission held a dedication ceremony and hike on Oct. 15 at the Royal Knowlton Preserve. Photo by Wally Robinson.

The Willington Conservation Commission held a dedication ceremony and hike on Oct. 15 at the Royal Knowlton Preserve, a 138-acre tract bordered by Boston Turnpike (Route 44), Mason and March roads. The land abuts the UConn Forest and the town’s Talmadge Tract, providing a total preserved forest area of 569 acres.

“The importance of this acquisition by the town can’t be overstated,” said Commission Vice Chair Kathy Demers. “It lies within the largest watershed area in the state, 162 square miles, with impact on the Fenton River and Natchaug regional watersheds, the Mansfield Hollow/Willimantic Reservoir, and UConn’s Fenton River well field. It’s also a wildlife habitat and hosts a portion of the Nipmuck Trail.”

Though the parcel was appraised for more than $1 million, Tom Knowlton and his sisters, Dorothy and Nancy, agreed to sell the property to the town for $625,000 following the death of their father, Royal. The commission won a DEP grant award of $306,000 in late 2008, whereupon town residents approved the appropriation of $330,000 for the acquisition. Joshua’s Trust contributed $15,000, and another $10,000 came from the Connecticut Forest and Parks Association to help defray land, survey and legal fees.

Tom Knowlton was on hand to receive the Raymond K. Daley Award from the commission on behalf of himself and his sisters. “We want to thank the three of you for your willingness to work with the town, your generosity in making the property affordable, and your patience through the entire four-year process,” said Commission Chairman Pete Anderson.

“My goal was to get this done before I died,” Knowlton said. He has also agreed to preserve the family’s 423-acre farm and forest property in Ashford in an agreement funded by the state and federal departments of agriculture, the town of Ashford, and Joshua’s Trust.

Speaking for the Trust, Acquisitions Chairman Richard Hyde said the organization is planning to provide funds for similar projects in other towns, as well.

Connecticut Forest and Parks Association representative Dan Donahue hailed the Knowlton deal as a “great example of cooperation” between the parties involved.

Following the ceremonies, those in attendance were invited on a short hike on the property. A new spur trail will form a loop for use by hikers and cross-country skiers.


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