Finding Common Ground in Open Spaces: Nonprofits Ensuring Accessible Nature in Connecticut

Avalonia Land Conservancy

Protecting 600+ Natural Acres for Public Access

Since 1968, Avalonia Land Conservancy has been preserving natural habitats throughout southeastern Connecticut by acquiring and protecting land as well as communicating the value of irreplaceable natural resources.  

In 2021, Avalonia began the process of acquiring a 669-acre property in Montville, Connecticut known as the Bond Property. This green space provides habitat for wildlife as well as protects the drinking water for more than 45,000 area residents as part of the Niantic River watershed, nestled between the Barnes and Bogue Brook reservoirs. The property has tremendous potential for public access to outdoor activities, such as hiking and wildlife spotting. Avalonia’s goal is to close on the acquisition of this land in December of this year (2022) by raising $6 million in total funds, both to purchase the property as well as to steward the land with a focus on environmentalism and sustainability moving forward.  

Thus far, Avalonia Land Conservancy has received support from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection of Connecticut, the Summer Hills Foundation, and the Fields Pond Foundation. 

Building and Protecting a Legacy

EarthShare - News - Common Ground Connecticut Avalonia Bond Property 2Studies show that surrounding ourselves with nature has positive impacts on our overall physical health, lowering both blood pressure and the production of stress hormones (among other benefits). But it isn’t just human well-being that land protection benefits. Through the conservation of the Bond Property, Avalonia will also be able to increase a connected wildlife corridor for countless species of birds, mammals, amphibians, and pollinators. This means increasing biodiversity and further expanding a healthy ecosystem.

The property also abuts land owned by the City of New London’s Public Utilities, which provides drinking water to New London, Waterford, and portions of East Lyme. As a result, there are already numerous paths and dirt roads in existence which can provide a wonderful starting point for a full system of trails, allowing for outdoor activities such as hiking and mountain biking.  

Time is of the Essence

Unfortunately, a developer is ready and waiting to purchase this property should Avalonia Land Conservancy not reach their goal of raising $6 million this year. If the property is not saved, a large portion of it will be developed immediately, with the remainder of the property developed in the next several years. Once this property is gone, it is gone for good. The time for action is now. 

Interested in supporting the project and protecting this much-needed green space? Donations can be made to the EarthShare Common Ground program. Once acquired, there will also be volunteer and community involvement opportunities as well as stewardship activities—so stay tuned!  

EarthShare - News - Common Ground Connecticut Gather New Haven 1

Gather New Haven

Community Gardens, Scholarships, & Open Spaces

EarthShare Common Ground - Gather New Haven Logo

Based in New Haven along Connecticut’s southern border, Gather New Haven focuses on social and environmental justice, building connections between people and planet by providing educational resources and access for residents to learn about the environment and their place in it.  

Gather New Haven works to address food insecurity and public access to open space in five low-income and under-resourced communities throughout New Haven by regularly supporting the development and maintenance of community gardens and farms as well as scholarships for individuals to be part of Gather New Haven’s Farm-Based Wellness Program. This program supports residents of low-income communities with metabolic syndrome and diagnoses of chronic diet-related diseases.  

Emphasizing Community Engagement

Gather New Haven currently manages six independent farm locations as well as 50 community gardens located in and around the city. These garden programs have been in operation since the mid-eighties, focusing on providing quality food to low-income households and using urban agriculture as an expressive conduit for community engagement and organization. In addition to promoting nutritional education and wellness, these farms and gardens also provide jobs for members of the local community. 

The organization also manages six independent nature preserves, which are used by community members for outdoor recreation, educational programming, and more. One of Gather New Haven’s goals is to increase accessibility to these natural spaces in order to share the health and wellness benefits with the whole of the New Haven community.  

Growing Optimism & Instigating Change

Despite disruptions caused by the 2020 pandemic, Gather New Haven continues to successfully innovate programs that foster connection to peer groups, urban agriculture, education on diet and nutrition, and change the way people relate to food and nature. Throughout these programs, participants grow in optimism about their prospects to prevent or successfully manage diet-related diseases. Over time, participants and their families have developed a love of spending time outdoors at the farms and learning farming practices, leadership skills, independence, and healthy nutritional decision-making.   

The Community Gardens exemplify the diversity of New Haven’s residents and migrants from countries across the globe, fostering cross-cultural socialization. The gardens don’t just cultivate crops, they cultivate relationships.  

The enthusiasm and optimism created by these efforts is infectious, and it leads to a change of mindset and renewed love for the outdoors, fresh food, and a sense of community. Gather New Haven aims to expand these efforts over the next year by introducing 21 new farm and garden locations throughout the community as well as providing 10 new scholarship opportunities for community members to join the Farm-Based Wellness Program. But this can’t happen without your support. When you give to Common Ground, you help make this goal a reality.  

The New EarthShare Common Ground Program

Both Avalonia Land Conservancy and Gather New Haven have partnered together with EarthShare in order to launch a brand-new initiative: EarthShare Common Ground. Common Ground catalyzes positive action through collective efforts to create, conserve, and enhance sustainable and accessible natural spaces and outdoor opportunities. 

The reality we’re currently facing is this: open space throughout the U.S. is fast becoming one of our most precious and threatened resources. Overdevelopment, ecological degradation, changing laws and regulations, and budget cuts are consistently taking lands out of the hands of the public. As a result, accessibility to nature is becoming severely limited, especially for low-income, minority, and urban communities. Along with devastating impacts to ecosystems, loss of open space also means the positive physical and mental benefits of the outdoors are further (if not entirely) out of reach for far too many of us. 

EarthShare Common Ground is helping to create more sustainable and resilient communities, beginning in Connecticut. These communities will be marked by thriving ecosystems and broadly accessible open space for ALL people, regardless of who they are or where they live. Common Ground contributes to the Connecticut Green Plan, which aims to protect and delegate 21% of Connecticut’s land (roughly 673,210 acres) to open space by 2023.  

To help supplement these efforts, EarthShare Common Ground will curate strategic projects that strive to address equitable access to the benefits of healthy open spaces.  

How to Get Involved

Interested in supporting the work of these two great nonprofits? Curious how your business or organization can get involved to support open space efforts in Connecticut? Learn more about Common Ground, send a donation, or reach out to us at [email protected] to get started. 

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