Category Archives: South Park

Bill Kupinse addresses the Board of Selectmen and Sacred Heart University


South Park-Sacred Heart Proposal to Lease for Baseball Field- Thursday August 16th, 7:30 PM at Senior Center

Sacred Heart University will be presenting a proposal to lease a portion of the South Park Property for the purpose of a baseball field. The public is invited to comment and ask questions. This is agenda item #1 of the regular BOS meeting.
Item #3 is public comment.
We urge you to attend.

Connecticut Audubon Society supports preservation of South Park Avenue property

Following is text of the letter from the Executive Director of the Connecticut Audubon Society to the Easton Board of Selectmen:
The Connecticut Audubon Society joins with Citizens for Easton in its concern about the future of 29.6 acres on South Park Avenue adjacent to the Mill River. Development of this town-owned land will compromise a small but beautiful wildlife habitat that plays an important watershed protection role for the river, and is a much-used and enjoyed passive outdoor recreational area for birdwatchers, anglers, artists and school groups.
The Mill River is one of only nine Class A Wild Trout Streams left in Connecticut and is unique because it is pristine and cold enough to sustain wild trout despite being on the edge of a suburban area. Wild brook and brown trout are among 17 fish species listed as “most important” in the Connecticut Wildlife Action Plan.
Preserving the property would also be consistent with Easton’s Town Plan of Conservation and Development, which states as its “cardinal principle”: “The major policies and goals of the Town Plan in respect to resource conservation are: Protect the natural, scenic, historical and cultural resources of the town, especially its wetlands, streambelts and ground water resources, but also its steep slopes, ridgelines, major trees and significant wildlife areas …”
The Connecticut Audubon Society is the state’s original, independent Audubon. We and our many members in Easton look forward to your leadership as exemplary stewards of the environment by supporting the preservation the 29.6 acres on South Park Avenue as open space in perpetuity for current and future generations.
Nelson North
Executive Director



Easton’s other housing crisis: wildlife

Easton Courier: By Jane Paley, Special to The Easton Courier on October 5, 2016:

Humans aren’t alone; some of our wildlife species could be losing their habitats. This may give pause to those who moved to Easton for its rural character and commitment to preserving the town’s woods, wetlands, waters, and open spaces.

The Eastern box turtle, wood turtle and sharp-shinned hawk are three examples. Each lives along and in the Mill River in the vicinity of the South Park property where various development proposals are being considered by the Board of Selectmen/woman.

The National Wildlife Federation describes the Eastern box turtle as five to six inches long with a domed shell. The turtles come in various shades of brown, frequently with yellow markings. They have a curved mouth and eat “just about anything they can catch and fit in their mouths.”

In their current Mill River home, they can find cool shelter from the sun and a plentiful diet of insects, berries and roots.

According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, this turtle “gets its name from its ability to completely withdraw into its shell, closing itself in with a hinged plastron. Box turtles are the only Connecticut turtle with this ability.”

The DEEP fact sheet offers concerns about this species: “Because of the population decline in Connecticut, the box turtle was added to the state’s List of Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern Species when it was revised in 1998. It is currently listed as a species of special concern.

“… Loss of habitat is probably the greatest threat to turtles. Some turtles may be killed directly by construction activities, but many more are lost when important habitat areas for shelter, feeding, hibernation, or nesting are destroyed.”

The wood turtle is five to nine inches in length and has an elaborate shell. Those found in New England often have orange markings. According to the DEEP fact sheet, their habitat is ”usually within 1,000 feet of a suitable stream or rivers, where they hibernate in the winter.” This species is also of special concern to DEEP.

“The wood turtle is imperiled throughout a large portion of its range and was placed under international regulatory trade protection through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1992. Wood turtles have also been included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List as a vulnerable species in 1996. … They are protected by the Connecticut Endangered Species Act.”

The DEEP placed the sharp-shinned hawk on Connecticut’s Endangered Species list. “It is the smallest North American accipiter. … Many were lost as a result of pesticides in the 1970s. Although pesticides no longer play as large a role in the decline of sharp-shinned populations today, the species is still affected by other factors, like the loss of habitat.

“Collisions with plate glass doors and picture windows are responsible for the deaths of many sharp-shinned hawks annually. The glass reflects the surrounding woods and cannot be readily distinguished by a hawk chasing prey or seeking cover.”

Advice from DEEP is both implicit and explicit: Protect these vulnerable species.

Mill River Park proposed for South Park

Nancy Doniger on August 25, 2016

Citizens for Easton wants to preserve the South Park Avenue tract as a park, which they have named the Mill River Park. — Bryan Haeffele photo

Mill River Park … forever yours or forever gone. That is the title of Citizens for Easton’s proposal to retain the 29.6 acres of town-owned property at 22 South Park Avenue as open space in perpetuity by making it a town park.

Passive recreation at Mill River Park would bring enjoyment that’s appealing to all, according to the proposal. Activities would include catch-and-release fishing, en plein air painting, picnicking, walks, photography, school study groups and bird watching.

Former first Selectman William J. Kupinse Jr. presented the Mill River Park proposal in a slideshow to the Board of Selectmen and residents who packed the community room at the Easton Public Library. — Bryan Haeffele photo

Former first Selectman William J. Kupinse Jr. presented the proposal in a slideshow to the Board of Selectmen and residents who packed the community room at the Easton Public Library, filling every seat and spilling over into standing room in the back.

“Citizens for Easton was founded back in the 70s, and the reason it was founded was to prevent development on this very piece of property,” Kupinse said.

He provided a brief overview of the group’s successful preservation projects over the years and invited anyone who is interested to “join up with us.”

“We are not as some people have suggested a bunch of trouble makers,” he said. “We have tried instead to preserve the Easton we know and love.”

Roughly 67 people, from 20-somethings to senior citizens, turned out for the Aug. 18 meeting to hear Citizens for Easton’s ideas, the latest in a growing list of proposals for the site the selectmen have heard over the past two years.

The town owes $4.6 million for the South Park tract, which it purchased in 2008 from Running Brook Farm. At the time, the site was the subject of a 72-unit high-density affordable housing application scheduled for trial in Superior Court in Litchfield.

Voters agreed at a June 17, 2008, referendum to appropriate $6.15 million “… for preservation, conservation and land use control purposes … ,“ according to the ballot, which is posted on the town website,, under South Park Information, along with related documents.

“This was not a proposal to buy the to buy the land for open space,” according to the minutes of a special town meeting June 9, 2008, that preceded the referendum.

“Although the town would purchase the land, it would simultaneously sell a two-year lease/purchase option to the New England Prayer Center for $300,000. This amount would cover the town’s cost during the option period. If the lease/purchase option was not exercised, the town could sell 14 1-acre lots to cover the cost of the purchase and retain the remainder of the land as open space,” the minutes state.

The town lease-and-purchase-option agreement with the nonprofit New England Prayer Center permitted six-month extensions if the town’s approval of the prayer center’s building plan was appealed by a third party, which it was.

The prayer center lost its final option to purchase the property after six years and multiple lawsuits. It has submitted a new proposal, which the selectmen are considering along with the others.

Resident Amy Zima said she and her family chose to live in Easton over neighboring towns because of its open space and pastoral qualities. — Bryan Haeffele photo

A park for southern Easton

Easton is a jewel in Fairfield County that is not replicated anywhere else, Kupinse said.

“It is an amazing town,” he said. “If you want development, there are plenty of towns for you to go to.”

Citizens for Easton has proposed the Mill River Park for South Park, not for themselves but for future generations, he said.

“Some of us are getting older and will perhaps be going somewhere else when we go from here, and it’s not to another town,” he said, generating laughs. “We have a generation coming up that really needs what we have here in Easton, and I would urge everyone to support this.”

He said he could speak about what’s wrong with the other proposals, but instead was taking a positive approach in recommending Mill River Park for the site. He said it makes sense for financial reasons to have a park in southern Easton. It also makes sense from a planning and zoning standpoint, and Citizens for Easton supports what the P&Z has done over these many years; it further makes sense for protection of natural resources, he said.

Easton has a lot of open space, much of it is not conducive to walking on it, and most of it is in the northern part of the town, he said.

“Mill River Park would be an ideal neighborhood park for southern Easton, and it is more accessible than the open space in the northern part of town,” Kupinse said.

The South Park Avenue tract is an iconic gateway to Easton, just off the Merritt Parkway, and one of the main routes into Easton.

“Mill River Park makes sense for financial reasons,” Kupinse said. “Many communities feel they have to develop their land. Actually studies show it’s less expensive if you have open space or anything without buildings on it. Once you start putting buildings on it, it costs more to supply all the benefits homeowners want than the town would get in taxes.”

South Park costs the town less than 1% of its $43 million budget, he said. “If we sell it taxes aren’t going  to go down. It makes good sense that if it’s less than 1% we’re keeping it.”

Right now the property is costing taxpayers $160 a year. If the town bonds the property, it will drop to $120 a year per household. After 20 years the debt would be repaid, and Easton would own the property, he said.

“It’s cheaper to have non-developed property than to develop it and spend taxes on it,” he said. “Controlling the property saves money.”

In the past the town has had some fights over development, and it costs money to defend it. If South Park has a new owner, the owner can promise anything, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to try to do something else in the future, he said.

“If we own it, we don’t have to defend it,” he said.

If the town sells it to a non profit, it can get payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for it, but based on the condition of the state there is no guarantee the PILOT funds will continue to provide a positive cash flow. If the town sells it to a for-profit entity, it will have to supply services in return for the taxes it will receive, he said.

P&Z supplied a report on putting senior housing on the site at the request of the selectmen, but “I suppose there’s no harm in looking at things, but I hope people realize it’s not the vision for the property that we should have,” he said.

Mill River Park makes sense from planning point of view because the town can keep the property in conformity with the vision P&Z has for Easton.

If the town has a referendum as the selectmen have suggested, he urges them not to have two choices such as athletics and senior housing. He said they should have open space as one of the choices.

“We have nature’s classroom in our backyard, and we should keep it,” Kupinse said. “Once we sell it, it’s gone.”

Addressing the Board of Selectmen, James Prosek said he supports Citizens for Easton's proposal. He and Laura Modlin created the Mill River Heritage Project, an educational website to educate the public about the Mill River. — Bryan Haeffele photo

Residents at the meeting overwhelmingly favored preservation of the site for open space and urged town officials not to sell it. Many of them delivered impassioned prepared statements to applause and in some cases, a standing ovation. Others gave spontaneous remarks.

Comments from residents and the Board of Selectmen are in a separate article in the Aug. 25 Easton Courier. Watch for our video coming soon at


mill river from david

View of the Mill River on the 29.6 acre South Park property in Easton. This section of the Mill River is designated by the state of Connecticut as a Class 1 Wild Trout Management Area, one of only nine in the state.

Please join us at 7:30, Thursday, August 18, 2016 at the Library Community Room where CFE will present to the BOS a proposal to retain the 29.6 acres of property located at 22 South Park Avenue as open space in perpetuity.


Your presence at the presentation will send a strong message to the selectmen that the majority of the townspeople feel very strongly about preserving this unique piece of Easton’s character and heritage for current and future generations.


Please pass this email to anyone you know who is interested in preserving Easton’s future and character.


Also,  sign up to receive important information as we post it to our website. Simply, mouse over the bottom right corner, click the “follow” tab and enter your email address.


Thank you for your support!

Citizens for Easton



Forever Yours or Forever Gone: On Thursday, August 18, 2016 (location and time to be determined by Board of Selectmen) Citizens for Easton will present to the Selectmen a proposal to retain the unique 29.6 South Park Avenue property as open space in perpetuity. This pastoral landscape is part of Easton’s rural character and abuts the Mill River, one of only nine Class A Wild Trout streams left in Connecticut. Your presence will send a strong message to the Selectmen that townspeople feel very strongly about preserving this important part of Easton’s character and heritage for current and future generations.

Please also pass this information to others interested in preserving part of what makes Easton special and safeguarding the sensitive Mill River.

Email to signup for important updates.

Thank you for your support!

Important meeting regarding South Park: Thursday, June 16, 2016

CFE applies for program to save South Park

The Mill River is one of only nine Class A Wild Trout Streams left in Connecticut out of over 300 streams. The Mill River is unique in that it is pure enough and cold enough to sustain wild trout despite being on the edge of a suburban area. — Archive photo

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

That line from Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi song sums up what Citizens for Easton doesn’t want to see happen to the town-owned South Park property.

Rather, the local group’s goal is “to preserve something the town already owns,” according to CFE President Verne Gay.

William Kupinse, former first selectman and CFE member, has said it many times at Board of Selectmen meetings, as have other members.

Now CFE has taken action to bring the goal to fruition by applying to the state’s Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust program.

“The application is representative of our interest and passion for this property,” Gay said. “The organization started with South Park. It’s inspired CFE for 40 or 50 years and been the rallying part of the organization for years.”

That said, he is circumspect about the group’s chances of winning the competitive grant due to the high price the town still owes for the land and the work First Selectman Adam Dunsby and the Board of Selectmen is doing to try to sell it to make good on the investment and help the taxpayers.

“It’s not a criticism of Adam or the Board of Selectmen,” he said. “It allows us to have a say on another alternative, rather than selling it wholesale. It’s a little effort to say, Here is another idea consistent with Citizens for Easton and the town’s goals.”

The selectmen in December referred South Park to the Planning and Zoning Commission to assess whether the site might be appropriate for senior housing. They also cited protection of the Mill River and preservation of open space surrounding the river as a high priority.

CFE is among 16 entities vying for the state program. Gay presumes that all of the applications contain compelling reasons why they should be selected, as CFE’s does.

“One of our board members said, Why don’t we file an application and see what comes of it?” he said. “There is no guarantee it will come through. It’s one of a number of ideas CFE has had to preserve South Park that may or may not turn out into something. We hope it does.”

The Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust program was created by the legislature in 1986 to help preserve Connecticut’s natural heritage and is the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s primary program for acquiring land to expand the state’s system of parks, forests, wildlife, and open spaces.

Through the program, the DEEP manages the acquisition of land that represents the ecological and cultural diversity of Connecticut, with a focus on unique features such as rivers, mountains, rare natural communities, scenic qualities, historic significance, connections to other protected land, and access to water.

To qualify, each potential acquisition should possess one or more of the following attributes:

• Provide high-quality recreation opportunities, either active or passive.

• Conserve a unique, natural area or protect a species considered threatened, endangered or of special concern.

• Represent a prime, natural feature of the Connecticut landscape.

The CFE application satisfies all of the attributes, Gay said.

High-quality recreation

CFE’s application cites the property as the beginning point for a potential green belt in this part of the state for trails that would run north through the Easton Reservoir into the Easton or Trumbull side.

Or it could go out through the Hattertown area as a contiguous trail north to Danbury, extending for as much as 20 or 25 miles. Bikers, hikers and runners could use it as a recreational resource, Gay said.

Preservation of rare wild trout and brown trout would be a boon to fishermen as well as protecting threatened species.

Protection of threatened species

Preserving the site as open space would protect the wild trout and brown trout that live in the Mill River.

“Here’s one thing we included from Trout Unlimited,” Gay said.

The Nutmeg Chapter of Trout Unlimited’s Mill River Improvement Project stated on its website: “Our most important current stream restoration work is the Mill River Improvement Project which consists of restoring and protecting the Mill River, one of only nine Class A Wild Trout Streams left in our state out of over 300 streams. The Mill is unique in that it is pure enough and cold enough to sustain wild trout despite being on the edge of an extremely suburban area.”

Prime landscape feature

The scenic river views from the South Park property lend themselves to environmental field study by school groups, day trippers and hikers, Gay said.

The CFE application included a statement from Catherine Labadia, deputy state historic preservation officer and staff archaeologist in the State Historic Preservation Office, Department of Economic and Community Development.

Labadia described some prime natural landscape features that further quality for the site for the state preservation program.

“This type of environment setting is frequently associated with Native American settlement,” Labadia wrote. “Based on the known archeological resources in the vicinity, it is the opinion of this office that the property has the potential to contain significant archeological resources.”

Site history

The town purchased the South Park property in 2008 from Running Brook Farm to protect the land that borders the Mill River from high-density housing.

Easton paid $6,150,000 for 29 acres and entered into a lease/option agreement with the New England Prayer Center. The prayer center paid $300,000 up front and $75,000 each year in lease and option payments.

Plan B was to rezone the property into 14 one-acre building lots. Many residents favored this option, but no developer has shown an interest to date.

The agreement with the Prayer Center was supposed to end in 2010, but clauses in the contract permitted six-month extensions for $37,500 each if a third party were to appeal the town’s approval of the prayer center’s building plan, as was the case.

Gina and Dan Blaze, prayer center founders, lost the option to purchase the property when their final lease renewal extension expired. They continue to pay rent to occupy the house on the site.