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Letter to the Editor: Swan Hill Use Limited by Deed Covenants

The views stated here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of this newspaper. We welcome supporting or opposing views on any published item. Received September 20, 2023. 

The property known locally as “Swan Hill” was donated to the Haddam Land Trust Inc. (HLT) by Regional School District (RSD) 17 in 2019 with requirements that limit its future use.  Multiple ideas for active recreational uses of Swan Hill, now called Swan Hill Preserve (SHP), have been submitted by groups over the past few years, all of which did not align with HLT criteria.  We all love Swan Hill and its prominent position in Higganum, especially its stunning views of the Connecticut River, town center, and the peaceful expression of nature. Swan Hill is a special and fragile place that can be easily diminished or destroyed.  Outlined below is HLT’s stance on active recreational use of SHP, which is based on the intent of the donation plus the responsibility of land stewardship.

RSD17 managed Swan Hill as a natural area before donating it directly to HLT as the best means of permanent ecological protectionThe donation came with deeded legal restrictions that limit use of the property in perpetuity.  These covenants establish conservation of natural values and preservation of natural character as the sole purposes of the property.  This obligates HLT to prevent use for any purpose that might conflict.  With the specific exception of walking trails, all activities must be of minimal disturbance to the environment.

Active recreational uses, such as ATV riding and mountain biking, both inherently damage the environment due to their trail construction and use.  HLT’s additional responsibilities for the safety and security of all Swan Hill Preserve visitors, and the protection of their natural experience, present even higher hurdles.  These stringent requirements effectively eliminate active recreational use of the SHP.

We hope that the decisions made by RSD17, the community, and by HLT to protect this property, will be understood and respected, and that any concerns will be addressed to HLT directly and courteously.  If you appreciate this town treasure, please help us preserve it by offering your time as a volunteer with HLT.  As an all-volunteer organization, we rely on community support for many of our management activities.  We will be scheduling work sessions this fall and would love to hear your constructive ideas about how you can help shepherd this unique parcel into the future.

William Cowan, President, Haddam Land Trust

Haddam Land Trust Inc. (HLT) is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable corporation.  HLT is not affiliated with any government or public agency.

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