May 17, 2022

Old Lyme Open Space Commission Co-Chair Explains Why ‘Ames Property’ Acquisition Efforts Ended

Old Lyme Open Space Commission Co-chair Evan Griswold. Photo courtesy of E. Griswold.

OLD LYME — Several readers raised questions regarding the reasons why the efforts to acquire the two parcels of ‘Ames Property’ donated to the Old Lyme Open Space Commission have concluded.

We contacted the commission and were told that its co-chair Evan Griswold was speaking on behalf of the agency.

Griswold kindly returned our phone call earlier today and explained first that terminating the effort to acquire the parcels was “personally a disappointment” to him since he had invested a great deal of time and energy on the project over the past 18 months. He added, “It’s just a shame that we weren’t able to bring all the parties together.”

He noted that the owner of the properties, Stephen Ames, had been “very patient” throughout the whole process.

Asked what the fundamental issue was that halted the acquisition, Griswold explained that the problem went back to the restrictions that were placed on the five-parcel subdivision by Ames when it was created in 2005. Those restrictions deemed that the lots, in Griswold’s words, were, “really for residential purposes only,” and moreover, “Anyone buying one of the lots would have to commence construction of a house within 18 months of purchase.”

Griswold commented that the Open Space Commission by its very nature was not planning any construction and that its intentions were to preserve the 35 acres of land, adding that the most ‘construction’ they would undertake would be some signage and trail map information.

A second issue was that the access road for all five lots was established as a private road.

Noting that all the homeowners would have to be on board in order for the restrictions to be waived to allow for a house not to be built and to give access to the two lots in question over the private road, Griswold said, “one neighbor objected.”

Two of the three remaining lots not included in the proposed land acquisition are sold and Griswold said he believes the third is currently on the market.

While stressing his disappointment with the outcome, he noted that as a “someone involved in real estate for over 40 years,” he can appreciate both sides of the situation in that there were, “privacy concerns” for the objecting homeowner. He concluded, “There must be equity for the public and landowners.”


  1. William Folland says

    Where was the due diligence at the initial onset of this proposed acquisition. Seems to me a simple title search of land records would have identified this as a no go.

  2. Bonnie Kramm says

    What a shame that one property owner could spoil this acquisition which would benefit our town forever.

  3. Jonathan B. Wilder says

    I am very very sorry to hear of this lost opportunity.I have been walking and running,as well as bird watching,on the Ames property land since 1979.It has very happy memories for me,and this seemed like a real chance to connect the final dots on things’.I’m also very sad that one neighbor found an objection to this.Having the land trust as your neighbor is even better than having a cemetery next door.It will always be quiet and provide nesting space for the birds,whose songs are wonderful to hear.The people who visit land trust properties are 99.999% great people who wish to experience the joys and calming effect of what wilderness we have left.One would really love to hear what the sad objection was.

  4. Russell fogg says

    I have lived at the entrance of the Ames preserve and miss the foot traffic of so many people who enjoyed this special place. Beaver activity has since made access impossible. I have long felt that the open space committee should consider a boardwalk/ bridge across the swamp to renew access to the preserve. This would also make a wonderful observation platform to watch birds, beavers, etc… I am also aware that new parking options have been discussed with one of the nearby property owners. The open space committee should now direct its energy into this approach. The money is clearly available if the will is. This location also would kill two birds with one stone as it would tie in with the McCulloch preserve. C’mon open space, time to get creative!

  5. Jonathan B. WILDER says

    It is interesting that privacy was cited as an issue to object to the land becoming part of the preserve.Did the family citing privacy concerns feel that hikers would spend time watching them?Do they think if the land for houses is cleared of trees so a house can go up that privacy would increase?All very odd.My question to this household who objected to this is simply,well,are you trying to hide something?

  6. Stephen Moore says

    As a kid, my buddies and I roamed all over the town’s wooded areas in the;60’s, when the town was filled with ‘open space’. Yes, it’s more built up now, and I can appreciate that people value their privacy, Key words here are PROPERTY OWNERS, though, and what they do on their own premises is their own business, Old Lyme is not the Soviet Union, or even New London, where private property can be taken for the ‘greater good’. Back to the drawing boards and lay off the property owners who objected. There are plenty of other already-created open spaces in Old Lyme to explore, Maps are available at the Town Hall.

    Aren’t there some less-intrusive projects the town can attend to, like the bike lane down 156, or perhaps some additional sidewalks so pedestrians and their dogs don’t have to walk in the street? That’s the kind of ‘open space’ that would provide more of a positive aspect for Old Lyme.

  7. Jonathan B. Wilder says

    Reading the other letters and speaking to other residents in town,there seems a bit of animus towards those who serve on the open space committees in town.This loss of opportunity to gain more land for preservation is not their fault.I run on trails all the time,here and in other towns preserved land.The preserved land in Old Lyme is the best by far.All of the trails are well marked,the maps are very accurate,and when a tree falls down across a path it is cleared away very quickly.I appreciate their efforts and am very thankful that they care.No one is speaking of taking anyone’s property for the “greater good” though personally I think it would be a good idea.There is no need to raise the specter of the Soviet Union.Please,the old USSR has nothing at all to do with how Old Lyme preserves its land.The refusal of one resident/family to simply cooperate for the goal of saving land from more building of houses shows how far individualist thinking has eroded the culture.Very sad.

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