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Thorpe Mountain project could save 880 acres

SALISBURY — A proposal to preserve and protect 880 acres of Salisbury forest is making its way through the state and federal bureaucracies.

The acreage — referred to in the aggregate as the Thorpe Mountain Legacy Project— belongs to three landowners: Richard Turnure (178 acres), Alice Yoakum (254 acres) and Mount  Riga Inc. (448 acres). Thorpe Mountain is to the west of Mount Riga.

Mount Riga shareholders received an overview of the proposal in time for their annual meeting Sunday, Oct. 3.

The Forest Legacy Program is a partnership between states and the U.S. Forest Service and is designed to identify and conserve environmentally important forests and prevent their conversion to non-forest uses.

The primary legal mechanism used is conservation easements; the federal government funds up to 75 percent of program costs.

At the Mount Riga shareholders meeting on Sunday, Charlie Vail said that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which is in charge of ranking the Connecticut applications for submission to the federal government, had ranked the Thorpe Mountain application as number one in the state.

The land on Mount Riga is privately owned. There are about 50 summer residences (referred to as “camps”) on the mountain. There are no utilities and most camps have only minimal plumbing.

The town of Salisbury owns the road. Mount Riga makes available a public beach for town residents.

Wachocastinook Brook, which parallels the road up to the dam at South Pond, is managed by the DEP as a Class 1 wild trout river and is open to the public for fishing.

First Selectman Curtis Rand (who is a forester by trade) said that state foresters had spent a full day walking the three properties, and the Thorpe Mountain  application had edged out other projects — many of them worthy. “We really had to make the case.”

The two Mount Riga Inc. pieces flank the Yoakum parcel, which abuts the Belgo and Reservoir Road area, and Bird Peak. The Turnure property is farther west, on the New York state line.

In recent years Northwest Corner applicants to the Forest Legacy Program have been successful — the Childs family in Norfolk benefitted, for example. A Legacy project was also recently funded on Skiff Mountain in Kent, with 1,000 acres and seven property owners.

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