Report by Paula Antolini, August 23, 2022, 7:15PM EDT
Wesley Meeker has created a change.org petition in the continuing fight to help keep the Bethel UCONN Extension Master Garden and Offices open and thriving. Presently the Stony Hill Preserve has served UCONN Extension a lease termination notice and they are being forced out with no reason given.
Read the petition below:
Master Gardener Offices and Demonstration Garden are Being Forced to Vacate the Premises.
We, the undersigned, petition the Stony Hill Preserve, Inc and solicit the Town of Bethel CT’s support, to rescind the lease termination of UCONN Extension at 67-69 Stony Hill Road in Bethel, CT and return the property and associated funds to the Fairfield County Agricultural Extension Council so that the original intent and mission of the property can be honored.
Stony Hill Preserve, Incorporated (SHP), the current owner of this property at 67-69 Stony Hill Road in Bethel, Connecticut, has suddenly terminated the lease for the UCONN Cooperative Extension offices at this location.
The Extension offices at this location include the Fairfield County Master Gardener program and the Fairfield County Demonstration Garden. We, the Master Gardeners and volunteers at the Demo Garden, are deeply saddened by this action and we are asking for the public’s support in protesting this action.
Stony Hill Preserve has not provided the Master Gardeners or the Demo Garden any reason for this early termination. The lease termination is currently scheduled for August 1, 2022, although we are hopeful that UCONN can help us extend the current lease to November 2022.
The Demo Garden’s mission has been to generate interest in potential gardeners and to support and educate existing gardeners. Garden harvests are donated to local community food pantries.
This property has been supporting agricultural education in Fairfield County since the 1950s. The Fairfield County Agricultural Extension Council, Inc. (FCAEC) was formed at that time to partner with the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System in providing educational programs for agriculture, home life, and youth in Fairfield County. UCONN Cooperative Extension System currently includes the Master Gardeners, 4H, Urban Agriculture, and Nutrition.
Through a coordinated effort with all interested parties, the FCAEC became the owners of the property in 1969, with the responsibility of maintaining and managing the property for Extension programs. The Farm Bureau was instrumental in acquiring the land. Many volunteers and donations contributed to the construction of the 2 main buildings on the property for Extension. Additional volunteers built other structures to enhance the use of the property. In 2013, Master Gardeners started the Demonstration Garden.
In 2017, the property was transferred from FCAEC to the Stony Hill Preserve along with a significant amount of FCAEC money, with the understanding that the newly formed Stony Hill Preserve would provide continued support to the existing Extension operations on the property. Now in 2022, Stony Hill Preserve has served UCONN Extension a lease termination notice and we are being forced out.
The Master Gardeners would like to see the property transferred back to its original owner, the FCAEC, and have the mission of the property to support Extension agricultural education remain in place. The Master Gardener office and Demo Garden are among the many valuable community resources Extension provides to our Connecticut community.
Thank you for your support.
Read the Aug. 9, 2022 update here:
AUG 9, 2022 —
Thank you for your support! We need your continued help to pass along this petition and maintain support to stop the lease termination of the UCONN extension Bethel office! Please share the link to our change.org page with anyone you think might share our cause!
Also, please consider writing a letter to the editor to get the word out on this questionable action. Here are bullets below on some of the history behind this land transaction’s series of events:
– Fairfield County UCONN Cooperative Extension was sent an early Lease Termination for its location at 67-69 Stony Hill Road in Bethel, CT from the Stony Hill Preserve, Inc.
– This property was established in the 1950’s for the sole purpose of providing a location for housing UConn Cooperative Extension Programs in Fairfield County
– The Fairfield County Agricultural Extension Council, Inc. was incorporated in 1955 to develop and maintain the property to support Extension staff and programs.
– Extension programs currently at the site include 4H, Master Gardener, Home Horticulture, Nutrition, and Urban Ag that serve thousands of Fairfield County residents annually
– A 3000 s-f Demonstration Garden was built in 2013, and annually supplies over 1200 lbs. of organic produce to area food kitchens.
– In 2017, the property ownership was transferred from the Fairfield County Agricultural Extension Council to the newly established Stony Hill Preserve along with a significant amount of Council money, with the understanding that the Stony Hill Preserve would provide continued support to the existing Extension operations on the property.
– Now in 2022, the Stony Hill Preserve has served the Fairfield County UConn Cooperative Extension a notice to vacate the property and we are being forced out.