January 31, 2023

Archives for August 2011

Flooding on Ferry Street as River Rises

As the heavy rains upstream cause the Connecticut River to rise, the effects are being felt in the heart of Essex.  Two hours before high tide on Wednesday Ferry Street and the lower part of Pratt Street were flooded, causing the town to close off Ferry Street.

Water level at the dock by the Connecticut River Museum was at the base of the boardwalk and still rising.

Water levels 2 hours before high tide Wednesday

Traffic on Main Street in Essex was temporarily traveling in both directions due to the closure of Ferry Street.
The Connecticut River is expected to crest at a higher level on Friday at around 2 p.m., when there is a particularly high tide and the impact of flooding higher up in New England is expected to have a greater impact.

Valley-Shore Y Facilities and Showers Open for Free to the Community

The Valley-Shore Y located on 201 Spencer Plains Road in Westbrook has announced that in the aftermaths of Hurricane Irene, they will keep their facility open to those who need hot a shower, a safe haven, and support.

Whether you are a member or non-member, the Y will be open FOR ALL as a community resource for those in need. Over 200,000 people were affected by Hurricane Irene in the Connecticut Shoreline and River Valley area.

The Valley-Shore YMCA can be contacted directly at the phone number 860-399-9622, website vsymca.org and for the most up to date news please visit facebook.com/valleyshoreymca.

Connecticut River Museum Educators to Lead Guided Paddle in Lord’s Cove


The public is invited to get an up-close look at the tidal wetlands of Lord’s Cove in Lyme shown here in this aerial image taken by Tom Walsh

Essex, CT —   On Saturday, September 17 from 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon, the public is invited to join Connecticut River Museum educators on a guided paddle in Lyme’s Lord’s Cove. 

The paddle will launch from the public boat landing adjacent to the Museum’s parking lot and cross the Connecticut River to the backwaters of the beautiful tidal wetlands of Lord’s Cove.  Guides will discuss the environmental significance of the creeks and its wildlife.  All paddlers must bring their own canoe or kayak as well as a life jacket and are welcome to pack a picnic lunch to eat on the trip or on the Museum’s lawn upon return. 

The fee is $5 per person with Museum members free.  Pre-registration is required and can be done by calling (860)767-8269.  For more information on this or other events, go to the Museum’s website at www.ctrivermuseum.org

The Connecticut River Museum is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the natural and cultural heritage of the Connecticut River and surrounding valley region. 

Assessing the Damage – Tree Down Outside Ivoryton Playhouse

Large Tree Down in Front of Ivoryton Playhouse

Hurricane Irene caused widespread damage throughout the region with hundreds of trees and powerlines down.  The large fir tree outside the Ivoryton Playhouse was snapped near the base and fell towards the Playhouse but fortunately did no serious damage.

Fallen Tree Just Misses the Playhouse

Thousands of local residents are without power and authorities are predicting this could continue for several more days.  The majority of properties in Essex, Chester, Deep River and Old Lyme lost power and so far relatively few have had their power restored.  In Essex the area around Plains Road now has power, as does a small section of Boston Post Road in Old Lyme.  According to CL&P at 5 p.m. Monday percentages of properties without power are as follows: Chester 100%, Deep River 91%, Essex 80%, Old Saybrook 90%, Old Lyme 86% and Lyme 98%.

Fallen Tree Damaged Power Lines on Main Street Ivoryton

The large number of trees which have fallen onto overhead power lines make the clean-up job even more time-consuming.

Many Trees Have Fallen on Power Lines in the Area Disrupting Power Supply

Centennial CT River Bridge Parade Draws Cars, Crowds, Memories

The parade advances up Ferry Rd. in Old Lyme.

Last Wednesday, Aug. 24, was 100 years, to the day since the first bridge across the Connecticut River between Old Lyme and Old Saybrook was dedicated and the Old Saybrook Historical Society certainly knew how to celebrate it.

First there was a parade of more than 130 antique cars following a route similar to that of the parade, which opened the 1911 bridge, followed by a display of those cars at Saybrook Point while the Old Lyme Town Band played.  The event was rounded off by a well-attended luncheon at the Dock & Dine restaurant, also in Old Saybrook.

Vehicles of all shapes, sizes and ages turned out for the parade.

Although there were no floats or marching units, the parade must stand as one of the most impressive in many years.  The route covered about 10 miles and the 135 vehicles ranging from the earliest years of the motorcar through 1976 created an unbroken string for which the local and state police actually stopped traffic at intersections and on I-95 northbound from the Rte. 1 entrance in Old Saybrook to exit 70 in Old Lyme.

Photo courtesy of Ann Nyberg.

The parade began near Sheffield Street, where the cars parrked awaiting the start of the parade (see photo above) and followed Main Street and Rte. 1 to the Baldwin Bridge then Rte. 156 to Ferry Rd. in Old Lyme.  From there it went to Lyme St., Halls Rd., back over the bridge, off at exit 69 to Essex Rd, Ferry Rd and back to Main Street before ending at Saybrook Point.  All manner of cars were represented: Model T and A Fords, a WWII Jeep, little-known makes such as White and Lagonda and a few VW Beetles (the old kind), just to name a few.

I joined friends in their Model A Ford.  When the parade started, the Ford didn’t … but the three passengers hopped out and pushed the car about 20 feet to get it running.  From then on it was smooth sailing although the car rarely made it out of second gear or over 20 mph, the maximum parade speed.

News Channel 3 anchor Kevin Hogan interviews a parade participant on Main St. in Old Saybrook. (Photo courtesy of Ann Nyberg)

It was a pleasure to see the delight on the faces of the parade spectators as all these veteran vehicles drove by.  Some of the same cars had participated in the dedication of the present bridge in 1993 and one driver said he has reason to believe that his car might have been part of the 500-car contingent that opened the 1911 bridge.  Sadly, he can’t prove it.  A particular thrill to the little ones (and their parents?) was the (roughly) 1947 Chrysler convertible towing a trailer filled with large stuffed animals.

At the luncheon which followed, State troubadour Tom Callinan performed the song he had written for the 1993 bridge dedication and luncheon speakers touched on such things as the history of the bridge, the economic importance of it, the transportation concerns facing Connecticut and the significance of people coming together to accomplish things as proven by the three-month effort to put together a memorable day — one that will long be remembered.

News Channel 8 anchor Ann Nyberg drove in the parade ...

Those attending the lunch included Congressman Joe Courtney, State Historian Walter W. Woodward, Acting Commissioner of the Connecticut Department Of Transportation James P. Redeker, Deputy Commissioner Department of Economic and Community Development Christopher Bergstrom, Channel 8 News anchor Ann Nyberg and Channel 3 News anchor Kevin Hogan.

... and a Model T Ford was there too ...

Over the past two months, I have collected personal recollections of the old drawbridge, culled from those who can remember it, all senior citizens like myself.  Some folks recall how the deck boards on the bridge clattered when cars drove over it (at 35 mph).  Several people recalled the horrendous traffic jams on summer Sunday afternoons, often stretching over three miles on Rte.1 as far back as Rogers Lake.  These were caused, of course, by the bridge being opened for river traffic, on some occasions as many as 30 times in eight hours; that’s once every sixteen minutes.

Others remembered the Good Humor Man, whose truck would be parked, again on summer Sunday afternoons, at the Old Lyme end of the bridge to take advantage of the stopped cars.  He was probably the only person who was happy on those occasions.

One other individual recalls, during the demolition of the drawbridge in 1949, going out on the river with his father in a small boat and picking up the shad stunned by the explosions necessary to remove the stone piers on which the bridge stood.

I also discovered that, during the demolition, a 10-ton, truck-mounted drilling machine fell off the bridge into the river and then caught fire when it was being pulled out by a large crane.

The old drawbridge certainly generated some interesting memories, but in light of the traffic jams it was causing by 1948, we’re fortunate to have only memories of what was once part of the major New York-Boston route.

Hurricane Irene Update Issued by Chester Emergency Management Committee – Saturday 2 p.m.

Chester’s Emergency Management Committee met at 11:00 this morning to participate in a conference call briefing with the State of Connecticut Emergency Operations Center.  The State EOC forecast is as follows:

Hurricane Irene currently has 85 mph sustained winds and is moving NNE at about 15 mph.  Irene is forecast to move up along the New Jersey Coast early Sunday morning and make landfall in the Stamford, CT area around 11:00 AM as a Category I hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph and gusts to 95 mph.  The first effects from Irene are expected to begin this evening with rain and tropical storm force winds up to 73 mph moving into Connecticut between 11:00 PM and Midnight.  Hurricane force winds of 74 to 95 mph are forecast to arrive along the coast beginning 7:00 AM Sunday morning.  The rain is also expected to become heavy at times by midnight.  Very heavy rain at times (especially in Western Connecticut) is expected to continue from midnight tonight through the passage of the center of Irene around mid-day Sunday and into the mid-afternoon.  Rainfall amounts of 6 to 10 inches are expected.  The track of Irene means Eastern Connecticut, including Chester, will see stronger winds but lesser rainfall than areas to the west of the track.

Residents should make every effort to be wherever they need to be by nightfall this evening.  As the storm intensifies overnight, we are anticipating that downed trees and power lines will make roads impassable.

John Winthrop Junior High School in Deep River will be opening as a hurricane shelter at 5:00 p.m. Saturday for those who may wish to utilize this facility.  Please be prepared to bring with you basic items to make your stay more comfortable, especially any medications you may require.

Finally and most importantly, be safe.  Treat all downed power lines as live.  Be aware that fallen trees may conceal power lines within their branches.  Restrict travel as much as possible following the storm to allow public works and utility crews the time to clear roadways.

Call 9-1-1 for all emergencies.

Tom Englert

Essex’s Pettipaug Yacht Club Hauls the Boats Up

Rolling out the surfboards to higher ground

It was billed as an “Emergency Work Party” to prepare the clubhouse and grounds of the Pettipaug Yacht Club in Essex for the threatening winds of Hurricane Irene. As many as 40 club members showed up to help.

For some, it was simply the task of rolling away stacks of surfboards and dinghies away from the shore, upland as far as possible. Larger vessels, which could be swept away, if they stayed the water, had to be hauled up on to the land.

The biggest boat pulled was a 22-foot O’Day sailboat by the name of “Copacetic.” Owned by Cory Manero, who has now gone off to college, the chore of hauling the sailboat was left to Cory’s father, the club’s Vice Commodore, Chris Manero. It took two tries to get “Copacetic” floating properly on her trailer, up out of the water and on the shore.

Another hauling adventure involved pulling out of the water the sailing sloop “Admiral,” which required the total water immersion its owner, Chris Johnson, a club member from Chester.

Then, in the midst of it all the rain came, hard for awhile. But everyone kept working. There are over 150 boats on the grounds of the Pettipaug Yacht Club by a recent count, and grounds of the club are definitely low lying.

The way the boats have been lashed down to minimize even hurricane winds could well mean that there will be little damage to the boats on land at the club. However, if there is a surge of high water, particularly on top of a high tide, it could well be a different story. Let’s hope not!

Sailing yacht “Copacetic” waits to come shore

“Copacetic” out of the water at last

Then the rains came

“Admiral” owner Chris Johnson takes a dip

Hauling away

Putting away

Watching from the shore

Tying up

Tying up docks

Boats away

O’Day away

Clubhouse porch

All photos by Jerome Wilson



Chester Hurricane Preparation Message from Tom Englert

The following message was issued Friday by Tom Englert, Interim First Selectman of Chester:

The Town of Chester is readying plans to cope with hurricane Irene.  Chester’s Emergency Management Team held a conference call at 9:00 a.m. this morning to review the Town’s readiness and preparations for Hurricane Irene.  I am confident that all departments are fully prepared to the extent possible at this time.  Our Emergency Operations Center is monitoring the progress of the storm as it advances northward along the east coast and receiving updates from state forecasters.

As of the 11:15 a.m. update, from the State EOC, Irene is forecast to move up along the immediate East Coast and arrive in the Norwalk area around 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning as a Category I hurricane.  The first effects from Irene are expected to begin Saturday afternoon with light rain which is expected to become heavy at times by midnight.  Heavy rain is expected to continue from midnight on Saturday through the passage of the center of Irene by noon Sunday.  Expected rainfall is 7 to 9 inches.  Tropical storm force winds are expected to enter the state by midnight Saturday, increasing to hurricane force winds by daybreak Sunday. The height of the storm is expected to last from daybreak Sunday through noon Sunday.

Are you prepared?  There is an emergency preparedness link on Chester’s website that can help you prepare for this anticipated hurricane www.chesterct.org/safety.php.   The enclosed attachment also offers suggestions and guidelines for hurricane preparedness from the Red Cross.  Also, the State of Connecticut Info Line is available before, during and after the storm by dialing 2-1-1 for assistance. 2-1-1 will have up-to-date information about places to take shelter in the event of power outages, evacuation routes and more.

This link is provided by Chester’s Emergency Management Team and Director Joel Severance.  Be assured that this team has diligently reviewed our town’s emergency plans and are prepared to meet any emergency head on.


Essex Harbor Master Sets Minimum Storm Preparations for Hurricane Irene

Picnic tables upside down in Pettipaug clubhouse awaiting storm

Essex Harbor Master Paul Reggio has issue minimum recommendations for storm preparation. These recommendations must be adopted by all Essex mooring permit holders.  The National Weather Bureau has stated that Essex harbor is now in a tropical storm or a hurricane warning condition.

All of these storm preparations must be performed by all Essex mooring permit holders, or his/her authorized agent, within 18 hours of the tropical storm or hurricane warning. Failure to follow these standards may result in an automatic suspension of the  mooring permit.

The required preparations are as follows:

  1. All pennants must have chafe gear on them in such a fashion as to prevent the abrading of the pennant by the chock, or any other piece of hardware attached to bow of the boat.
  2. All dodgers, biminies and any other canvas, or plastic enclosures, must be removed from the outside of the boat to reduce windage.
  3. All headsails must be removed and stored somewhere other than on or  above the deck. All mainsails must either be removed and stored  somewhere other than on or above the deck, or wrapped with a strong line  in such a way to prevent the sail from coming undone during a blow,  therefore creating more windage.
  4. All loose objects shall be properly secured in such a way as to not do any  damage to another person, property or boat.

Harbor Master Riggio pointed out that these standards are advisory only, and that the Town of Essex, and its Harbor Master, assume no liability for personal injury or property damage, which  result  from the utilization of the above storm preparation standards.

Just a few boats still in the water off Pettipaug Yacht Club

Senator Daily Announces $75,000 Grant for Gillette Castle Upgrades

Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam, CT. (Photo courtesy of CT DEP)

Senator Eileen Daily, whose district covers Essex, Deep River, Chester and parts of Old Saybrook, has announced a $75,000 state grant to one of the area’s major tourist attractions, Gillette Castle State Park. The grant, which was approved by the State Bond Commission, will fund an  initial phase of terrace and stone wall repairs at the park.

Daily said, “The Gillette Castle State Park is one of the crown jewels of the Connecticut River valley and rightfully attracts some 300,000 visitors per year.” She continued, “The eccentricities of the building and grounds are matched only by the panoramic views from the castle itself and from throughout the 180-plus acre grounds – they are memorable for local residents and tourists alike.”

Daily also said that she played “an instrumental role in the four-year $11 million restoration of the park,” which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1986. “I’m grateful to Governor Malloy and the members of the bond commission for their favorable consideration of this project and this investment in our local economy,” Daily said.

Residents Offer Suggestions on Preserving Connecticut River Ferry at Chester Meeting

CHESTER— Area residents offered suggestions on ways to preserve the Chester-Hadlyme Connecticut River ferry, including higher fares, at a public information Thursday.

About 45 residents from towns on both sides of the river turned out at the Chester Meeting House to urge state Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker to keep the Connecticut River ferries, including the one connecting Rocky Hill and Glastonbury, off the table in any future state budget dispute. The turnout for the meeting, which was scheduled earlier this month at a time when the ferries were threatened with closure in early September, was clearly reduced after state officials announced last week that funding for the ferries was in place through 2013 based on state employee union’s approval of the labor concession package negotiated with the administration of Governor Dannel Malloy.

Redeker, a former New Jersey Transit official, had been appointed by Malloy as permanent commissioner for DOT Thursday after serving as acting commissioner since February. A similar meeting on the ferries was held Monday in Rocky Hill.

Redeker said the department has begun work on a “long term strategic investment and operating plan,” for the ferries that should be completed before 2013. Under questioning from residents, he also declared the ferries do not have to be “revenue neutral” or a money maker for the state. “All public transportation is subsidized to some degree by the state,” he noted.

Redeker pledged to work with and consider input from citizen’s groups supporting the ferries during preparation of the plan. One group, Friends of the Connecticut River Ferries, is preparing to organize as a non-profit foundation.

Privatization and higher fares were among the suggestions from residents for preserving the ferries. David Williams of Essex said the current fare of $3 per car could be raised , possibly to $5 per car, without undercutting usage.

Both river ferries are scheduled to continue operation, interrupted only by the threat of Hurricane Irene this weekend, through the end of the ferry season in late October.

CT Naturalist: Why do Snakes Have Forked Tongues?

One of Connecticut’s most common and non-venomous snakes is the garter snake. Although familiar and often taken for granted, this snake can help us learn the truth behind a snake’s notorious forked tongue! (See video below):

The statement that snakes “smell with their tongues” is often uttered without enough explanation. This generic phrase is somewhat misleading as it gives the impression that a snake’s tongue acts alone in the smelling process.

Snakes have an olfactory (scent) sensor called the vomeronasal, or Jacobson’s organ.  This organ is located inside the nasal cavity above the roof of the mouth. Each time a snake whips out its tongue, it captures chemicals from the air or water and carries them back into its mouth. The tongue then rubs against the vomeronasal organ where the scent is processed. So the tongue does not do the smelling; rather, it aids in the smelling process.

Here’s where it gets even more interesting.

On the roof of the mouth are two holes where each tip of a snake’s forked tongue touches the vomeronasal organ. A snake is able to comprehend which direction a scent is coming from based on which tine of its tongue (left or right) has captured a stronger scent.

Directional smelling is an advantage when a snake is hunting prey or avoiding predators. A key function of the vomeronasal organ is detecting pheromones, helpful when searching for a mate.

New Officers and Trustees Elected to Connecticut River Museum Board

Maureen O’Grady, the newly elected Chairman of the Board Trustees of the Connecticut River Museum, at the entrance of the Museum’s recently restored grounds and building overlooking Essex Harbor.

Essex, CT —   On Tuesday, July 19 the Board of Trustees of the Connecticut River Foundation at Steamboat Dock, Inc., (aka Connecticut River Museum) held its annual election of officers and new trustees.  Nominated and unanimously approved was Maureen O’Grady as Chairman, Peter Prichard as Vice Chairman, Hayden Reynolds as Treasurer, Jennifer Caulfield as Provost, and Gail Tubbs as Secretary.  Each will serve a two-year term.  Also nominated and approved as First Term Trustee was Lisa LeMonte, Brenda Milkofsky, Tery O’Malley, and Patrick McFadden.  Herb Clark, a founding member and Trustee, was elected as Life Trustee.

“I am honored and excited to serve as Chairman for such a unique and vital heritage organization,” stated Ms. O’Grady.  “Our focus for the next few years is to expand the Museum’s educational impact by reaching out to more communities and partnering with other like organizations throughout Connecticut and the New England region. We will also work towards significantly increasing endowment funds so the Museum can continue on its mission in perpetuity.”

Founded in 1974 by a group of local citizens, the Connecticut River Museum is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to lead in the study, preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its valley.  Located at 67 Main Street on the historic Essex waterfront and housed in a national register 1878 steamboat warehouse, the Museum is currently seeking state and national battle site designation for the 1814 British raid on Essex.  In the past few years, new partnerships with the Schooner Mary E and Project Oceanology have increased on-water educational experiences for the public as well as school and youth groups.   For more information on public programs, exhibits, river cruises and special events, call (860)767-8269 or go to www.ctrivermuseum.org.

Director Defends Mount St.John’s School at Deep River Meeting

DEEP RIVER— The executive director of Mount. St. John’s School Tuesday defended policies and procedures at the facility before a small group of concerned neighbors at a meeting of the board of selectmen.

Douglas DeCerbo answered questions from residents about the private, non-profit facility that serves troubled boys between the ages of 13 and 18 under contracts with the state Department of Children and Families. The century-old facility overlooking the Connecticut River off Kirtland Street has been affiliated with the Norwich Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.

Recent police calls to the facility, particularly the Aug. 4 arrest of 15-year-old male juvenile for an alleged second degree assault that injured another student, had led to a new round of questions and concerns from homeowners in the surrounding neighborhood. The questions led First Selectman Richard Smith to ask DeCerbo, who has meet with the board and residents previously, to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

DeCerbo maintained the number of police calls for incidents arising at or from the facility have actually decreased in recent months. He said a total of 14 incidents led to police calls or arrests over the past year, though nine of the 14 occurred outside of Deep River while students were on leave to their hometowns and families. If a student does not return to the facility after a home visit, the incident is reported as a runaway out of Deep River.

DeCerbo said the facility, which operates an accredited school and vocational training programs, has actually been accepting students with less extensive criminal records, and better chances for success in behavior and academics. “The youth we are getting now have a higher level of skills and motivation,” DeCerbo said, adding “we’ve been having a lot of success with these kids over the past year and things have gone better.”

DeCerbo said the facility had 23 students as of Tuesday, though it allowed accepting up to 32 boys under provisions of the DCF contracts. He said the population has not exceeded 30 in recent months.

Under questioning from neighbor Jack White, DeCerbo said he has the authority to veto acceptance of a potential client if he believes the youth’s background and record is not appropriate for the Mount St. John program. He said the facility does not accept students with records of assault or “sexual acting out”, and does not accept clients who are suicidal. The youth arrested on Aug. 4 is no longer at Mount St. John.

Abby’s Place, New Entry on Essex’s Dining Scene

Putting up the new sign for Abby's Place

Tired of the same old, same old in Essex dining? Then you have to try Abby’s Place. Named for food service entrepreneur, Abby Miner of Essex, Abby’s Place is perched above Essex’s Brewer Dauntless Shipyard, where the old Crow’s Nest restaurant used to be.

But the crows are gone. At the new Abby’s Space restaurant everything is fresh and sparkling, with new tables and chairs, a totally redesigned interior, top of the line new appliances in a redesigned kitchen, a totally new fire protection system and air conditioning throughout the 700 square foot, indoor restaurant space.

Outdoors there is an adjoining restaurant space of 800 square feet for those who prefer their dining “en plein air.” The view looks out at busy boatyard. With both indoor space and the outdoor porch combined, Abby’s Place can accommodate as many as 75 diners.  Off season, when only the inside space is feasible, 35 diners people can be seated at one time.

Abby’s Place, which first opened its doors on August 10, is well on its way to becoming a local favorite. Many times, according to Abby Miner, both restaurant spaces, indoor and outdoor, there is almost every seat taken. In fact, on one occasion the restaurant served 96 lunches over a single lunchtime period.

Prideful Abby Miner at Abby's Place

Presently, Abby’s Place is open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays and brunch on weekends, but not yet for dinners. Dinners are scheduled to begin in late September.

This is the present schedule:

Breakfast is served from 7:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Tuesday thru Friday,

Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Tuesday thru Friday,

Brunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

A favorite on the breakfast and brunch menus is “3 pieces of French toast soaked in an orange infused batter cooked to golden brown served with Vermont maple syrup” with a choice of bacon, baked ham or sausage links with fresh fruit at $8.95.

Also, there is an eggs and veggie sauté with tofu at breakfast and brunch at $10.50.

In addition, for breakfast there are special “named” omelets, for persons who were in indispensible in launching the new restaurant. They include the “Earl of Essex,” a corned beef hash omelet, named after Earl Fowler, who stained the tables and chairs of the new restaurant. There is also the “Dauntless,” a button mushroom omelet, named for the landlord, the Brewer Dauntless Shipyard in Essex.

Sparkling indoor setting at Abby's Place

Other signature omelets include: “Cory’s Gold,” a lobster meat omelet, named after plumber Cory Binkowski; “Jason’s Argonaut,” a  meat and Swiss omelet, named after Jason Dickey, right hand man; Denver Hal, a ham omelet with all the trimmings, named for Hal Holcomb, who provided the art works; and Jamison’s Kitchen Sink, an omelet with everything in it, named after dishwasher Jamison Fielder.

There is also a children’s menu with five choices at breakfast, lunch and brunch at $5.95.

Also, very commendably, Abby’s Place has excellent handicap access with a newly build handicap ramp for those with disabilities.

Currently, Abby’s Place does not have a liquor license, but the proprietor expects to get one in mid-September.

The very special ingredient of Abby’s Place is the enthusiasm of its owner, Abby Miner. “I am so excited,” she says, “This is what I have always wanted to do. This is my place,” she says, eyes glistening. “The whole experience has been transformational. I have put my absolute heart and soul into it.”

She continues, “I have taken charge of every aspect – presentation, quality of food, friendliness and professionalism of the staff,” singling out for special mention head waitress Robin Burkhardt.

She is so grateful to those who helped set up the restaurant. “People have come out of the woodwork to help us,” she says. “It is amazing how much help I have received.”

So intense is Abby Miner’s emotion about her new venture, she quotes what one of her friends said. “Abby has found her place with Abby’s Place,” is how it goes.

Frontporch crowd at Abby's Place

TTYS “Social Norming” Billboard

Standing with the Billboard designed by the Marketing/PR Team of the Tri-Town Substance Abuse Prevention Council are (L-R): Gail Onofrio, Jessica Ramage, Mackenzie Holdmeyer, Ali Siemianowski, and Dave Fitzgibbons.

The Tri-Town Substance Abuse Prevention Council designed this billboard as part of their social norming campaign.  You might be asking yourself, “What is social norming?”  A good question!

Social norming is a prevention approach based on the theory that individual behavior is strongly influenced by our perceptions of the attitudes and behaviors of our peers.  “This innovative, science based approach to health has a proven track record of changing perceptions, attitudes and behavior on a variety of target groups, or behaviors such as high risk drinking, drinking and driving, seat belt use and tobacco use,” says Michelle Hamilton.  Michelle Hamilton recently provided social norming a training for the Substance Abuse Prevention Council.

Social norming, more simplistically, is akin to positive reinforcement.  “We have chosen to share information with the community that is very positive.  These billboards thank parents for doing a great job monitoring their kids, and encourage them to keep up the good work!” says Gail Onofrio, Tri-Town Youth Services’ Executive Director.  Project Coordinator Ali Siemianowski adds, “Too often we hear negative messages, and this is a number to celebrate.”

The statistic used on the billboard was gleaned from Search Institute’s “Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors,” a survey taken by students at John Winthrop Middle School and Valley Regional High School in January 2011.  Other information from the survey will be released to the public at the “Community Forum on Youth Issues: Where are We Headed?”, that will be held at Valley Regional on October 11, 2011, 7-9 p.m.

This survey was previously administered in 2005 and in 2009, to measure the communities’ progress in building youth developmental assets.  From the survey information can be learned about youth perception of such things as family support, feeling valued by the community, feeling safe at school, involvement in creative activities, and motivation to learn, to name a few.

The Tri-Town Substance Abuse Prevention Council is in its first year of a Drug Free Communities grant.  Funding is provided through an ONDCP and SAMHSA partnership.

MCCF Celebrating the Dog, Cat & Donkey Days of Summer

Middlesex County Community Foundation (MCCF) Animals: Respect and Friendship (ARF!)  will be hosting a party at the Centerbrook Meeting House on Wednesday August 24 from 5.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. to celebrate animals who are “workin’ for a living.”

MCCF’s ARF! Fund supports nonprofits making a difference in the lives of animals in Middlesex County — bring a can of cat or dog food, spend some time socializing with friends and fellow animal lovers, and support the great work of nonprofits providing care, resources and training to animals!

Animals do the darndest things … and many services wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for their special abilities. Animals perform many services, including Law Enforcement, Assisted Therapies, Hospice Comforters, “I can read” Library Listeners, and “Seeing Eye” Partners.

Middlesex County Community Foundation’s ARF! (Animals: Respect & Friendship) Fund celebrates animals who are “workin’ for a living!” and the people they work with. We are excited to be joined by two great women who share their work-a-day worlds with animals … (and one of them is bringing her partner!) — Kitty Stalsburg, High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, and Connecticut Trooper Kerry Taylor and K9 Shutz. High Hopes Therapeutic Riding was awarded a grant in 2010-2011 from MCCF.

Kitty Stalsburg, Executive Director, will join us to discuss the work High Hopes does and the important role horses play in the therapeutic programs.  Connecticut State Trooper Kerry Taylor and her partner K9 Shutz are stationed in Essex. K9 Shutz is Trooper Taylor’s second canine partner, and he is trained in a number of important skills, including tracking, evidence recovery and building searches.

Vista Vocational and Life Skills, a 2010-2011 grantee of Middlesex County Community Foundation, will join the fun as they show off their newly re-launched Vista VittlesDog treats – delicious peanut butter dog cookies that “the dog in your life” will love!  These tasty dog cookies are packaged and assembled by Vista students and members utilizing Vista’s very own secret recipe!

Admission: $5 and one can or bag of dog or cat food (proceeds support the ARF! fund; food donations will be made to local rescue groups and animal shelters).

We Need Your Help With a Reader Survey…

Dear Readers,

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Free Workshops for Growing Your Business

Essex — To help area businesses improve performance, increase sales, and prepare for the future, Essex Savings Bank, along with its subsidiary, Essex Financial Services, is offering a series of free business workshops, titled “Grow Your Business”.  The workshops, which will be held on September 21, October 5, October 26, and November 16, are open to all businesses and will be taught by local business development experts.  Attendees must register for these informative events by contacting Linda Jaconette at 860-767-4414 or at essexsavings@essexsavings.com.  For full details, visit www.essexsaving.com.

The first workshop, “Developing Your Business” will be held on Wednesday, September 21 at 5 p.m. at The Water’s Edge in Westbrook, CT.  John W. Rafal, founder, president, and chief executive officer of Essex Financial Services will discuss strategic planning, building networks, increasing sales, restructuring spending and financing.

On October 5, Ed Gumbrecht, chief operating officer and principal of the Gowrie Group, will discuss “Emerging Business Risks”, as well as how to prepare for and manage these risks and other marketplace changes.  He also will explain why proper protection is essential for business success.  This seminar will be held twice, at 7:30 a.m. at Essex Savings Bank’s boardroom (35 Plains Road, Essex) and at 5:30 p.m. at the Essex Financial Services’ upper conference room (99 Durham Road, Madison).

The October 26 workshop will be on “Family Business Succession: The Smooth Hand-Off” by Amelia Renkert-Thomas, president of Family Navigation Strategies, LLC. This discussion will help better position business owners to handle emergencies and transitions without harming business performance.  This seminar will be held twice, at 7:30 a.m. at Essex Savings Bank’s boardroom (35 Plains Road, Essex) and at 5:30 p.m. at the Essex Financial Services’ upper conference room (99 Durham Road, Madison).

On November 16, the workshop will be a “Women’s Business Forum” covering three separate topics:  “Securing Financing and Business Planning” (led by Carolyn Welch, vice president and loan officer at Connecticut Community Investment Corporation); “Current Issues in Workplace Law” (led by Jennifer Chobor, J.D., owner, Chobor Consulting, LLC); and “Maximizing Retirement Planning Options for Business Owners” (led by Theresa Donatelli, financial advisor, Essex Financial Services, Inc.). This important forum will be held twice, at 7:30 a.m. at Essex Savings Bank’s boardroom (35 Plains Road, Essex) and at 5:30 p.m. at the Essex Financial Services’ upper conference room (99 Durham Road, Madison).

Since 1851, Essex Savings Bank has been a “safe financial harbor” for individuals, families, and businesses along the Connecticut shoreline. Today, the bank provides checking, savings, loans, trust and wealth management services, along with a full range of investment services through it’s subsidiary Essex Financial Services, Inc.  Its five branches are located in Essex, Madison, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

New Contract Approved for Essex Police Union

ESSEX— Town officials and the Essex Police Union have approved a new four-year labor contract for the town’s small force of municipal police officers.

The contract extends from July through June 30, 2015. The agreement was reached while a current four-year contract that runs through 2014 was still in effect. Town police are represented by Local 660 of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.

The agreement provides a two percent wage increase for the first two years, 2011-2012 and 2012-1013, and a 2.5 percent pay increase in the final two years, 2013-1014 and 2014-2015.

In exchange for the pay raises, Officers will be paying a larger share of their health insurance premium costs. The cost share will increase one percent each year, from the current 14 percent premium cost share, to a 17 percent cost share in 2014-2015. Police will also increase their pension contributions by 0.75 percent over the course of the contract.

Under the agreement, officers will have a regular work week of five consecutive days on duty at nine hours per day, followed by three consecutive days off. The rate for overtime is time-and-a half over the regular hourly pay rate.

The contract removes prior language regarding a training officer, but maintains the higher rank of corporal. A corporal must have seven years of continuous service with good or superior work evaluations.

The police are supervised by the town’s resident state trooper. The town currently has four full-time officers, though two officers, Corporal Marc Pisciotti and Officer Salvatore Bevilacqua, have been on paid administrative leave since last year. The current on-duty officers are the senior officer, Corporal Russell Gingras, and Officer Paul Kennefick, a former state trooper who was hired in April.

First Selectman Phil Miller has not released any information in recent weeks on the status of Pisciotti and Bevilecqua, though both men are listed as officers on the town website.

Patrick McCann Brings Jimmy Buffett Style Music to Thursdays at the Dock August 25

Patrick McCann will perform popular songs from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s at Thursdays at the Dock at the Connecticut River Museum on August 25.

Essex, CT –  On Thursday, August 25 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., the Connecticut River Museum will be alive with popular songs from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s when Patrick McCann performs Jimmy Buffett acoustic and other favorite tunes.

All are invited to enjoy cocktails, light snacks and a spectacular waterfront view of scenic Essex Harbor on the Museum’s North Deck and taste a bit of River Valley history in the Museum’s first floor exhibit galleries as part of the Thursdays at the Dock summer series.

Now in its fourth summer season, Thursdays at the Dock features area musicians performing a diverse mix of maritime folk, bluegrass, and folk rock each week through September 1.   Admission is $5 per person. Museum members are admitted free.  A cash bar is available.

For more information on upcoming Thursdays at the Dock performances go to www.ctrivermuseum.org or call 860-767-8269.  The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street on the historic waterfront in Essex, CT.

Former Essex Teen to Present Five Year Odyssey At Sea at CT River Museum

Former Essex teen Alex Ellison will present his memoir A Star To Sail Her By at the Connecticut River Museum on Wednesday, August 31 at 5:30 p.m.

Essex, CT –  On Wednesday, August 31 Alex Ellison will return to his childhood town and the Connecticut River Museum to present his family’s remarkable sailing journey that encompassed five years and more than 25,000 nautical miles .  Now in high school, Alex was just 8 years old when he and his family set sail from Essex in 2003 and embarked on what they thought would be a one-year voyage.  Upon their return, Alex chronicled the odyssey of his coming of age at sea in the recently released memoir A Star to Sail Her.  Starting at 5:30 pm, he will share his story in a special program to take place in the Museum’s Boathouse Gallery with a book signing session and light refreshments to follow on the North Deck.

General admission is $5, CRM members are admitted free.   The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street in Essex.  For more information on this or other programs, call (860)767-8269 or go to www.ctrivermuseum.org. 

About the Author

Alex Ellison, originally from Essex, CT, sailed 25,000 nautical miles before the age of 15.  He is currently at Phillips Exeter Academy, where he is still on the water as a member of the varsity crew team. He writes for the International Journal for Human Rights, and he has published four articles previously about aspects of this sailing journey.

Local Artists “Familiar Places” Theme at The Gallery at The Mill House Starts Sept. 1

"Connecticut Farmlands, Moodus" by Dianne Gorrick

Dianne Gorrick, of East Hampton, and Jacqueline White, of Glastonbury, will be presenting their September show at The Gallery at The Mill House in Chester, CT.

Their show runs September 1-30 and their Reception is on Saturday, September 3: 2-5 p.m.  “Familiar Places” is the theme the artists have used previously to describe a show of places that the viewer is familiar with.  Featured landscapes are painted on location and are referred to as “plein air”.  Locations were chosen that inspired the artists to try and capture the beauty of our state.  Woodlands, rivers, lakes and the ocean are featured in these oil paintings that draw the viewer into a “feel good” place.

This is a must see show of representational paintings.  The public is always welcome anytime.

"Morning in Chester" by Jacqueline White.

Connecticut River Artisans Feature Mary Anne DeLorenzo with “It’s All About Glass”

The Connecticut River Artisans, in Chester CT, presents the September Featured Artist Mary Anne DeLorenzo of Westbrook, Conn.

Mary Anne’s show will run September 1 – 30 and “It’s All About Glass” is a collection of new works in glass.  Come and experience the wonderful aspects of glass from sandboxes, glass panels, Tiffany reproduction lampshades to jewelry and lampwork beads.

Mary Anne has worked with glass for more than 40 years.  She will be sharing a Reception on Saturday, September 3: 2-5pm with the September artists in The Gallery at The Mill House.  The Public is always welcome anytime.

Written Objections Delay Highland Hall Demolition in Essex

ESSEX— Two members of the Essex Historical Society have filed written objections that will delay the demolition of the Highland Hall building for at least three months.

The objections were filed with Building Official Keith Nolin by Fred and Mary Ann Pleva and Eve Potts. Pleva is the most recent past president of the historical society, Potts an active member. The objections trigger the town’s 2004 delay of demolition ordinance, preventing Nolin from processing a demolition for 90 days.

Highland Hall is owned by Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, the abutting property owner on Prospect St.
The building was constructed in 1920 as the town’s first centralized elementary school, and is considered a historic structure by many residents. It was converted in to a nursing home in the mid-1950s, but has been vacant for about 20 years. The church had purchased the property in 2004 with plans for a possible church school use that it did not pursue.

The delay of demolition ordinance had been championed by the late Donald Malcarne, an author and former town historian, who had also opposed an initial effort by the church to demolish the structure in 2006. After the society led by Malcarne filed a written objection, the church did not pursue the demolition in 2006.

In letters to ValleyNewsNow.com, Pleva and Potts have suggested the 90 days be used to explore any other possible uses for the building, and also for a historic survey of the structure. The Highland Hall property abuts the Grove St. Park, located behind the town hall.  Nolin said the ordinance would prevent him from processing a demolition permit for the project until Nov. 4.

See related letters:

Highland Hall – A Part of the Town’s Cultural History – Frederick and Mary Ann Pleva

Historic and Architectural Resource Survey Should be Made of Highland Hall – Eve Potts


CTNaturalist: Baby Racoon Rescue

Raccoons are one of the most common wild mammals found in Connecticut. This animal is among the most intelligent and social in the animal kingdom, yet an appreciation for their behavior is often overshadowed by fear and misunderstanding.

This week, CT Naturalist productions had a unique opportunity to visit an orphaned baby raccoon. His parents fell victim to automobile mortality. Now, he is in the custody of an animal rehabilitation center where he learns basic raccoon skills that he’ll need when released back into the wild. Take a look one of his training sessions in the following video.

Welcome to the Fog Pocket Raccoon shelter, where orphaned raccoons a rehabilitated, raised, and released back into the wild.  Our guest today is Meeky.  His family fell victim to vehicle mortality on the highway. Meeky was the only survivor.

Today he’s being taken into the forest for a training session, where he practices and sharpens his natural raccoon instincts and abilities.

Before he begins to explore, animal rehabilitator, Joe, carries him into the forest. When he’s on the ground his session begins.
Running along the path, he exercises his legs, lungs, muscles.  Preparing for times when he may need to flee a predator or chase prey.

As Meeky approaches a stream, his next lesson will commence. Raccoons hands are always at work probing their surroundings.  Outside of the primate family, raccoons have arguably the best dexterity in their fingers and hands than any other animal.  In fact, the English word Raccoon, is derived from a Native American word meaning “to feel with the hands”.

Meeky is right at home in the water of the steam.  He runs along the bank and swims in the shallows. Staples of a raccoon diet include crayfish, frogs, minnows, larval insects, mollusks, salamanders, and other invertebrates that live along the riverbank.
Raccoons are primarily nocturnal, so their sharp sense of touch helps when hunting at night. Additionally, they have a keen sense of smell and can locate food, scents of other raccoons, and predators easily at night.

During his daily training sessions, Meeky also practices climbing trees. His sharp claws are perfect grappling hooks and he can scale up or down a tree trunk with ease. However, Joe can’t let him climb to high at this young age. Once in the upper limbs, Meeky might remain in the tree for several hours and disrupt the rest of his training schedule.

Each day Meeky gains confidence and ability and strays farther away from the trail and his handler.  Someday he’ll be released permanently into the wild where he can live a normal raccoon life.  But for now, after a day’s adventure, Meeky is content to sit in a shoulder bag as Joe carries him back towards the car and home.

The Valley-Shore Y Helps Children and Teens in Need of a Safe Place to Go After School

When the bell rings at the end of the school day, children and teens need a safe and nurturing place to go when their parents are still at work or away from home. According to the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit public awareness advocacy organization, 15.1 million children nationwide and 28 percent of children in Connecticut alone are left unsupervised after 3 p.m., responsible for taking care of themselves. As a leading nonprofit committed to youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, the Y offers quality afterschool programs that not only help youth learn, grow and thrive, but keep them safe and surrounded by caring adults.

Combining play with academics, the Y’s afterschool programs fill gaps in schools and in the Shoreline by offering enrichment through arts, music, physical education, sports and nutrition. Youth in the Valley-Shore YMCA’s afterschool program receive homework assistance and can engage in sports, arts and other activities.

“When the school bell rings, learning does not have to end,” said Richard Ward, Youth development Director, Valley-Shore YMCA. “The Valley-Shore Y’s afterschool program is a great way to keep children and teens not only safe, but engaged in fun and productive activities.”

Studies show that participation in afterschool programs helps boost school attendance and academic performance, and helps to alleviate achievement gaps among children from disadvantaged households. Youth who attend afterschool are known to perform better academically and develop skills such as self-regulation, communication, problem solving, team building, negotiation and critical thinking. It’s also a healthy way for children and teens to stay active and productive when the school day ends.

The Valley-Shore YMCA offers afterschool programs at 8 different school sites along the towns in the Shoreline and River Valley Area: Clinton, Westbrook, Old Saybrook, Chester, Deep River and Essex. Financial assistance is available to those in need, to ensure every child and teen has the opportunity to learn and grow at the Y.

For more information about the Valley-Shore Y’s afterschool program, please contact Kathy Scholl, School Age Director, at 860-399-9622.

Republican Selectman Tom Englert Named as Interim Selectman for Chester

CHESTER— Republican Selectman Tom Englert was appointed interim first selectman Tuesday to fill the remaining 13 weeks of the unexpired term of former First Selectman Tom Marsh.

Englert, 49, was sworn in to office Wednesday morning by Town Clerk Debra Calamari. Marsh, a Republican-turned-independent first elected in 2005, resigned Aug. 1 to become town manager in Windsor, Vt. Englert was elected with Marsh in 2009, and is on the Nov. 8 election ballot for a second term on the board of selectmen.

Under state statute, the two remaining selectmen, Englert and Democratic Selectman Lawrence Sypher, had until the end of the month to appoint an interim first selectman to serve until the term ends on Nov. 22. At the board’s Aug. 2 meeting, Englert and Sypher held a closed-door discussion of the vacancy, but made no decision on the appointment.

But Tuesday, Calamari, who has served as town clerk since 1989, and other residents, said it was time to end the uncertainty. In a written statement, Calamari said Chester town government “has not been running efficiently” over the past two weeks with Englert and Sypher “teaming” as part-time managers. She said town employees, including police, and residents “don’t know who is in charge day-to-day.”

“For the good of the town, it’s employees and residents, you need to appoint an interim first selectman”, Calamari said, adding “I ask you to bring this to an end tonight.”

Englert, who had been initially reluctant to commit to filling the interim position, then announced that he was willing to serve the remainder of the unexpired term. Englert said his employer, the local Whelen Engineering Company, is supportive of his decision to accept the interim appointment. Englert moved to appoint himself as interim first selectman.

Sypher, who said he had “mixed emotions” on the appointment process, voted in support of Englert’s appointment. After a brief round of applause from the dozen residents at the meeting, Englert declared “I hope I don’t let anybody down.”

Englert said he would not be in the first selectman’s office full-time during the coming weeks, but would assume the top administrative role, and be the “point of contact” for employees and residents.

Englert must resign as selectman, creating a new vacancy that would be filled under the same process as the first selectman vacancy. Englert and Sypher would have 30 days, or until mid-September, to appoint an interim selectman. If they are unable to reach agreement, the appointment to fill the vacancy through Nov. 22 would fall to a committee of Republican officeholders comprised on Englert and Marsh’s wife, Kathy, who serves as Republican registrar of voters.

The appointment of the interim first selectman would have gone to this committee on Aug. 31 if Englert and Sypher had not reached agreement on an appointment.

Essex Savings Bank Announces Management Promotions

Gregory R. Shook, President & CEO of Essex Savings Bank is pleased to announce that the Board of Directors have approved the following management promotions.


Laureen Sullivan

Laureen A. Sullivan of Old Saybrook as Vice President.  She was elected Corporate Secretary in 2005, a role she still maintains.  Employed at Essex Savings Bank since 1990, Ms. Sullivan has over 26 years of banking experience and has held various positions at Essex Savings Bank.  Prior employment was with Saybrook Bank & Trust.  Mrs. Sullivan earned her Associates Degree in Accounting from Bay Path College and is a 1998 graduate of the Connecticut School of Finance and Management.


Angela Moates

Angela Moates of Bozrah as Assistant Secretary.  Prior to joining Essex Savings Bank in 2003, Moates was an intern for Raymond James Financial Services in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Ms. Moates earned both her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Master of Arts in Business Administration from the University of Florida.

Essex Savings Bank is a FDIC insured, state chartered, mutual savings bank established in 1851.  The Bank serves the Connecticut River Valley and Shoreline with five offices in Essex (2), Madison, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook.  Financial, estate, insurance and retirement planning are offered throughout the state by the Bank’s Trust Department and subsidiary Essex Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC.  Investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and annuities are not FDIC insured, may lose value, are not a deposit, have no Bank guarantee and are not insured by any Federal Government Agency.

Get Lost: In the Lower River Valley Heritage

Pictured are (front) Linda Kinsella of Old Saybrook Historical Society, Jeff Hostetler of Deep River Historical Society, Donna Carlson of Chester Historical Society; (standing) Charlie Farrow of East Haddam Historical Society, Deborah Shapiro of Middlesex Historical Society in Middletown, and Elizabeth Malloy of Haddam Historical Society. (Photo courtesy of Skip Hubbard)

By combining resources for a common need, six area historical societies are the beneficiaries of a $9700 grant announced by the Connecticut Humanities Council. The grant will fund a collaborative project for a brochure highlighting the CT River Valley region’s historical assets. The brochure will appeal to both residents and visitors to the area and showcase the unique history offered at each of the six historical society sites – a combination of homes and museums.  A goal of the collaborative brochure will be to entice audiences to plan visits to multiple sites and explore the area’s full heritage.

The brochure, titled “Get Lost: In the Lower River Valley Heritage,” is planned for distribution in early 2012.

Following official approval of the grant, the six-society project team met in Chester to begin definition of the brochure elements.

Doomsday 2012 Explodes at Essex Library

The Essex Library presents Unnatural Disasters, a new program series on the scary science of Nature run amok, featuring sinkholes, tsunamis, asteroids, plagues – and Doomsday!

Have you heard the latest Doomsday prediction making the rounds on the internet? According to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar, the world will end in December, 2012. This theory’s really caught fire, spawning hundreds of websites and even a big-budget Hollywood movie.

But does the planetary science used to explain this prediction stand up to scrutiny?  Dr. Michael Weinstein, Senior Lecture in Physics and Astronomy at Connecticut College, explores and explodes The Doomsday Myth of 2012, Thursday September 15 at 7 p.m.

The Essex Library is located at 33 West Avenue. The program is free to all; please call 860-767-1560 to register or for more information.

Raise A Fork For Tri-Town Youth Services At Taste Of The Valley 2011!

2010 Winners Best Overall, Brushmill by the Waterfall, Chester, CT

Taste of the Valley 2011 is an evening of delicious food and toe-tapping music to benefit Tri-Town Youth Services. Circle the date – Friday, September 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm – and get your tickets TODAY!

Each year, our community gathers on a late summer evening on the beautiful grounds of the Deep River Historical Society to sample one tasty morsel after another from local restaurants and caterers. The 2011 Restaurants and Caterers are The Brushmill by the Waterfall, El & Ela’s, Gabrielle’s, The Ivory Restaurant, La Vita Gustosa, Riverhouse Catering, Zen Roasters, and more. As part of the event, the Taste of the Valley Committee is excited to announce a new theme for the silent auction, entitled “From The Hands of Our Community”. Every donated item or service in the auction will handmade or completed by hand. There will also be live auction items, including a three-day stay in Vermont, and basket drawings of gift certificates. The music will be provided by the Shiny Lapel Trio.

You will also cast your ballot for the restaurant that takes home the coveted Taste of the Valley FORK! There will also be awards for Best Appetizer, Best Dessert, Best Presentation, and other categories.

Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at Celebrations and Tri-Town Youth Services in Deep River or online at http://www.tasteofthevalley.blogspot.com. Note: This is event is for adults over the age of 21.

TASTE OF THE VALLEY 2011 is generously sponsored by The Clark Group, The Valley Courier, Essex Savings Bank, Tower Labs, Fio Partners, Tom Alexa, and many other local businesses.

For more information or tickets, contact Gail Onofrio at Tri-Town Youth Services at (860) 526-3600 or view our website:www.tasteofthevalley.blogspot.com. If you would like to be a sponsor or donate an item for our silent auction, send an email ttystov@gmail.com.

ABOUT – TRI-TOWN YOUTH SERVICES BUREAU, INC. is a nonprofit agency that coordinates, develops and provides services dedicated to promoting the positive growth and development of youth and families in Chester, Deep River and Essex, Connecticut. The Deep River Historical Society is located at 245 Main Street, Deep River, CT.

The Burglar XYZ

Long dead and still unidentified.  But Oh! A startling development! 

It’s been more than a century since bank robber XYZ was blasted into eternity during a hold-up attempt at the old Deep River Savings Bank on Main Street. That bank is Citizens Bank now.

I’m familiar with other men widely known by their initials. JFK and FDR are just two. But that’s because these two were already famous as John F. Kennedy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, American presidents. But XYZ? He was a nobody. Or so it seems.

That startling crime made big news way back in 1899. It’s been 11 decades and the mystery about XYZ has never been penetrated.

Who was this little guy? Where did he come from? Did he have a family? Did he have a trade besides robbery? Townspeople were fascinated about it for days on end. They still are and there’s proof of this.

He was buried in Fountain Hill cemetery. Its first burial was in 1851. For years—for decades–it was the biggest and most prestigious cemetery in these parts. People were even brought in by train and boat to get buried in Fountain Hill. This was the resting place to be laid in.

All understandable.  Those were the days when the ivory and piano industries had made Deep River the Queen of the Valley. A proud and prosperous town indeed. You can see this in Fountain Hill—so many great and fine monuments. A very beautiful final resting place. Some folks visit it just to visit it. They know none of the inhabitants.

Bob Johnson and Shawn Nelson pay their respects. The tiny stone is at Bob’s feet. Notice the bouquet.

Fountain Hill Cemetery is a scant half mile from where XYZ was shot and killed. XYZ’s grave is in the farthest corner back. It’s the very oldest section of the cemetery. It’s a trick to find his grave. Up over the hill, down and around some slopes, then around a ravine or two and some great rocky outcroppings, then along a narrow, rutted road. The worst final yards in the cemetery. A hearse doesn’t carry anybody back here any more.

Finally there it is. A cut stone, but how tiny. About half the size of a shoe box, I’d say. A plain “XYZ” engraved on it. That’s it. The reason is simple. Nobody back then knew who he was. Nobody does today. He was lucky somebody thought of calling him XYZ.

This is where he rests. There’s a small bouquet of plastic daffodils adorning it. Faded. Pathetic. Looks  like it’s been there for years.

On XYZ’s left under a much bigger monument rests Timothy Hore Cole, a World War I vet. His neighbor on his right is Josef Hnilicka, also remembered with an imposing monument. Honorable men, I’m sure. Unlike XYZ.

Other monuments grace the tranquil green slope, which on this day is mottled with sun and shade. Back a bit up the slope is a fine, giant oak. Magnificent. As old as this old cemetery, I’m sure. Its great limbs stretch wide in a loving and protective embrace over all. Tranquility. Rest. Peace. I feel these.   Then I notice that not one of these many superior monuments has even a pathetic plastic daffodil on it to show somebody cares. Interesting.

I never would have found XYZ’s grave by myself.  My friend Robert F. Johnson took me to it.  He knows dozens and dozens of the people resting here. His wife Rosalie is here. So are his father and mother. Other loved ones also. Bob has lived in Deep River his whole 86 years.

Was a real estate agent here for decades? The busiest in town, I’ve heard. Sold hundreds of houses on these little streets and avenues and lanes. In fact, is still selling houses. I’ll bet he knows more people in town even today except maybe Dick Smith, who’s been our first selectman for 22 years.

I’m in my 80’s, too, but I’ve lived here only a dozen years.  Just a newcomer, but greatly interested. Bob is priceless to me. He’s always teaching me new and wonderful things about the town.

He’s made me appreciate Deep River more than ever. Not rich. Not poor. Not much phony about it. Nothing glossy. People maintain their properties. Turn out for elections. Support good schools. Respect peace and order. Work. Yes, a good town. And so pretty by the Connecticut River.

Well, Bob and I met Cemetery Superintendent Shawn Nelson up there at Forest Hill. Right at XYZ’s grave. He’s just 34 but he’s been superintendent for 12 years. It’s a big place–90 acres. Has different sections, of course, with much of interest. XYZ’s section was the original one. Fountain Hill grew and spread out from there.

Shawn handles it all. Keeps the whole place looking good.  Shows people around who are thinking of buying a lot.  Answers their questions. Digs the graves. Re-sets monuments when time topples them. Maintains all the records of who is buried there, and who with, and when that was.  Also keeps an eye out for those coming here  maybe for improper reasons. But that doesn’t happen often.

He surprised me when he said he was in the business since he was 8 or 9. “I grew up in all this.” His dad was superintendent—still is—of Pine Grove Cemetery in Middletown. So were his grandfather and grandfather.

“I’m the fourth generation in my family to be a  cemetery superintendent.”  He smiled when he said that. I could see the pride all over his face.

We talked about XYZ, of course.

Shawn said, “It’s amazing. Nobody knows a thing about him. Except that he was a bank robber. But I see people finding their way to this grave all the time. They come and stand here. Maybe they say a prayer. Some drop a coin down there.” He pointed to the ground.

“This guy has the smallest monument in the whole place!”

He pointed to the stone. “Look at it. It’s just of those stones that paupers get when they die. In fact, I think it’s maybe the only stone like it in the cemetery.

“But! Yhere are more than 6,000 buried here. But this guy gets more visitors than anybody else here! How to explain that?”

I thought of  robber Jesse James and others of his ilk. Are they famous beause they were outlaws…or because they were so daring…  Why? Why? Unfortunately I am not a psychologist. Maybe the psychologists would be puzzled, too.
“Look,” Shawn said. He got down on his knees and pointed. Scattered in front of the tiny monument was a bunch of coins…27 of them. A couple of quarters, some dimes and nickels, some pennies. Some had been there a long, long time, for sure. A couple looked just minted.

I asked him, “Why do you think people leave money like this?”

“No idea.” He paused. He was thinking it over. “Hey, he was a robber. He wanted easy money. Well, people are giving him money!”
I glanced at the coins. They didn’t amount enough to even buy a beer at Calamari’s Tavern a 15-minute walk from here.
“And look!” he bent down and picked up what I thought was a soda-can ring. It was a silver ring. A woman’s ring. Stone missing, it seemed. Possibly an engagement ring?
“What’s that all about?” I asked him.
“No idea. But I’ve seen it there for many years. ” He thought a minute. “Maybe it ties in with the lady in black who used to come here once a year. She’d visit the grave and leave a flower. She still comes, some say.”
“Lady in black?”
“Yeah. So they said. She’d come on the train. Young. Good looking. Wore a long black cloak with a hood.  Never talked to anybody. Would leave on the train.”
“Have you ever seen her?”
Shawn laughed. “No.”

Let me tell you how XYZ got killed. I struck gold—I went online and found a wonderful account. It’s “Legendary Connecticut” by David E. Phillips, published many years ago.  I recommend it to you. But pay attention to that word in its title, “Legendary.”  My dictionary defines the word as “of a story coming down from the past—popularly accepted as historical but not verifiable.”

Bank robberies were more frequent back then. There were two banks in town. The Deep River National and the Deep River Savings. Big banks for those times. The banks had seen several hold-up attempts  on them but none successful.
The American Bankers Association sent them word that an attempt was planned.  A big one…a band of robbers! How it heard that, no idea. The Savings Bank took action. It hired a security guard, Harry Tyler, who had a reputation as resolute and fearless. And a good shot.

He stood guard every night.  He armed himself with a Winchester. It was the biggest, best rifle back then. It was called a riot gun!   The weeks went by. He maintained his vigil.  Some folks said it was all just a phony rumor.

Very late one dark night—it was December 13—he heard a dog bark and bark. He saw four men approaching “stealthily.” He reached for his big Winchester. It was said this rifle could kill two people  close together with a single shot.

He saw one holding a revolver. Tyler didn’t wait. He took careful aim and pulled the trigger. The man with the gun dropped, dead. The others fled. The  victim had part of his face blown off. Later Tyler got $500 for his valor. A huge sum back then. That dog deserved a medal. At least a nice fresh bone.

XYZ at the undertaker’s. The fatal shot hit him on the other side of his face.

The undertaker held the body a few days, hoping someone would be able to identify the man. In his early 30’s, it looked like.  A fair build.  A big wide mustache. But a mustache was common. Nobody did provide the answer.

Not a word was ever heard from his accomplices or about them. The cemetery donated the plot for XYZ. A few curious folks attended the simple ceremony.

Oh, I should mention that sharp-shooter Harry Tyler is buried here also. About a rifle shot away. I should go check what his inscription says.

A few weeks after all this, a letter came in a lady’s dainty handwriting. She asked that the robber’s grave please be marked with just XYZ. Did not give her  name. The envelope markings were fuzzy. Was she the lady in black who came once a year for many years?

A simple wooden cross was put up with XYZ on it. In time, the basic stone marker replaced it. Shawn says the records do not say when. “Maybe the wooden cross wore out. Maybe the cemetery paid for the stone….”
The stone is weathering just fine. Those deep letters are good for another century.

All that was long before the F.B.I.  Even before finger-printing. And now we have DNA testing, which is said to be infallible.  DNA testing is the  convincing evidence in more and more trials—absolute proof. DNA testing has also freed prisoners who have been locked up for years for crimes they never committed.

Is it possible that DNA testing could finally identify XYZ, resting there six feet under for more than a century? And give him the name his mom and dad chose for him in the hope, I assume, that he would make that name famous some day?  But famous rather than notorious.

Well, it was time for the three of us to leave XYZ’s grave. Surprise.  Bob dug into his pocket , bent down, and placed a coin among the others. Another surprise: Shawn did the same thing.

But why? I’m sure they had a good reason. But it beats me. I did not. Later I felt a bit guilty about that. Hard to explain.
I hope XYZ is aware that Bob and Shawn did that for him.


At the Deep River Public Library I happened to mention to librarian Ann Paietta that I had just finished writing this story.

Her eyes lit up. “But XYZ was identified!”


“I’ll show you!”

In minutes she handed me a paper.  “This is a photocopy of an article published in the New Era. The New Era was the big paper here in those days.”

I scannd it eagerly. It was dated Feb. 23, 1900. That was a bit more than two months after the shooting.

A headline said, “THE BURGLAR IDENTIFIED. His name Frank Howard, and was a Deep-dyed Criminal.”

A full column of reporting followed. It said that detectives of the American Bankers Association had been working hard on the case.

He was also known as Frank Ellis and Tom Howard. In another place, as P.E. King. He was traced back to Mancelona, Michigan, and to Albany, N.Y., and to Springfield, Mass. He was described as a desperate and hardened criminal.
In one robbery he shot a man (used a revolver!). The man recovered.  In a hardware store he blew up the safe but got little. One time he was pursued by two officers. They tried to arrest him. He drew his revolver and shot one man in the back (no mention how seriously) and took off. Was arrested later in the day “after an exchange of several shots. It was thought for a time that a lynching would follow.” No mention of what happened to Howard as a result of that. I wonder if he realized he might have been lynched.

The detectives also got info about the three who escaped after the Deep River try. “The same three men were in the gang that shot the watchman in the Bridgeport affair (?) a few weeks after the killing of the burglar in this place.”

Pretty good reporting, I think, given how much more difficult news-gathering was in those days. The New Era must have had a lot of subscribers.

Now the big question: After the circulation of this sensational article, why did it continue to be said time and again that XYZ was never identified?

I am not sure. But there’s a lot of fun in keeping a mystery going.

Police Arrest Three in Chester Home Invasion

CHESTER– State police arrested two 19-year-old local men and a male juvenile Tuesday after a home invasion incident at a residence on West Main Street, also known as Route 148.

State and local police responded to an 8:50 a.m. 911 call from a 14-year-old girl who was home alone when she confronted three males inside her home. The men fled, and the girl later discovered several items missing, including cash and an iPad.

State and town police later arrested James Clarke of Chester and Antoine Lanham of Deep River in the vicinity of the home, along with an unidentified 16-year-old male juvenile. Clarke was carrying a large knife and items taken from the home when he was apprehended by police.

The three were arrested and charged with home invasion, first degree burglary, fifth degree larceny and conspiracy. Clarke was also charged with carrying a dangerous weapon.

Clarke and Lanham were arrainged Wednesday in Middlesex Superior Court and ordered held on $25,000 bond for another appearance on Sept. 7. The male juvenile was referred to state juvenile court authorities.

Town Picnic Honors 2011 Chester Pillars this Sunday

Six Chester residents form the 2011 class of Chester Pillars — selected for work that has helped improve the quality of life in our community. They will be honored at a town-wide picnic (bring your blankets and baskets) at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, August 14, at the Meeting House.

Honorees are Bruce Watrous, Peter Walker, Beth Mularski, Nancy Freeborn, Lauren Agnelli and Matthew Male.

Live music will be provided by several musicians who have played in the Small Town Concert Series. The Chester Hose Company will once again provide grills for public use. In case of rain (perish the thought), the festivities will be held inside the Meeting House.

For more information, call Suzanne at 860.526.9401.

CT Naturalist: Wasp vs. Wasp Fight for Food

The second article in our series from CTnaturalist  looks at a common Connectcut resident, the paper wasp.

Many Connecticut residents have backyard gardens during the summer. Gardens commonly provide fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs that many families enjoy throughout the summer and autumn. Yet some of the most amazing wildlife activity occurs in our backyard gardens without us even knowing!

Today we have captured a remarkable insect battle between two paper wasps on film. Click the video below to see live action!


Although paper wasps are often considered pests because of their sting, they are extremely beneficial to gardens. They spend their days hunting around the leaves of plants. They seek out garden pests to kill and bring back to their hive to feed their young.

Most often, they are observed devouring moth caterpillars or beetle larvae that can ravish a plant’s leaves.
In this week’s video, a paper wasp has killed a caterpillar that was infected with parasites. When the wasp killed the caterpillar, the parasites within spilled out over the leaf. Now the wasp feeds on all of its victims. The worms are the larval form of smaller wasp that lays its eggs inside caterpillars, when the eggs hatch they feed on the caterpillar from the inside out.

The paper wasp snatches the worms and roles them into round balls, mixing in some saliva to help mold and preserve the shape. The wasp is intently focused on this task because this meal will be brought to its hive and fed to its young.  The balls of food will be placed in the hive chambers where the its larvae reside . Hence, the care in preparing the meal, it must be provide enough nutrition for the young to develop into mature wasps.

The wasp flies away to deliver its goods to the hive. It returns, but in the world of nature, a free meal doesn’t come easy and it isn’t long before a yellow paper wasp finds the black wasps kitchen. The yellow wasp attempts to steal the kill and the black wasp fights it off.

This micro-battle is only of many stories happening in gardens throughout Connecticut. Take time this summer to observe your own garden; you never know what you might find!

Middlesex County Community Foundation’s LLGL365 Fund Awards First Grants

Members of LLGL365 gather with MCCF Staff & Board and Grants Recipients to Celebrate (Photo courtesy of Middlesex County Community Foundation)

Philanthropy works on a just a $1 a day. LIVE LOCAL GIVE LOCAL 365 (LLGL365),a newly launched giving opportunity at Middlesex County Community Foundation (MCCF), proved this adage  July 14, 2011, when the LLGL365 committee awarded its first five (5) grants to Middlesex County nonprofits.

Philanthropy on a $1 a day – or $365 a year – pooled with other donors does make an impact in Middlesex County. The LLGL365 committee voted to award grants that would be representative of the fund’s mission and name – 365 – and to challenge individuals and businesses to match the award.

Five donors stepped forward to match the grant awards given by LLGL365, proving the impact leveraging dollars can have for nonprofits and emphasizing the concept of LLGL365.

LLGL365 awarded $3,650 in grants; recipients for this first round were Connecticut Mission of Mercy, Essex Library Association for the “Guy Zone” program, Green Street Arts Center at Wesleyan University, Oddfellows Playhouse, and Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries.

Deb and Roy Moore of Killingworth hosted the celebration, welcoming the LLGL365 committee and members of MCCF staff and Board of Directors.  Launched in February 2011, LLGL365 offers members an opportunity to pool their donations with other members and actively participate in making an impact in Middlesex County – today –  through grants to nonprofits, while building an endowment for the future. This giving opportunity focuses on the belief that anyone can be a philanthropist, and with a $1 a day, much help can be provided to those in need.

LLGL365 members meet monthly to network with individuals from around the county, to learn about the needs of Middlesex County, and to discuss how to invest their charitable dollars in the community at large. In six short months, LLGL365 now hosts16 full members, many “friends” (individuals supporting the fund through donations), and has raised over $10,000. “It is amazing what LLGL365 has accomplished,” said Cynthia Clegg, President & CEO of Middlesex County Community Foundation. “They have answered the question ‘Are you a philanthropist?’ with a resounding “YES! Everyone is a Philanthropist!”

To find out more contact Cynthia and Thayer at Middlesex County Community Foundation, 860.347.0025, and join the Good People Doing Great Things in Middlesex County.

No Primaries for Municipal Offices in Chester, Deep River or Essex

Despite caucus contests for some top party nominations, there will be no primaries for positions on the municipal election ballots in Chester, Deep River, or Essex.

Town clerks in the three towns reported Wednesday that no one had filed petitions for the Sept. 13 municipal primary date by the 4 p.m. deadline.  Likewise, no petition candidates emerged for any of the top municipal petitions by the Wednesday deadline.
There were contests for party nominations in Deep River and Essex. In Deep River, former selectman and Democratic Town committee endorsed candidate Russell Marth was edged for the board of selectmen nomination at the July 20 Democratic caucus by planning and zoning commission member Angus McDonald Jr. McDonald defeated Marth at the caucus on an 18-15 paper ballot vote, but Marth, who served a single term on the board of selectmen from 2007-2009 after winning election in 2007 as the nominee of the Deep River Independent Party, decided not to contest MacDonald in a primary.

There will be no contests Nov. 8 for the board of selectmen in Deep River, with Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith uncontested for a record 12th term.  Incumbent Republican Selectman David Oliveria is seeking a second term and McDonald is on the ballot as Smith’s Democratic running-mate.

In Essex, Democratic Selectman Norman Needleman and running-mate Stacia Libby will face off in the Nov. 8 election with Republican nominee Bruce MacMillian and one-term Republican Selectman Joel Marzi. Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller, in office since 2003, is not seeking re-election.

Needleman and Libby, a former Republican, were challenged at the July 25 Essex Democratic Town Committee endorsement session by Anthony Chirico and Linda Savitsky, but Chirico and Savitsky pledged that evening not to wage a primary after Needleman and Libby won the committee endorsement. MacMillian was challenged at the July 20 Republican caucus by Leigh Rankin, but Rankin pledged not to wage a primary after MacMillan won the caucus on a 36-24 paper ballot vote.

In Chester, Democrat Edmund Meehan is competing for the open first selectman seat with Andrew Landsman, running as the nominee of the Chester Common Ground Party. There is a Nov. 8 contest for board of selectmen between Incumbent Democratic Selectman Lawrence Sypher, incumbent Republican Selectman Tom Englert, and Glen Ryer, running as the selectman nominee of the Chester Common Ground Party.

Chester Republicans did not nominate a candidate for first selectman to succeed three-term Republican-turned Independent First Selectman Tom Marsh, who resigned Aug. 1 to become town manager in Windsor, Vt. Republicans had nominated only a partial Nov. 8 election slate at the July 25 caucus, and indicated they would seek to fill out their slate with additional candidates nominated through a primary petition. But Town Clerk Debra Calamari reported there were no petitions filed for additional Republican candidates by the Wednesday deadline.

Highland Hall – A Part of the Town’s Cultural History

To The Editor:

We recently learned that the former Essex Elementary School (aka Highland Hall) is again slated for demolition. After a hiatus of almost five years its owner, Our Ladies of Sorrows Catholic Church, has again requested a demolition permit from the Town. The building is located behind the Church on Prospect St. and abuts and overlooks the Grove St. Park and Town Hall properties. It was constructed in 1920 and served as the Town’s elementary school until 1954, when it was sold and used as a convalescent home until its acquisition by the Church in 2004. The building has been vacant and unused for several years, thus one can presume that its condition has deteriorated, however the reason for demolition and future plans for the property have not been announced.  The Church has been asked to delay demolition in accordance with the Town’s delay of demolition ordinance, which gives interested parties the opportunity to explore and discuss ways to save the building.

Essex has lost many of its historic buildings to the wrecking ball over the past several years, a trend which is both alarming and likely to continue unless measures are taken to curb this trend. Each time a historic building is destroyed, a part of the Town’s culture and history is destroyed with it. The Town’s many wonderful old buildings are essential to the charm and character of Essex; they are, in a sense, its heart and soul and have drawn many of us to this community. Historic preservation is desirable because it enriches our lives and makes us proud. The Town has established an Architectural Design Review Subcommittee to study and recommend ways to preserve the integrity of the Town’s heritage, however its work is not yet complete.

We believe the School holds fond memories for many townspeople and is significant in terms of Town history; it is a “soul” worth saving and should not be hastily eradicated without exploring other alternatives. Surely there are many uses for this centrally located historic building that are far superior to alternatives involving demolition. However preservation requires commitment, imagination, time, effort, and money, all of which are scarce commodities. Whether or not the School can be preserved remains to be seen, however at the very least it deserves a thoughtful and meaningful discussion on preservation and reuse possibilities and  we urge the Church, all  interested parties, and the public at large to explore realistic options  for reuse and preservation, in accordance with the delay of demolition ordinance.


Frederick and Mary Ann Pleva
Essex, CT


Middlesex County Meet Your Greens at the Shoreline’s Back Porch in Old Saybrook

Meet Your Greens, Middlesex County monthly green drinks networking gathering, will meet August 16, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at The Back Porch (Old Saybrook.) www.backporcholdsaybrook.com.

The evening will feature an informal talk by Margot Burns (CT River Estuary Regional Planning Agency) and Judy Preston (Tidewater Institute), who will update the group on their work this summer, funded by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, surveying the lower CT River for water chestnut (Trapa natans), an aggressive aquatic plant that has devastated areas in the northern river watershed.

The talk will explore how it got here, why people are concerned, and what people can do to help prevent its growth. “Trapa can entirely fill a quiet cove and make a wetland or watercourse much less diverse and productive,” according to Judy Preston. “It’s important for as many people as possible who use the river or are familiar with any of the tributary coves and quiet waters to know what this plant looks like and can alert the right people if they find it.”

Meet Your Greens is Middlesex County’s monthly green drinks happy-hour network providing opportunities to make connections and exchange news about environmental issues in Middlesex County. Based on the popular Green Drinks in CT and nationwide, this informal gathering of people drawn from the community, nonprofit groups and the business world offers time to brainstorm ideas and plant seeds for collaboration. All are welcome with no reservations or advanced registration necessary.

Meet Your Greens meets every third Tuesday of the month. Venues and times change– join their e-list for updates and invites by contacting Claire Rusowicz, crusowicz@rockfallfoundation.org; or Jennifer Weymouth, jaweymouth@yahoo.com. You can also join them on Facebook (“Meet Your Greens”).

Schedule updates are also provided on The Rockfall Foundation website, www.rockfallfoundation.org.  The Rockfall Foundation supports environmental education, conservation programs and planning initiatives in Middlesex County. Established in 1935, it is one of Connecticut’s oldest environmental organizations whose mission is to be a catalyst– bringing people together and supporting organizations to conserve and enhance the county’s natural environment. Rockfall awards grants each year to organizations, schools and municipalities, and continues to hold and manage open space property in the county.

Essex Zoning Commission Approves New Plains Road Business Zone

ESSEX– The zoning commission has approved a new business zone for Plains Road that was presented at a series of public hearings beginning in April. The panel approved the zone change on a unanimous vote at its July 18 meeting.

Joseph Budrow, zoning enforcement officer, said the zone change becomes effective on Sept. 1. Budrow said the commission made no significant changes to the zone change plan, which was developed by the panel over the past two years.

The zone change covers about 30 properties on both sides of a one-mile stretch of Plains Road, extending from the Valley Railroad crossing to the intersection with Bokum Road and Westbrook Road, also known as Route 153. Most of the parcels had been zoned for light industrial uses, with some commercial uses that had been created through variances approved by the zoning board of appeals. The language for the zone change would allow for a variety of commercial/business uses, including restaurants, under a special permit approved by the zoning commission.

The new business zone drew support from residents and property owners at the public hearings, with some property owners contending the new zone should also include six parcels located on the east side of Plains Road, between the railroad crossing and the entrance to southbound Route 9.

Budrow said the commission decided to allow the property owners, either individually or as a group, petition for a zone change for their parcels to be included in the new business zone. “The commission indicated it would be open to considering that,” he said.

Essex Park & Rec Youth Sports Programs Starting Soon!

Essex Park and Recreation is excited to bring our community the following Youth Sport Programs. Registration will be available on line Aug. 4 at www.essexct.gov or you may register by mail using a program waiver form. The deadline for Running Rams & Slamma Jamma is September 1 the other program deadline is Wed. Sept. 7.  Register Early as there are a limited number of available spots for each program. If you have any questions please feel free to contact the Park and Recreation OfficeTown of EssexPark and Recreation29 West Ave. Essex, CT  860-767-4340 x110 or 14

Look for the New Fall Program Brochure coming to your mailbox soon! The expanded Fall Programs  include: More Preschool & Adult Programs along with MORE EES After Hours Programs: Irish Step Dancing, Gymnastics, Ceramics, Group Guitar Workshops, Nature Exploration Mad Science, Computer Explorers, Creative Art, Karate, Children’s Music & American Red Cross.

Running Rams-Ready Set Run!: Coach Cap is back! This 5 week program will introduce children to the fun and satisfaction of running. Peter Capezzone is an Ivoryton resident, the Cross Country and Track and Field Coach at Old Saybrook High School and the founder of Running Rams LLC, providing spring and summer track programs to shoreline area youths for over 10 years. Who: Gr.  1-6 Meets: Wednesdays (*Tuesday Sept. 20) Session I: Sept. 7, 14, 20*, 28, Oct. 12Time: 5:30p-6:30p Cost: $65.00 Limit: Min. 10 Location: John Winthrop Junior High Field

Youth Tennis-Session 1:  Valley Regional High School Coach and Teaching Pro – Gary Ribchinsky is back, teaching the fundamentals of tennis: ground-strokes, volleys, serves, and game play. This program will focus on improving all facets of the game.  Who: Boys & Girls Grades K-8Meets: Mondays Time: 3:45p-4:45Dates: Sept. 12, 19, 26 Oct. 3 & *10 (*Columbus Day) Cost: $65.00 Limit: Min. 5Location:  Valley Regional High School Tennis Courts Teaching Pro: Gary Ribchinsky

Youth Tennis-Session 2: Valley Regional High School Coach and Teaching Pro – Gary Ribchinsky is back, teaching the fundamentals of tennis: ground-strokes, volley, serve, and game play. This program will focus on improving all facets of the game.  Who: Boys & Girls Grades 2—8th ***See BelowMeets: Mondays Time: 5p-6pDates: Sept. 12, 19, 26 Oct. 3 & *10 (*Columbus Day) Cost: $65.00 Limit: Min. 5 Max 10 Location: Valley Regional High School Tennis Courts Teaching Pro: Gary Ribchinsky***Participants in grades K & 1 may enroll in our 3:45pm clinic only

Boys Lacrosse Clinic: Our instructors will help work on all aspects of lacrosse. Every player will be given individual and group instruction with an emphasis on basic fundaments skills (limited contact). Learn the latest techniques of the game, refine skills to improve your level of play and strengthen team concepts and strategies. This program is ideal for the beginning or intermediate player.  Must bring own LAX equipment. Equipment List: Helmet, Mouth Piece, Shoulder Pads, Arms Pads, Gloves, Cup, Cleats, & StickWho: Boys Gr.1-6 Meets: Saturdays Session I: September 10, 17, 24, Oct. 1, 8, 15 Time: 4:00p-5:30p Cost: $65.00 Limit: Min. 10 Location: Essex Elementary School FieldInstructor: Graham Rider, CT River Ticks Boys Lacrosse Coach.

Shoreline Girls Lacrosse Clinic: Clinic is for girls in grades 1-6 who have never played lacrosse before or who have limited experience.  This is the ideal clinic for beginning players to learn the skills and techniques in a fun, no pressure, and positive environment. Girls will have a great time at this fun and action packed week. Open to girls in the towns of Essex, Deep River, Chester, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook All gear will be provided by the Shoreline Girls Lacrosse Clinic (except mouth guard, which is mandatory to participate). This includes stick and eye gear! Every participant will receive a Shoreline Girls Lacrosse T-Shirt. The clinic will include, cradling, passing catching, stick handling, ground ball shooting, dodging and mobility on the field.  However, there will be no goalkeeper training at this clinic.  The girls will enjoy small sided and skill games along with contests awards and an end of the week raffle. Who: Girls Gr.1-6Meets: Sundays Session I: September 11, 18, 25, Oct. 2, 9, 16Time: TBA Cost: $75.00 Location: Essex Elementary School Field Limit: Min. 10 Max 30Instructor: Greg Ruel, Phys Ed. Teacher and CT River Ticks Girls Lacrosse Coach. US Lacrosse certified.

NEW!!! Slamma Jamma Fall Basketball!! Our fall clinics take certain elements from both our summer camps and individual instruction programs to create a positive learning environment. Skill development is the primary focus. These clinics are a great way to prepare young athletes for their upcoming recreation, travel and school season. Each session is independent of the other so that all aspects of the game are covered. The clinics are tailored to meet the needs of the beginner to the advanced player. Players are broken up into smaller groups within the whole. If you are interested in having Coach Leary and his coaching staff gets you ready for your season, join us at our fall clinics!  Tentative information is below. It is subject change.  Who: Boys & Girls Gr.1-6Meets: WednesdaysSession I: September 7,14,21,28, Oct. 5, 12Time: 3p-4:30pFee: 70.00Location: Essex Elementary School Gym Limit: Min. 10 Max 30Instructor: Slamma Jamma Basketball Coaching Staff

Free Family Maritime Festival & Concert at Connecticut River Museum – August 13

The Connecticut River Museum’s Family Maritime Festival and Concert, scheduled for Saturday, August 13

Gather the entire crew and head down to Essex’s historic waterfront on Saturday, August 13 for a boat load of family fun and entertainment.

The Connecticut River Museum’s Annual Family Maritime Festival starts at 1 pm with maritime games, songs, and deck tours of special interest boats, all offered free of charge throughout the afternoon.  You can learn how to make rope, caulk a ship, sing a sea chantey or two, and stroll the docks for an up-close view of special interest sailing vessels and motor boats.

And for those who want to get out on the water, the historic schooner Mary E will set sail at 1:30 pm, 3:30 pm, and 6:00 pm for a leisurely sail along the Connecticut River.  Tickets for the 1.5 hour afternoon cruises are $26 for adults and $16 for children age 12 and under.  Tickets for the two-hour sunset cruise are $30 per person, all ages.

At 5:00 pm, the Connecticut River Museum’s Annual Picnic and Concert gets underway with all invited to bring a blanket or chair and picnic dinner to enjoy while  listening to sea chanteys performed by the Freemen of the Sea and folk rock performed by Amalgamated Muck.  Wine, beer, and soda will also be available for purchase.

Festival activities and concert are free of charge thanks to a sponsorship by Guilford Savings Bank.  For more information on the day’s events as well as schooner cruise schedules and advanced reservations, call 860-767-8269 or go to www.ctrivermuseum.org.  

CRM educators to lead a guided evening paddle in Pratt Cove Preserve

Essex, CT —  On Tuesday, August 16 from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, the public is invited to join Connecticut River Museum educators on a guided paddle in Deep River’s Pratt Cove Preserve.  Bring your own canoe or kayak and explore this rare freshwater tidal marsh, recognized for its exceptional environmental importance.

Guides will discuss the natural and cultural history of the Cove and help identify the abundant wildlife that visit or call it home. Paddlers can also get an up close look at the wild rice that grows in the cove and is just becoming harvestable.

The fee is $5 per person, Museum members are free and pre-registration is required.  For more detailed information and driving directions, call 860-767-8269 or go to Museum’s website at www.ctrivermuseum.org .

The Connecticut River Museum is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the natural and cultural heritage of the Connecticut River and surrounding valley region.

Equity & Non-Equity Auditions for“The Marvelous Wonderettes”At the Ivoryton Playhouse

The Ivoryton Playhouse will be holding local Equity and non-Equity auditions for the Fall musical production “The Marvelous Wonderettes” by Roger Bean on Tuesday, August 16 from noon – 8pm at the Rehearsal Studio, 24 Main Street, Centerbrook, CT 06409.

They will be looking for 4 actresses/singers ages 28 – 35, who should possess strong voices with a wide vocal range. They must have a great sense of comedy, be able to move well with strong sight reading and harmonizing capabilities.

Auditions are by appointment and actors should bring a picture and resume and prepare a song in the style of the show and a short comic monologue.  1st rehearsal: September 13th, 2011. Runs: September 28 – October 16, 2011.  Matinees:  Wednesday, Sunday. Evenings: Wednesday through Saturday.

For audition appointments, call 860-767-7318 Theatre’s mailing address:  Ivoryton Playhouse, PO Box 458, Ivoryton CT  06442.

Middlesex County Community Foundation Accepting Grant Applications

The Middlesex County Community Foundation is now accepting Letters of Intent for its 2011-12 competitive grant making process.  Letter of Intent Applications are sought from 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations and 170(c)(1) governmental agencies serving the communities of Middlesex County.

Grants will be awarded to organizations that provide positive impact in the following focus areas: Animal Welfare, Arts, Education, Environment, Heritage Enhancement, Human Services, Women and Girls, among others.

Interested organizations should read details of submission requirements on the Community Foundation’s website, www.MiddlesexCountyCF.org or call the Community Foundation, 860-347-0025.  All Letter of Intent Applications must be received at the Community Foundation Office, 211 South Main Street, Middletown by 4:00 PM on Friday, September 9, 2011.

Essex Savings Bank Recycles Income to Non-profits

Essex — Gregory R. Shook, President & CEO of Essex Savings Bank announced that non-profit community organizations will receive $97,341 from the Directors’ portion of the Bank’s Community Investment Program.  The Bank annually commits 10% of its after tax net income to qualifying organizations.  In April 2011, the Bank donated $73,127 to 83 non-profits who participated in the customer preference balloting at the Bank.  By year end 2011, $243,740 will have been allocated to over 200 organizations bringing the total distribution since the inception of the program in 1996 to $3,159,887.

The Directors’ portion of the fund will be donated to the following:

Adopt A Library Program (Assessment Area)          $6,341

– Allows nine libraries within eight of the Bank’s assessment area towns to subscribe to eight new magazines of their choice

Camp Hazen YMCA (Chester)         $5,000

-2012 Healthy Kids Day Sponsor

The Chester Historical Society, Inc. (Chester) $2,000

-Help underwrite the cost of three newsletters

Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut, Inc. (Essex)            $1,250

-Sponsor Lyme/Old Lyme Garden Tour & Essex Holiday House Tour Gala (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc., Total cost of $2,250)

Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut, Inc. (Essex)            $5,000

-Toward funding of newsletter and Annual Report

Connecticut Audubon Society (Essex)                            $1,000

-Eagle Watch 2011/Eagle Boats Program (Boat Cruises)

The Deep River Historical Society (Deep River)                        $800

-Toward mailing of Society’s newsletters and flyers for special activities

Essex Land Trust (Essex)                                $2,500

-Fund three newsletters (2012 edition of “Essex Woods & Waters”)

Essex Library Association (Essex)                            $2,000

-Help offset the cost of producing the print version of “Ex Libris” newsletter

Estuary Council of Seniors, Inc. (Old Saybrook)                        $2,500

-Underwrite a portion of the mailing expenses for monthly newsletter, “The Estuary Gazette”

Florence Griswold Museum (Old Lyme)                            $1,750

-Co-Sponsor “Major Donor” Reception (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc., Total cost of $3,500)

Florence Griswold Museum (Old Lyme)                            $5,00

-Co-Sponsor “The Magic of Christmas” in 2011  (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc., Total cost of $10,000)

Goodspeed Musicals (Chester/East Haddam)                        $5,000

-2011 Show Sponsorship of “Cutman” at The Norma Terris Theater, Chester

High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, Inc. (Old Lyme)                    $5,000

-2011 Co-Sponsor “Here Comes the Mummies” (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc., Total cost of $10,000)

High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, Inc. (Old Lyme)                    $2,500

-Help underwrite the cost of producing both the printed and electronic newsletters and maintaining and developing the website during 2011-2012 fiscal/academic year

Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center & Theatre (Old Saybrook)            $5,000

-Taste of Old Saybrook/Eileen Ivers Festival

Literacy Volunteers – Valley Shore, CT, Inc. (Westbrook)                $2,000

-Publishing and mailing the quarterly newsletter, “Tutor”

Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts (Old Lyme)                    $3,250

-Co-Sponsor the 2011 Scholarship Party (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc., Total cost of $6,500)

Lyme Art Association (Old Lyme)                            $1,75

-Presenting Sponsor of the 2011 New England Landscape Invitational Exhibition, Primary Sponsor of the Weekly E-blasts (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc., Total cost of $3,500)

The Lyme Public Library, Incorporated (Lyme)                        $1,200

-Fund annual cost of Library’s newsletter

Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau (LYSB) (Old Lyme)                    $5,000

-Fund newsletter, “Youth Connections” both printed and online

MacCurdy Salisbury Educational Foundation, Inc. (Old Lyme)                $2,000

-Fund newsletter, “Evelyn’s Wishes”

The Madison Historical Society (Madison)                        $5,000

-Toward underwriting the costs of publishing the Society’s quarterly newsletter

Middlesex County Community Foundation, Inc. (MCCF)  (Middletown)            $5,000

-Reception and “Showboat” Co-Sponsor (Becky Thatcher Riverboat cruise followed by the musical, “Showboat” at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam on September 7, 2011) (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc., Total cost of $10,000)

Middlesex County Community Foundation, Inc. (MCCF)  (Middletown)            $4,000

-John A. Barr, Jr. Fund, Sponsor MCCF’s two printed newsletters and multiple e-newsletter for 2011

The Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library Association, Inc. (Old Lyme)        $2,500

-Costs associated with two printed and electronic newsletters for 2012

Tri-Town Youth Service Bureau, Inc. (Deep River)                    $5,000

-Toward printing and distribution of three issues of Agency newsletter

Valley-Shore YMCA (Westbrook)                            $5,000

-Exclusive naming rights for “Healthy Kids Day” 2012

Valley-Shore YMCA (Westbrook)                            $2,500

-Lead funder of the “Afterschool Enrichment Program” for the 2011-2012 school year

Westbrook Youth and Family Services, Inc. (Westbrook)                    $500

-Toward printing and mailing of two Bureau newsletters

Essex Savings Bank is a FDIC insured, state chartered, mutual savings bank established in 1851.  The Bank serves the Connecticut River Valley and Shoreline with five offices in Essex (2), Madison, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook.   Financial, estate, insurance and retirement planning are offered throughout the state by the Bank’s Trust Department and subsidiary, Essex Financial Services, Inc, Member FINRA, SIPC. Investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and annuities are not FDIC insured, may lose value and are not a deposit, have no Bank guarantee and are not insured by any Federal Government Agency.

Historic and Architectural Resource Survey Should be Made of Highland Hall

To the Editor:

Although I am aware of the Church’s need and desire to come to a conclusion on the c. 1910 Essex Grammar School building, I think it is important that an Historic and Architectural Resource survey of the building be made. The State of Connecticut offers non-profit organizations and municipalities grants that make this possible. The Commission on Culture and Tourism and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation have the ability to survey such a building to determine its condition and viability. The Connecticut Trust’s Circuit Rider Program was designed to provide immediate and direct hands-on preservation advice.

In the 1950s Hills Academy was slated to be demolished to create a parking lot because the town did not know what to do with the building. What a grievous loss that would have been. Only after a public outcry was the building saved.

The location of the Essex Grammar School building (you may not be aware that the property abuts the Town Hall and Town Park property) and the future needs of the Town for additional space, make it doubly important that we all take a good look at this building before it is turned to rubble. Many similar school buildings throughout the state have been preserved and put to new uses.

Could the building be mothballed so that the Church and the Town could work out an arrangement to benefit both parties? It may require creativity to come up with a good solution, but Essex certainly has the ability to look into the future and solve this puzzle.

As a first step, an Historic and Architectural Resource Survey will create a detailed inventory of the building so that an alternative solution that will benefit the entire town can be reached.


Eve Potts,
Essex, CT

Daily Gets State Funding to Upgrade Shoreline East Locomotives; However, Weekend Service to be Cut

Shoreline East train departs for New London

State Senator Eileen Daily has successfully sponsored the approval of $1.7 million in state bond monies to contribute to a $20 million federal program designed to upgrade all 14 locomotives of the Shoreline East railroad. Shoreline East presently provides seven days a week commuter train service to Branford, Guilford, Madison, Clinton, Westbrook and Old Saybrook, to and from New Haven.

There is also limited weekday service to New London, Bridgeport and Stamford.

Daily said in connection with the state bond grant, “There is no question but that the best way to relieve congestion on I-95 and along our shoreline is with a reliable, suitable alternate means of travel.”

Ironically, new monies to upgrade Shoreline East locomotives comes at a time when the state Department of Transportation recently announced that Shoreline East weekend train service will be eliminated, effective 2011. Also, tickets on Shoreline East will be increased by 15%, effective next November.

In discussing the elimination of weekend service and the fare hike, a DOT spokesman noted that the current state subsidy for each Shoreline East passenger is $30 a seat. Also, there has been no fare increase on Shoreline East tickets since 2005.
However, should there be an agreement between state union leaders and the Governor on cutbacks by state workers, the Shoreline East weekend service cut and fare increase could be rescinded, the spokesman said.

In her remarks on the state’s contribution to upgrade Shoreline East locomotives Daily said, “The vitality of our Shoreline East railroad becomes increasingly important during difficult economic times.” She added, “These funds will help ensure the dependability of Shoreline East for the foreseeable future, and I am grateful to Governor Molloy and other members of the Bond Commission for their favorable consideration of this initiative.”

In discussing a state commuter traffic profile, a state transportation spokesman gave these highlights: Only 4% of the state’s commuters use mass transit, and of that 4%, 2% commute by rail and 2% commute by bus. Also, 3% of commuters walk to work, and 0.3% commute by bicycle.

Shoreline East conductor at Old Saybrook

Church Seeks Permit For Demolition of Highland Hall, Former Elementary School Turned Nursing Home

ESSEX— Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church has applied for a permit to demolish Highland Hall, the 1920 building off Prospect Street that was the town’s first centralized elementary school.

The church, which acquired the abutting 2.5-acre parcel and 6,600-square-foot building for $750,000 in 2004, had previously proposed to demolish the building in 2006. But the parish was divided over the plan, and the proposed demolition drew objections from the Essex Historical Society led by the late Town Historian Donald Malcarne. Until now, the church had taken no steps to pursue demolition of the structure. Malcarne died in 2009.

Highland Hall was constructed in 1920, and served as the town’s first elementary school until Essex Elementary School opened in the Centerbrook section in 1952. It was converted into a nursing home that closed in the early 1990s. The building has been vacant for nearly two decades.

Building Official Keith Nolin said a newspaper legal notice published Wednesday allows 15 days, until Aug. 19, to file a written objection to the demolition. A written objection would invoke the town’s delay of demolition ordinance, approved by a 2004 town meeting at Malcarne’s urging, that would impose a 90-day delay in the demolition process. Nolin said if a written objection is not filed by Aug. 19, demolition could occur whenever the property owner is ready to proceed.

While church members had initially considered using the building for a religious school when the property was purchased in 2004, the parcel is now expected to be used for parking after the demolition.
Mary Ann Pleva, former president of the Essex Historical Society, said Wednesday she is uncertain whether the society will again submit a written objection to the proposed demolition. Pleva said she would like to see the building preserved, and noted that one or more private citizens could invoke the delay of demolition ordinance if the society does not. “It has a lot of history to it,” she said.

See related Letter to Editor:

Historic and Architectural Resource Survey Should be Made of Highland Hall