August 23, 2019

Common Good Gardeners Need Your Help

Linda Clough (foreground), who is Common Good Gardens President, is Suzanne Thompson’s guest on this week’s edition of CT Outdoors.

OLD SAYBROOK — Do you have some time to spare in August to help the Common Good Gardens (CGG) volunteers harvest vegetables for Shoreline Soup Kitchens and Pantry (SSKP)? Join them in the garden behind Grace Episcopal Church, 336 Main Street, Old Saybrook, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, 9 to 10:30 a.m. (or come earlier on hotter days!)

Learn more on CT Outdoors with Suzanne Thompson by playing back her show on your PC or Mac anytime from http://www.wliswmrd.net, click the On Demand icon, look for pop-up screen from radiosecurenetsystems.net, and scroll to CT-Outdoors-73019—Common-Good-Gardens.

Planting Manager Karen Selines harvesting broccoli that will be delivered to soup kitchen pantries in Old Saybrook, Niantic and Old Lyme.

Thompson’s guest this week, Linda Clough, explains how CGG volunteers grow and harvest 8,000 pounds of produce on their half-acre lot, plus collect 10,000 pounds of produce donated by local farmstands, to help SSKP provide nutritious food and fellowship for people in need along the Shoreline.

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Ply the Waters of the Connecticut River Aboard the ‘Onrust’ Through October

‘Onrust’ under sail on the Connecticut River.  Photo Credit: CRM

ESSEX – The Connecticut River Museum (CRM) is currently hosting the Onrust, a re-creation of the vessel Adriaen Block built in 1614, through October. Now in its third year at the CRM dock, Onrust is available for public cruises as well as private charters.

The Onrust, which is Dutch for “unrest” or “restless”, was a Dutch ship built by captain and explorer Adriaen Block and his crew to replace the Tyger, which was destroyed by fire during the winter of 1613 in New York Bay. Onrust‘s construction took place near Manhattan during the winter of 1614. The ship was America’s first yacht.

Block’s voyage was used as the basis for the Dutch claim to the territory of New Netherland, an area that included parts of what are now the states of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania and to pursue developing trade partnerships with Native Americans.

In 1614, Block became the first known European to travel up the Connecticut River to just north of Hartford (a distance of approximately 60 miles from Long Island Sound). Block was immortalized as namesake of the small island in Long Island Sound that is perennially popular with modern visitors to these waters.

The re-created Onrust was launched in 2009 by The Onrust Project, an all-volunteer non-profit out of New York, which built the vessel after painstakingly researching traditional Dutch shipbuilding techniques.  The Museum and the Project have again partnered to host this vessel in Connecticut.

The Onrust is a floating exhibit at the Museum through early October.  She is open for dockside tours, school and Scout programs, along with public cruises and charters. For more information on the Connecticut River Museum and the Onrust, visit the Museum’s website.

The Connecticut River Museum is located on the Essex waterfront at 67 Main St. in Essex and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Museum, located in the historic Steamboat Dock building, offers exhibits and programs about the history and environment of the Connecticut River.

For a full listing of Museum programs or to buy tickets for the Onrust or any of the numerous other events hosted by the Museum, visit www.ctrivermuseum.org or call 860-767-8269.

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Gainor Davis Starts as New Head of CT River Museum in Essex

Gainor B. Davis, New Executive Director at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, Conn.

ESSEX – The Connecticut River Museum, on the waterfront in Essex, Conn., has announced the selection of Gainor Davis as the new Executive Director. Chosen after a nationwide search, Ms. Davis will assume the duties of Executive Director on July 10, 2019.

Davis currently serves as the Executive Director of the Historical Society of Carroll County in Westminster, Md., a museum which she has led since January 2015. She is an experienced museum executive, having previously led several important institutions, including serving as the President/CEO of the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio, for six years; as President/CEO of the York (Pa.) County Heritage Trust; as Director of the Vermont Historical Society in Montpelier and Barre, Vt.; and as Executive Director of Longue Vue House & Gardens in New Orleans, La.

Davis has established a reputation of achieving financial stability for her institutions, along with overseeing up-to-date, audience-oriented, relevant programming that has attracted new audiences. Her accomplishments include overseeing the creation of three new hands-on spaces at three different museums – experience that uniquely qualifies her to create and open the Connecticut River Museum’s planned new River Discovery Center on its campus.

Davis brings a strong background in fundraising and marketing, and she has led two successful multi-million-dollar capital campaigns. Prior to her museum-director positions, her fundraising career included posts at Temple University in Philadelphia as Director of Development & Alumni Affairs for the College of Arts and Sciences; at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia as Associate Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations; at the Strong Museum in Rochester, N.Y., as Deputy Director for Public Affairs, and at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia as Director of Development and then as Associate Director of Administration.

Davis holds a Ph.D. in American History from Temple University in Philadelphia, an M.A. in American History and Certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Delaware, Newark, Del., and an A.B. in History from Smith College in Northampton, Mass. She has also published and lectured widely.

She stated, “I am very excited about the role that the museum can play in serving both the Essex-area community and the larger Connecticut River region north of the museum, extending into Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. I look forward to partnering with local and regional organizations to serve new communities. I am delighted to move back to New England and to the Essex region, where I have many ties, and to become part of the community” Davis added, “It is an honor to be invited to join the capable staff at the CRM and to work with such a committed Board.”

Peter Coombs, who chaired the Search Committee as well as chairing the museum’s board, said, “Gainor Davis was selected after a rigorous national search, with a unanimous decision of the Search Committee and the unanimous approval of the Board. We were impressed with Gainor’s accomplishments over a distinguished career as a history-museum director and advancement professional.”

Davis will take the reins from Interim Director Tom Wilcox, who is leading the museum through the transition period. Previous director Christopher Dobbs announced last August that he had accepted an offer to lead the larger Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Mont., triggering the nationwide search.

The Search Committee was chaired by Board Chair Peter Coombs and co-chaired by Alison Brinkman. It included board and community members Tom Klin, Joanne Masin, Brenda Milkofsky and Tom Wilcox. For the national search, the Connecticut River Museum retained Marilyn Hoffman and Scott Stevens of Museum Search & Reference, an executive-search firm located in Manchester, NH and Boston that specializes in placing museum leaders.

Founded in 1974, the Connecticut River Museum has developed as a place where anyone interested in topics about the River can come and be inspired through exhibitions and collections, a library, educational opportunities and public programs. The mission is to lead in the study, preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its valley.

Since 1986, it has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, a mark of distinction in the field. The Connecticut River Museum’s campus includes the preserved 1878 Essex Steamboat Dock and Warehouse, which was saved from demolition, the Hayden Chandlery, which now serves as the Thomas A. Stevens Library, and the historic 1732 Samuel Lay House.

Education is central to the museum’s mission, and public programs include workshops for school-age children, adult lectures, and on-water excursions aboard the recreation of Adriaen Block’s Onrust and RiverQuest as part of its popular eagle watches. Annually, the museum serves more than 20,000 general visitors, delivers programing to 4,000 school children, and provides scholarship support to a further 1,000 underserved school children and summer campers.

The museum is located on the Essex waterfront at 67 Main Street and is a membership-supported educational organization. Membership is open to all.

For more information regarding the Museum, call 860-767-8269 or see www.ctrivermuseum.org.

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Centerbrook Architects Presents ‘Three Gardens: Garden Design in the Country House Era,’ Tomorrow

The garden at Naumkeag.

ESSEX — New York Landscape Architect Tracey Miller will present a lively overview of residential landscape and garden design through the lens of three iconic designs from the late nineteenth century: Dumbarton Oaks, Olana and Naumkeag. Part of the ongoing Centerbrook Architects Lecture Series, this talk will take place in The Cube at Centerbrook Architects on Friday, May 17 at 7 p.m.

The Country Place Era occurred at the end of the nineteenth century as many Americans, fortified with newly earned wealth from the industrial revolution, took to the country to build estates. It was a movement more than it was a style and aesthetic preferences varied.

Focusing on Naumkeag, Dumbarton Oaks and Olana Miller will explore landscape design as it relates to history, site, society and client. Studying precedent helps us think about our own designs. One learns from the masters as we study their execution of detail, selection of plants and the techniques they employed to build upon a site’s existing features in order to evoke its ‘spirit of place,’ or Genius Loci.

Miller has a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Virginia. She has been assisting clients with the design and implementation of unique environments for over 20 years.

This talk is free and open to the public.

For more information or to register, call the Essex Library at 860-767-1560.

Centerbrook Architects is located at 67 Main St. in Centerbrook.

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Four Yacht Clubs Host Connecticut River Leukemia Cup Regatta This Weekend


ESSEX — The Essex Corinthian, Essex, Frostbite and Pettipaug Yacht Clubs present the Second Annual Connecticut River Leukemia Cup Regatta, a two-day one-design river regatta scheduled for May 4
and 5.

Following the successful first edition of the Connecticut River One-Design Leukemia Cup in 2018, the 2019 Connecticut River Leukemia Cup Regatta is once again bringing together sailors and their friends from all over the lower Connecticut River and Eastern Connecticut shoreline. This charity event is designed to generate awareness about blood cancers and raise funds to support life-saving research to bring hope to those who are facing the disease. An estimated 1,300,000 Americans currently battle blood cancers. Every three minutes, someone is diagnosed.

Funds raised through the Leukemia Cup Regatta advance the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s mission to cure leukemia, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS carries out its mission by funding leading-edge cancer research; providing information and support services for patients, education for health care professionals, and advocating for patients at national and state levels. Participation in and support of the Leukemia Cup Regatta helps save lives!

Since its inception, the Leukemia Cup Regatta series has raised close to $70 million for life-saving research and patient services, bringing help and hope to patients and their families. At events held at yacht clubs across North America, skippers register their boats and recruit friends and colleagues to help crew and raise funds. Crew members seek donations from friends, family, co-workers and employers to sponsor their boat. National event sponsors also support the Leukemia Cup Regatta, and local businesses are encouraged to act as event sponsors.

The regatta is open to any One Design fleet that has five or more registered boats: Ideal 18, Etchells, MC Scow, Laser, JY15, Club 420, Sunfish, Force 5, etc. Boats that do not form a one-design class will race as a handicap class. Open to adult and junior sailors – written permission from parents or guardians required for skippers less than eighteen (18) years of age must be received before the start of racing.

The two-day event features a post-race party on Saturday hosted by the Essex Yacht Club with food, drinks and music, as well as a silent auction, starting at 5 p.m. The post-race party is open to the public; sailors, power boaters and non-boaters are all welcome to attend! On Sunday, the Essex Corinthian Yacht Club will host an awards reception. Ticket purchase required, includes both parties.

For more information on how to participate in the regatta, support the charity by raising funds or becoming a sponsor, and to purchase party tickets, visit http://www.essexcorinthian.org/2019ctriverleukemiacup.html or http://www.leukemiacup.org/ct

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Celebrate Beavers Today with Essex Land Trust

ESSEX — The Essex Conservation Commission is celebrating Beaver Day on Saturday, April 27, with a rain date of Sunday, April 28.

The Commission will be host a tour of Quarry Pond at 7:15 p.m. (prior to sunset.)  Attendees are requested to wear boots.

Beavers are nocturnal animals that tend to sleep during the day.  The ability to see them is best at this time. 

Beavers are known as a Keystone species. A keystone species is a plant or animal that plays a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions. Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether. All species in an ecosystem, or habitat, rely on each other. 

Quarry Pond in located in the Viney Hill Brook Park in Essex, Conn.  Meet at the parking lot on the end of Cedar Grove Terrace prior to the start time of the tour. 

Join the tour to learn more about beavers. Sign up at EssexCelebratesBeavers@gmail.com.

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Sunken Luxury Yacht in Hamburg Cove Raised Wednesday, Whole Operation Recorded by DiNardi on Video

After extended and carefully managed efforts by Sea-Tow divers, the Mazu finally floats atop the waters of Hamburg Cove rather than under them. Photo by Frank DiNardi and published with his permission.

The luxury yacht, which sank in Hamburg Cove in January, was raised Wednesday (Feb. 20) by Sea Tow of Old Saybrook.

A Sea-Tow diver works to raise the Mazu from the floor of Hamburg Cove in Lyme. Photo by Frank DiNardi and published with his permission.

Frank DiNardi of East Haddam, who had previously filmed the yacht prior to its sinking and then after it had occurred (see our article at this link), documented the whole episode of re-floating the yacht, which was subsequently towed to a dock in Chester.

Sea-Tow divers and operatives at work alongside the Mazu. Photo by Frank DiNardi and published with his permission.

View DiNardi’s striking photographs on his Facebook page at this link.

11:07 a.m. UPDATE: DiNardi’s excellent video of the whole process is now available for viewing on YouTube at this link.

Prior to the re-float operation, this was the submerged boat in Hamburg Cove. Photo by Frank Dinardi and used with his permission.

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RiverQuest’s ‘Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruise’ Offers Remarkable Insight, Views of CT River

This juvenile bald eagle flew alongside the RiverQuest during our recent afternoon cruise. Photo by Michael Pressman.

ESSEX — Oh, what a trip!

The RiverQuest at the Connecticut River Museum dock

RiverQuest hosted several members of the Fourth Estate recently on a wonderful Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruise. Temperatures were distinctly chilly last Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 13), but the heated cabin stayed warm while the boat gently sailed upstream from the Connecticut River Museum.

View from on board the RiverQuest.

The views were stunning throughout the trip and, despite the frigid temperatures, the majority of the 30 or so on board stayed outside most of the time to enjoy the whole experience to the full.

Look hard and you’ll see the mast (slightly right of center) of the sunken luxury yacht in Hamburg Cove.

As we sailed north, apart from all the wildlife on the water and in the sky, we saw the mast of the luxury yacht that has sunk in Hamburg Cove and the always delightful view of Gillette Castle high atop its East Haddam perch overlooking the Connecticut River.

Gillette Castle commands a stunning of the river.

Naturalist and lecturer Bill Yule shared a vast amount of fascinating facts, figures, history, happenings, and anecdotes about the river and its inhabitants, ably accompanied by naturalist and crew member Cathy Malin.

Naturalist Bill Yule shared a great deal of interesting information with the passengers.

Both were on board for the duration of the trip and, while not busy disseminating information in a lively and engaging manner, they were actively spotting and identifying wildlife of all shapes and sizes on, above and alongside the river and its banks.  They also took great care to ensure the  passengers were at all times warm, comfortable … and supplied with plenty of hot coffee!

Cathy Malin kept her eyes on the prize and was rewarded with sightings of 13 bald eagles on this trip..

Although named an ‘Eagle Cruise,’ the sighting of an eagle cannot, of course, be guaranteed, but we were fortunate to see 13 bald eagles on our trip, one flying immediately alongside the RiverQuest, and also enjoyed numerous sightings of cormorants, black-backed gulls, and common merganser ducks.

An adult bald eagle spotted during our cruise keeps a close watch on everything happening on the river beneath him. Photo by Michael Pressman.

The bald-headed eagle — the national emblem of the United States of America — reaches maturity at around age four when it acquires its signature white head and maximum wingspan of approximately six feet.

All eyes — and binoculars– were on the sky … and water.

Declared an endangered species in 1973 with the passage of the federal Endangered Species Act, bald eagle populations slowly began to recover following the ban on DDT, and by 2007, populations had recovered to such an extent that the species has now been removed from the endangered species list.

There were a number of professional photographers on board sporting rather larger lenses than our cell phone!

The magnificent raptors are, however, still protected on the federal level by the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Spotting eagles was the job of everyone on board.

Every winter a number of bald eagles migrate south looking for open water on which to feed as the lakes and rivers in Canada and northern New England  freeze. Many of these magnificent birds stop in Connecticut and winter along major rivers and large reservoirs, where they can also be seen feeding and sometimes nesting on the banks of the Connecticut River.

A record of all the birds seen during each trip is kept in the Connecticut River Museum.

Counts taken in 2018 indicated there were 80 pairs of nesting bald eagles in Connecticut, which produced a record 68 chicks.

The Connecticut River Museum was the start and end-point of our trip.

The Connecticut River Museum is currently hosting a “Big Birds of Winter” exhibit, which offers an excellent overview of all the birds that might be seen on the river.

This mock-up of an eagle’s nest and the raptor silhouettes are part of the Connecticut River Museum’s “Big Birds of Winter”exhibition.

Your $42 ticket not only gives you two hours on the river aboard the RiverQuest, but also admission to all the exhibits at the Museum.

Our unequivocal opinion of this wonderful trip is simply, “Take it … it deserves two big thumbs up!”

Editor’s Note: For more information on Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruises, visit this link. For more information on RiverQuest and all the trips they offer, visit this link.  For more information on the Connecticut River Museum, visit this link.

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The Mystery of the Sinking Sailboat … in Hamburg Cove, DiNardi’s ‘Before & After’ Video Goes Viral

The submerged boat in Hamburg Cove. Photo by Frank Dinardi.

LYME — Frank DiNardi of East Haddam has become an overnight social media sensation with an extraordinary video that he captured of a boat initially at its mooring in Hamburg Cove,Lyme, and then subsequently after it had sunk last week.  His video has now been viewed over 150,000 times and he also has taken numerous photos that are posted on his Facebook page of various stages of the whole sad episode.

He told LymeLine.com via an e-message, “I work for a local landscaping company and we do a lot on Hamburg Cove. I’ve been watching the boat all year along with the neighbors on the cove wondering what it’s doing in the water and why it hasn’t been taken out?” adding, “It’s a boat that often catches my eye in the summertime as I think it is beautiful and I’ve photographed it with my drone in the summer too.”

Dinardi continues, “When I saw the ice building up around it I had to go back and grab some photos of it and decided to take some video. On the evenings and weekends I operate a growing photography and videography business called Frank’s Sky Sights. So I had gathered some video a couple weeks ago and then last weekend somebody had wrote me telling me that the boat sank and I should go check it out.”

He concludes, “So I went down there and flew around the boat again with my drone and was able to get the footage of the boat underwater. I went home and put that video together and it instantly became a hit on social media.”

The link to Dinardi’s first video is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yay0xDhZmO8

He has now prepared a follow-up video in which he answers many of the questions that have been raised from the first video.  The link to the second video is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C244qqEIzi0&fbclid=IwAR1Gmutmin5w-u-Mjhdcx42IqpvGx7CWsE1lkQ46F9CAVeytSYQK6DMIyqw

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Essex Land Trust Hosts Winter Birding Field Trip Today


ESSEX —
Ducks, Eagles, Hawks, and Owls: join an outing this Saturday in search of all kinds of wintering birds in our region. Several types of raptors may be seen, among many other winter residents. Novice and advanced birdwatchers are welcome. 

This trip will be led by Essex Land Trust’s Jim Denham and Andrew Griswold of CT Audubon.

Bring a bag lunch, binoculars, boots and warm clothes. Two vans are available to seat the first 14 people who sign up. The event is free.

Meet at 12 pm in the Essex Town Hall Parking Lot, 29 West Ave.

To reserve, call Jim Denham at 860-876-0360 or email at info@essexlandtrust.org. Inclement weather cancels.

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Essex Land Trust Hosts Talk Tonight on Amphibian Habitat in CT

ESSEX — The Essex Land Trust hosts Dr. Tracy Rittenhouse, (pictured left) an Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at UCONN, Thursday, Jan. 24, 7 p.m. at Essex Town Hall, 29 West Ave. The title of her talk will be, ‘Amphibian habitat in CT: Is there enough for populations to persist?’

She will define amphibian habitat and discuss whether or not there is enough habitat in Connecticut to maintain amphibian population for future generations. Learn about amphibian habitat and improve your understanding of habitat in general.

Rittenhouse has a BS from University of Wisconsin-Madison and MS and PhD from University of Missouri-Columbia. She studies where wild animals live and how they travel through habitats. The snow date for this event is Jan. 29.

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Essex Garden Club Recognized for Civic Work

Essex Garden Club (EGC) Civic Committee Chairs (past and present) pose holding their civic awards with EGC President Augie Pampel.  From left to right are Janice Strait, Suzanne Tweed, Pampel, Barbara Powers and Liz Fowler.

ESSEX — The Essex Garden Club (EGC) was recently recognized by the Federated Garden Clubs Of Connecticut for its civic work maintaining parks, traffic islands and especially the fundraising used for the planting of trees, shrubs and perennials.

This is part of the ongoing effort of the EGC Civic Team that helps support the mission to create civic beautification in our community and promote educational opportunities for our members and the general public.  

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Join Essex Land Trust This Saturday to Hike Falls River Preserve, All Welcome

ESSEX — Join former Essex Land Trust President, Chet Arnold, and naturalist Phil Miller on a beautiful autumn walk of the Falls River Preserve this Saturday, Nov. 3.  Meet at 9 a.m. at Falls River Drive in Ivoryton.

The Preserve is a 40-acre peninsula of forest and ledge projecting into Mill Pond on the Falls River. Arnold was one of the key players that helped to secure this property back in the late 1990s … and Miller always entertains and informs due to his vast knowledge of the environment and nature.

The more challenging trails cross over ledges of 800-million-year-old metamorphic schist forming the peninsula’s spine. The Falls River was dammed in the 18th century to provide waterpower to run a gristmill, a sawmill and an iron works over the years.

The land has been used for logging and pasture as recently as the 1930s. The property’s shoreline on the Mill Pond attracts a large variety of birdlife.

Bad weather cancels.

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Putting the Spotlight on Cheetahs, Raising Funds Locally for Their Conservation, Friday

The cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal and Africa’s most endangered big cat. Photo courtesy of CCF.

AREAWIDE — Join Brian Badger, the Cheetah Conservation Fund’s (CCF) Director of Conservation & Outreach, for a talk Nov. 9 from 6 to 8 p.m.  Titled, ‘Cheetah in the Spotlight: Toast to Conservation,’ the talk will take you into the wilds of Africa as Badger discusses key conservation strategies for the endangered cheetah. Badger will speak about the current status of wild cheetah populations and what’s being done to protect Africa’s most endangered big cat.

Badger’s talk will focus on CCF’s innovative conservation methods that address the welfare of both cheetah and human populations over large landscapes. Learn about the highly effective set of integrated programs that work together to achieve CCF’s objective to save the cheetah in the wild.

This is a free event at a private residence. Space is limited so an RSVP required. Hors d’oeuvres will be provided.

The address in Old Lyme, Conn. will be given upon RSVP registration.

RSVP at this link.

Donations are encouraged to support the Cheetah Conservation Fund programs. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go towards helping to save the cheetah in the wild.

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Thatchbed Island Ospreys Return

Webcam image of the nesting ospreys at Thatchbed Island.

ESSEX — The Essex Land Trust’s Thatchbed Island property is once again hosting returning Ospreys. Having wintered in the warmer climates of Central and South America, the arrival of Ospreys towards the end of March is the clearest indication that Spring is on its way.

The Essex Land Trust’s OspreyCam has not been operational for the past two seasons due to battery and camera problems. With these problems now resolved, the Trust took advantage of the opportunity to upgrade the camera to digital quality. This Thatchbed Platform has been hosting a nesting pair since 2003 and has successfully reared numerous fledglings.

I see you! A osprey looks up at the camera from his — or is it her –nest?

Ospreys continue to make a remarkable comeback after having practically disappeared from our coastal region in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2017, the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Osprey Nation Citizen Science Program monitored 540 nest sites throughout the state. Of these sites, there were 394 active nests and 607 total fledglings observed in the state. 

Ospreys are now occupying new nesting sites that are further inland than their historical range along the Connecticut coast.

The Middlesex County Community Foundation/Riverview Cemetery generously funded the initial installation of the Essex Land Trust OspreyCam. The live streaming of the Essex Land Trust OspreyCam is made possible by the generous support of Essex Savings Bank

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CT River Museum Offers Range of Winter Wildlife Programs, Activities

Eagles on Ice: White-headed adult eagles can be seen in numbers along the lower Connecticut River. Photo by Mark Yuknat.

ESSEX — Winter along the Connecticut River brings many things – including cold winds and grey skies.  But the change in seasons also signals a shift in the ecology of New England’s Great River.  The osprey, the swallows and the egrets may be gone, but in their place now are mergansers, goldeneyes, and the highlight – bald eagles.  These once rare, majestic birds can be seen fishing along the unfrozen lower Connecticut River, a testament to one of the greatest environmental recoveries of the last half century.  To highlight these winter wonders, Connecticut River Museum (CRM) has planned a range of programs and activities.

Connecticut River Museum is happy to again partner with Connecticut River Expeditions to offer Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruises in February and March.  These popular trips offer visitors a chance to get out on the River in winter to see eagles, as well as other winter species that visit the estuary such as harbor seals.

This seal is relaxing on the Connecticut River ice. Photo by Bill Yule.

Cruises aboard the environmentally friendly R/V RiverQuest provide passengers with a comfortable, heated cabin supplied with hot coffee and tea, as well as binoculars to aid in spotting and narration from a staff naturalist.  These cruises depart Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at various times in the morning and early afternoon, and are $42 per passenger.  Museum members get 10 percent off and group rates are available.

In addition, the Museum will offer its annual Eagles of Essex exhibit, which offers a wealth of information about bald eagles and their return to the lower Connecticut River.  Patrons can try their hand at building an eagle nest, and marvel at life size silhouettes of Eagles and other large raptors, a map showing good shore viewing locations, and other displays.

On the opening day of the season, Saturday, Feb. 3, the exhibit will host Family Activities related to the return of the Eagles from 1 to 4 p.m., free with Museum admission.

On Saturday, Feb. 17 and March 17, award-winning photographer Stanley Kolber returns to CRM to offer his annual Bird Photography Workshop.  Kolber has been photographing birds for years, and takes great pleasure in sharing his experience with aspiring photographers of all levels, through anecdotes, slides, and question and answer.  In addition to helping skills development, his greatest pleasure in giving workshops is the opportunity to kindle and encourage his audience’s interest in the natural world.  He hopes that young people as well as adults will attend the workshops, so that he can impart some of his own enthusiasm to the next generation.  These popular programs are also free with Museum admission.

Species other than Eagles visit our River during the winter months. Photo by Joan Meek.

A Live Birds of Prey Show will be offered on Sunday, Feb. 18 at 4:30 p.m.  CRM will partner with Horizon Wings Raptor Rehabilitation Organization for this annual show, which features a bald eagle and several other species of raptors.  Visitors will be able to get an up close look at the birds while learning more about the lifecycle and ecology of these magnificent animals.  This event will be held at the Centerbrook Meeting House and is free to the public.

For a full listing of event details, visit www.ctrivermuseum.org or call 860-767-8269.  The Connecticut River Museum is located on the Essex waterfront at 67 Main Street and is open Tuesday – Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Connecticut River Museum, located in the historic Steamboat Dock building, offers exhibits and programs about the history and environment of the Connecticut River.

For more information, call CRM at 860.767.8269 or RiverQuest at 860.662.0577.

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Essex Land Trust Hosts Hike This Morning in Doanes’ Woods, James Glen Preserves

Hike in Doane’s Woods Preserve, Dec. 9.

ESSEX — The Essex Land Trust invites all to visit its newest property, Doanes’ Woods on Saturday, Dec. 9, meeting at 9 a.m. It is a large flat wooded area that drops steeply to the east and adjoins the James Glen Preserve. The two properties combined represent 21 acres and include trails that connect with each other.

Doane’s Woods was acquired in 2016 and includes a wooded ravine with creek, rock outcroppings and spectacular tulip trees as well as other deciduous trees. A great winter hike to explore some local geological features with our stewards.

Access is at the James Glen Preserve at the end of Hudson Lane off of River Road.

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Essex Land Trust Welcomes Volunteers for ‘Source to Sea’ Clean Up on ‘Great Meadow,’ Friday

ESSEX — The Essex Land Trust (ELT) is looking to do its part in helping to clean the shores and marshes of our beautiful Connecticut River and, specifically, on Essex’ Great Meadow. The event, coordinated by ELT and sponsored by the Connecticut River Watershed Council, will also be conducted simultaneously by volunteers along the length of the river from Old Saybrook to Canada.

Meet for your assignment at 9 a.m. at the Essex Boat Club, at the far end of the dirt road accessed between #143 and #145 River Rd., the lane that also serves Pettipaug Yacht Club. Wear waterproof boots, bring gloves and come rain or shine.

Refreshments will be served. All ages and abilities are welcome.

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CT River Conservancy Launches Source to Sea Jump-In Journey, Celebrating 65 Years of Success

AREAWIDE – To celebrate its 65th anniversary, the Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC), formerly Connecticut River Watershed Council, is traveling the length of the Connecticut River this month to celebrate the many successes that have significantly improved the health of New England’s great river. Just as importantly, this Journey will lay out the work still to be done to meet the legal requirements and public expectations to make our rivers truly clean and full of life.

The Source to Sea Jump-In Journey begins at the source of the Connecticut River near the Canadian border on July 15 and ends at the Long Island Sound on July 30. The Source to Sea Jump-In Journey is an opportunity for everyone who loves our rivers to join CRC in speaking up for our rivers.

The public is invited to join the Source to Sea Jump-In Journey at events celebrating the many ways people use, enjoy, and take sustenance from their rivers. These events include opportunities to directly engage with important issues as well as have fun and celebrate. Opportunities include boating events as well as joining Splash Mobs, ‘flash mob’ style events where groups of river fans will jump in the river to publicly show support for their rivers. To learn more or follow the Journey online, visit www.ctriver.org/s2sjourney.

“Our rivers have come a long way,” says CRC Executive Director Andrew Fisk. “This Journey is retracing a trip taken by one of our trustees in 1959. Back then, they wore gas masks and scooped sludge from the river to highlight pollution problems. On this Journey, we have the pleasure of highlighting how clean our rivers have become and all the awesome ways people use our rivers for recreation. But our rivers still face challenges every single day. Our job is to find environmental problems and help solve them.”

The important work that remains to be done includes:

  • Removing deadbeat dams and making flood ready culverts to connect habitat and protect infrastructure
  • Restoring migratory fish populations so that millions of fish return each year
  • Fighting roll-backs of environmental regulations that protect our rivers, streams and lakes
  • Investing in aging and outdated water and wastewater infrastructure

CRC Executive Director Andrew Fisk and his wife Karen will make the trip down the Connecticut River.

The two most local events on the itinerary are as follows:

Saturday, July 29
What: 43rd Connecticut River Raft Race & Splash Mob
Where: Portland, CT
Details: 10am – 2pm, 43rd Annual Connecticut River Raft Race, Race begins at Gildersleeve Island and ends at the Portland Riverside Marina
Large community event with very creative rafts being raced.

What: Bass Fishing
Where: Salmon River boat launch E. Haddam, CT (Rt 149, E Haddam Moodus Road)
Details:  4:00 – 8:00 pm

Sunday, July 30
What: Onrust Cruise with CT River Museum
Where: Connecticut River Museum, Essex, CT
Details: 4 – 8pm, Join Connecticut River Museum and Connecticut River Conservancy to celebrate the completion of the Source to Sea Jump In Journey, food & drinks provided.
Sunset sail to the Sound on the historic Onrust, a replica of Dutch explorer Adriaen Block’s 1614 vessel, the first European ship to sail up the Connecticut River

What: Kayak the Salmon River & Pizza Party, Splash Mob
Where: Haddam, CT
Details: Paddle 10am – 12pm, Pizza Party 12 – 2pm

The remainder of the itinerary is as follows:

Sunday, July 16
What: Hike to the source of the Connecticut River, 4th Connecticut Lake to launch the journey
Where: Pittsburg, NH

Monday, July 17 to Wednesday, July 19
What: Paddle the upper reaches
Where: Canaan, VT to Guildhall, NH

Thursday, July 20
What: Pontoon Boat trip & Splash Mob
Where: Hanover, NH

Friday, July 21
What: River Parade & Community Paddle, Splash Mob
Where: Lyme, NH / Thetford, VT
Details: Launch from Orford, NH boat ramp, Paddle 1:30-3:30pm, Celebration at 599 River Road Lyme, NH 3:30-4:30pm. Lyme Town Band will perform on boats on river joined by flotilla of paddling friends.

Saturday, July 22
What: Reception & Community Conversation
Where: Windsor Welcome Center, 3 Railroad Ave., Windsor, VT
4-6pm, Walking tours of Windsor river recreation projects.

What: Float with the Kennetticut River Pigs & Splash Mob
Where: Cornish to Claremont, NH
Details: Paddle Launch at11am, near the Cornish-Windsor covered bridge.

Sunday, July 23
What: Riverboat Cruise with Tribal Leaders
Where: Northfield Mtn Recreation Facility, 99 Millers Falls Rd, Northfield, MA
Details: 12:45 – 3pm, Cruise departs from Riverview picnic area dock.
David Brule from Nolumbeka Project (MA), Roger Longtoe Sheehan Chief of Elnu Abenaki tribe (VT), and Rich Holschuh of VT Commission for Native American Affairs will speak about the Native American history of the river and their vision for its future.
What: Scuba Diving & Splash Mob
Where: Brattleboro, VT

Monday, July 24
What: Honor David Deen’s Retirement with CRC
Where: Whetstone Station, Brattleboro, VT
Details: 4-7pm, Recognize David Deen’s retirement after 19 years as River Steward with CRC and welcome new River Steward, Kathy Urffer.

Tuesday, July 25
What: Waterskiing at the Oxbow & Splash Mob
Where: Easthampton, MA

Wednesday, July 26
What: Watch a Dragon Boat Race & Splash Mob
Where: Northampton Community Rowing & Connecticut River Greenway Park, 80 Damon Road,Northampton, MA
Details: Approx 5:30 – 7pm, Watch a dragon boat challenge race with the Paradise City Dragon boat team and several of our local officials and community members. Learn relationship to Cancer Connection.

Thursday, July 27
What: Rowing Flotilla & Splash Mob
Where: Holyoke to Springfield, MA
Details: Time TBD, Rowing activities start at Holyoke Rows, 25 Jones Ferry Rd in Holyoke, and finish at Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club at the North Riverfront Park, 121 West Street, Springfield, MA. 

Friday, July 28
What: E. Windsor American Heritage River Commission Paddle & Picnic
Where: East Windsor, CT
Details: Approx. 2 – 6pm, Launch at Kings Island boat ramp in Enfield, CT. End paddle & picnic at Volunteer Park in E. Windsor, CT.
Paddle with an active group of local citizens who have worked to maintain the legacy of the American Heritage River designation of the CT River

What: Air-boating with Conte Refuge
Where: Enfield & Hartford, CT

 

Since 1952, Connecticut River Conservancy has been the voice for the Connecticut River watershed, from source to sea. We collaborate with partners across four states to protect and advocate for your rivers and educate and engage communities. We bring people together to prevent pollution, improve habitat, and promote enjoyment of your river and its tributary streams. Healthy rivers support healthy economies. To learn more about CRC, or to make a contribution to help protect the Connecticut River, visit www.ctriver.org.

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Join Essex Land Trust to Trail Blaze Invasive Plants Today on Johnson Farm


ESSEX —
Want to help control invasive plants at Johnson Farm?

Join Essex Land Trust Stewards Geoff Furtney and Dana Hill Saturday, July 8, in identifying, managing and clearing invasive plants on Johnson Farm.  In line with the Land Trust’s mission, of maintaining properties in a natural state, this group is working to address the presence of invasive plants on our properties.

This is a work project so bring loppers, clippers and heavy work gloves. All ages and abilities welcome.

Meet at parking lot off Read Hill Rd. at 9 a.m. Read Hill Rd. is accessed off Comstock Avenue in Ivoryton. Rain date July 9.

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Environmental Program Looks To ‘Foster Future Stewards’ in Lower CT River Valley

From left to right, Peter and Elsie Patton, Marilyn Ozols, president, and Robin Andreoli, executive director. Photo by Joan Levy Hepburn.

LOWER CT RIVER VALLEY – The Rockfall Foundation recently announced the launch of a special campaign to commemorate 45 years of environmental grant making and support programs for students in the Lower Connecticut River Valley. The Fostering Future Stewards campaign will fund environmental education for kindergarten through 8th grade students with multi-year grants to schools for school-time, after school or summer programs.

Consecutive years of funding will allow educators to continue programs that introduce and sustain environmental literacy and the continuity of those programs will greatly benefit students.

The Foundation looks to raise $45,000 over two years and the campaign is off to a very positive start, thanks in large part to Peter and Elsie Patton of Middletown. Two of the Foundation’s most ardent supporters, the Pattons were the first to come forward with a leadership gift of $5,000 to the campaign.

“We are grateful to Peter and Elsie for inspiring others through their passion for this cause and their generous gift,” said Robin Andreoli, the Foundation’s executive director. “With a commitment from our Board of Directors, we have already achieved twenty-five percent of our goal and have heard from many friends in the community who support the project.”

Established in 1935, the Rockfall Foundation is one of Connecticut’s oldest non-profit environmental organizations and is the steward for the historic deKoven House Community Center in Middletown. The Foundation receives support from donors with a passion for the environment and connects them to local programs that help make the Lower Connecticut River Valley a better place to live.

Annual grant awards provide funding for local environmental education, conservation programs and planning initiatives. The Foundation also presents educational public programs throughout the year, which include symposia and public forums, informal networking opportunities, and family hikes.

For the past 45 years, the Rockfall Foundation’s grant making has supported and promoted outstanding environmental programs delivered by non-profit organizations, schools, and municipalities throughout the Lower Connecticut River Valley. The first grants awarded in 1972 provided a total of $5,000 to support four planting projects in Essex, Old Saybrook, and Chester. Since then, the Foundation has helped to fund 350 programs with awards totaling nearly half a million dollars.

For information about the Rockfall Foundation or how to contribute to the Fostering Future Stewards fund, visit www.rockfallfoundation.org or call 860-347-0340.

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Volunteers Needed to Control Invasive Plant in Local Rivers

Water chestnut is an invasive plant that is easy for volunteers to remove & keep under control. Join CRC for upcoming volunteer events to learn about & remove this invasive plant.

AREAWIDE — There is an emerging threat to the Connecticut River and the waters within its basin that any boater, paddler, angler or property manager can help control. European water chestnut (Trapa natans) is an aquatic invasive plant that spreads rapidly, covering bodies of water with dense foliage impeding recreational activities such as boating, fishing, and swimming.

The Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC), formerly Connecticut River Watershed Council, is hosting a variety of opportunities this summer for residents to learn more and help remove this threat.

Quick and thorough action must be taken to prevent this plant from taking over because water chestnut reproduces exponentially. “The good news is that this plant is easy to identify, it reproduces only by seed, and pulls up easily,” notes Alicea Charamut, River Steward for the Connecticut River Conservancy.

She continues, “It can be managed by trained volunteers. For small to moderate infestations, no chemicals or equipment are needed other than willing volunteers in canoes, kayaks, and shallow draft boats. This work offers an opportunity for those of us who love our rivers, lakes and ponds to give back to them in a fun and easy way.”

There are two opportunities to learn to identify and report the plants. CRC hosted an information session at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex on Tuesday, June 13, and will do so again at LL Bean at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor on Friday, June 19. Both events are at 6:30 p.m. There will be a brief presentation, live plants on display, and plenty of time for questions.

Charamut is also available to give talks to groups within the Connecticut River watershed, who want to bring this information to their organization or club.

Paddlers and boaters can also help CRC manage known infestations. Five hand-pulling events are already scheduled for the floating meadows of the Mattabesset River in Middletown and Keeney Cove in Glastonbury in June and July with more to be scheduled as new infestations are reported. The work is fairly easy, a little dirty and very rewarding. Supplies are provided. Those who wish to attend need only bring their boat and PFD.

In addition, CRC is coordinating a River Sweep of the Connecticut River, its coves and ponds to scout for this invasive plant. “Because the seeds from these plants can last for up to twelve years, knowing where these plants have been found is crucial. In order to effectively control the spread of these plants we must monitor locations where they have been found each year and have as many eyes on the water as possible.” Paddling and boating groups can adopt a section of the river to scout for plants on or around Saturday, June 24.

“It will take a community of those who care coming together to help control this plant,” says Charamut. The Connecticut River Conservancy joins many partners in the effort to control water chestnut in the Connecticut River watershed. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Lower Connecticut River Council of Governments, Jonah Center for Earth and Art, Connecticut River Museum, and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station are all active participants working to help control this aquatic invasive plant.

More groups are encouraged to join the effort. Much of the work in the lower Connecticut River Valley here in Connecticut is possible thanks to a generous grant from the Rockfall Foundation.

For more information about education and volunteer opportunities to help control European water chestnut, visit www.ctriver.org/get-involved or contact Alicea Charamut at acharamut@ctriver.org.

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2017 Sailing Season Opens at Pettipaug Yacht Club

Dave Courcy, Commodore of the Pettipaug Yacht Club, at the club’s docks.

ESSEX — The Pettipaug Yacht Club held its formal commissioning ceremonies to mark the opening of the 2017 sailing season on Sunday, May 21. The ceremonies were held on the club’s grounds, which are located on the western bank of the Connecticut River in Essex.

Prior to the formal opening of the club’s season, there was a dinghy sailing race at 1 p.m. by club members.

The entrance sign to the Pettipaug Yacht Club welcomes members, guests and PSA students.

All of the 300 plus members of the Pettipaug Yacht Club were invited be attend the formal commissioning ceremonies of the 2017 sailing season held on May 21 at the club’s headquarters on the Connecticut River.

Pettipaug YC sailors will be soon be out again on the waters of the Connecticut River.

The ceremonies were conducted by the Club’s Commodore Dave Courcy and Vice Commodore Katheren Ryan.

Commodore Courcy has served in that position from 2016 to the present.  Prior to that he served as the Vice Commodore and Rear Commodore.

Sailing dinghies mostly used by younger sailors at the Pettipaug Yacht Club.

In addition to being available for the general use of club members, Pettipaug Yacht Club also sponsors the Pettipaug Sailing Academy (PSA) during the summer months, at which young sailors are taught to sail.

The club also sponsors power boat instruction conducted by club member John Kennedy. If interested in joining the power boat classes or for further information, contact Kennedy at Kdesign@snet.net.  Club membership is not required in order to attend the power boat classes.

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CT Audubon RTPEC Offers Estuary Explorations Saturday Mornings

Osprey in flight. Photo by Brock Graham.

AREAWIDE — The Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center is offering a new program of Saturday morning field trips to natural areas along the lower Connecticut River starting May 6.

Estuary Explorations will be led by PhD ecologist Paul Spitzer, a protégé of internationally recognized naturalist and painter, Roger Tory Peterson. Each exploration will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the possibility of extending the field tripinto the afternoon, depending on the participants’ interest.

The fee for each field trip is $30 per person ($25 per student) and registration is required. To register, visit this link.

Estuary Explorations will give participants a chance to learn about the Lower Connecticut River Estuary’s ecosystems and wildlife as the year progresses from the peak bird migratory season of May, through high summer, and into the late fall.

Paul Spitzer. Photo courtesy of Paul Spitzer.

Spitzer has designed the programs to follow in the footsteps of one of the 20th century’s most famous naturalists, field guide author and illustrator Roger Tory Peterson, who spent his adult life painting in his studio in Old Lyme and examining the flora and fauna of the Connecticut River Estuary and the world.

Spitzer will showcase some of Peterson’s favorite natural sites and share his extensive knowledge of the ecology of the region. Spitzer plans to lead these explorations at a “Thoreauvian saunter,” moving slowly to appreciate many of the birds, plants, and insects that Peterson once enjoyed.

While Old Lyme tends to be recognized for its scenic views and historic artist colony and arts culture, it is also situated at an important ecological hub in New England — the meeting of the waters. In this species-rich estuary, the fresh water of the vast Connecticut River and Long Island Sound mix, resulting in a wealth of natural life.

Spitzer learned his natural history while growing up in the Connecticut River Valley. He is a graduate of Old Lyme High School and continued up the river to attend Wesleyan University. He later earned his PhD in ecological sciences from Cornell University.

More recently, he has studied the now substantial Connecticut River Estuary Osprey colony as a “biomonitor” of migratory menhaden abundance, the Osprey’s preferred food source. Spitzer advocates for sustainable management practices of this keystone fish for its ecosystem, economic, and societal functions.

Working alongside Spitzer will be Old Saybrook native, Jim Arrigoni. Arrigoni has worked as a fisheries biologist in Washington State and developed protocols to evaluate stream water quality in Hong Kong. Most recently, he has taught cultural and aquatic ecology classes at Goodwin College, and he is currently completing a PhD on the conservation value of restored wetlands.

Spitzer has studied Ospreys for 50 years, his research beginning here in the Connecticut River Estuary. By the 1970’s, the impact of DDT in the ecosystem whittled the local Osprey colony down to one active nest. Spitzer was instrumental in the recovery of this important keystone species to these waters.

“The Connecticut River Ospreys are our iconic story of revival from the brink,” said Spitzer. “These guided and educational field trips will open a world of discovery about nature’s profusion in this extraordinary bioregion.”

“Migrant and resident species of the estuary watershed are particularly exciting to observe in May. I will provide up-close and expansive views of the natural world from salt marshes to Yellow Warblers in particularly beautiful places.”

After meeting at the Old Lyme I-95 Park and Ride (Exit 70), participants will enjoy three hours of ecological exploration followed by a brown bag lunch and guided discussion in the field.  Spitzer is also willing to offer optional afternoon sessions gauged by the stamina and interest of the participants.

Beyond the four Saturdays in May, the field trips will occur monthly through November.

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30 Plunge Into Frigid Sound to Help Save Plum Island

Plunging for Plovers: these brave souls charged into the freezing waters of Long Island Sound last Saturday to raise awareness of efforts to save Plum Island from sale and preserve the island’s outstanding flora and fauna. Photo by Judy Preston.

OLD SAYBROOK -– A long-planned “polar plunge”-style fundraiser at Old Saybrook Town Beach got a shot of drama from unexpectedly cold temperatures, strong winds, and high waves this weekend.

CFE/Save the Sound’s Chris Cryder, in seal costume, speaks at the press conference. Photo by Laura McMillan.

Students from Old Saybrook High School, area officials, and representatives of a regional environmental organization—some in costumes—packed into a heated school bus for a press conference last Saturday morning, March 11, before running into a frigid Long Island Sound to raise awareness and support for protecting Plum Island.

The “Plum Island Plunge for Plovers” has raised $3,700 for Connecticut Fund for the Environment and its bi-state program Save the Sound’s multi-year battle to save Plum Island from sale and private development. Donations are still coming in.

“I’ve met thousands of folks all around the Sound who want Plum Island preserved, but this is something else,” said Chris Cryder, special project coordinator for CFE/Save the Sound, decked out as one of the harbor seals that rest on Plum Island’s rocky shore. “To see dozens of people voluntarily turn out in weather like this to make a statement about the island’s importance is inspiring.”

Rosie Rothman, co-president of Old Saybrook High School’s Interact Club, speaks at the press conference prior to ‘The Plunge.’ Photo by Judy Preston.

Rosie Rothman, co-president of Old Saybrook High School’s Interact Club, explained that the plunge was a perfect fit for the Interact Club’s mission of community service and the Ecology Club’s mission of environmental protection.

“Afterwards, we couldn’t feel our toes for a while, but we still had fun,” she said. “With a windchill in the single digits, it was definitely a challenge, but our members still showed up. I think that speaks to our dedication to the cause. It is our hope that our legislators take decisive federal action to protect Plum Island from development that would be detrimental to the wildlife that depends on it, including 111 species of conservation concern.”

“I was very proud to see so many Old Saybrook High School students participate in the polar plunge, on a freezing March day, to support efforts to preserve Plum Island,” said Rep. Devin Carney (Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Westbrook). “Plum Island is an important natural resource for the Connecticut shoreline and Long Island Sound. By preserving it, these students, and many others, will be able to enjoy its natural beauty for many years to come.”

And they’re off! The plungers enter the bitterly cold water at Old Saybrook Town Beach. (Photo by Judy Preston)

Carl P. Fortuna, Jr., first selectman for the Town of Old Saybrook, joined the hardy souls jumping into the Sound. Addressing the assembled attendees, he reminded them of the region’s land conversation victory in saving The Preserve, and said, “The Town of Old Saybrook fully supports the conservation of Plum Island and its rightful place in the public domain upon the decommissioning of scientific activities. The importance of Plum Island as a flora and fauna host has been amply demonstrated. It is now time for our legislative and executive branches to swiftly put an end to any speculation that this resource will be privately developed. I applaud the bipartisan efforts to conserve Plum Island.”

These were some of the supporters, who braved the cold to cheer on the plungers. (Photo by Judy Preston.)

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy sent letters in support of the effort.

Plum Island, an 840-acre, federally-owned island in the eastern end of Long Island Sound, is home to threatened and endangered birds like the piping plover and roseate tern, as well as other rare species. Seventy Connecticut and New York organizations work together as the Preserve Plum Island Coalition, partnering with grassroots activists and champions in Congress to halt sale of the island. CFE/Save the Sound has also brought an action in federal court claiming that the government’s decision to sell the island violates numerous federal environmental laws.

Fundraising will remain open through the end of the month. Members of the public may donate to support CFE/Save the Sound’s work at www.bit.ly/plum-plunge.

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RiverQuest Offers Osprey/Eagle Cruises on Connecticut River From Haddam

An osprey on its nest is an imposing sight.

Late March into early April is when the Osprey returns to Connecticut from its southern wintering grounds. It is a wonderful sign that spring is finally here.

The Osprey is a large bird of prey with a 4’6” to 6’ wingspan that eats only fish, hence, it is sometimes referred to as the Fish Hawk. Ospreys migrate south for the winter months to areas where their food supply will not be affected by frozen rivers and lakes. They settle down in the southern US, Central America, South America, and have been seen as far south as Argentina. Ospreys of breeding age are returning north now, to start a new nest or to re-establish a nest they may have used in previous years.

There are many Osprey nests along the lower Connecticut River, from the mouth of the river in Old Lyme/Old Saybrook up river as far north as Middletown. There will be activity on the many man-made nesting platforms at the Roger Tory Peterson Preserve in Old Lyme and on other platforms located along the Connecticut River, in “natural” tree settings and on the top of each of the large navigation aids that mark the river channel.

A great way to see this nesting activity is by boat.

RiverQuest, an eco-tour vessel located at Eagle Landing State Park in the Tylerville section of Haddam is offering several cruises to the general public throughout the month of April to view and learn about the Osprey and other wildlife that may be spotted, including hawks and another famous raptor, the Bald Eagle.

After disappearing from Connecticut in 1948, the Bald Eagle has made a return and there are several active eagle nests on the river. Two of these nests will be visible from RiverQuest and we will most likely see one or more of our resident Bald Eagles.

Other areas of interest that will be seen on our cruise include the Goodspeed Opera House, Gillette Castle and the Chester/Hadlyme Ferry. The cruises are approximately 2.5 hours in length and cost $40 per passenger (no children under 10-years-old.) There are binoculars on board for loan during the cruise and complimentary coffee and tea. To learn more about these informative cruises and to reserve your spot with our easy on-line booking, please visit: ctriverquest.com or call the RiverQuest  phone: 860-662-0577.

Osprey/Eagle Cruise Dates:

Saturday, April 1: 1:30pm

Saturday, April 8: 10:00am

Saturday, April 15: 4:00pm

Thursday, April 20: 1:30pm

Sunday, April 23: 1:30pm

Saturday, April 29: 4:00pm

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Join the ‘Common Good Gardens’ to Discover the Benefits of Volunteering; Orientation Meeting Today

OLD SAYBROOK — Each year, the Common Good Gardens in Old Saybrook raise nearly four tons of fresh vegetables and fruit, and then then donates them to the Shoreline Soup Kitchens and Pantries  And they do it entirely with volunteers – volunteers who have kept it going and improved it for 15 years.

You’re probably thinking, “How unselfish … doing all that work to benefit other people,” and they are for sure.  But, according to new research, volunteers are also on the receiving end of some amazing benefits; and most likely, they don’t even know it.  They just know that they feel better when they leave the garden.

Never too young … all ages can volunteer at the Common Good Garden.

Solid data on the benefits of volunteering has appeared in a variety of current publications, ranging from the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Health Letters, to a review from the Corporation for National & Community Service, which states,

On average, volunteering 40 to 100 hours per year increases personal satisfaction and happiness, decreases depression, improves functional capacity; and results in fewer illnesses and a longer life span.

Similar articles from the Huffington Post, Atlantic Monthly as well as research released by Johns Hopkins, The London School of Economics and University of Exeter Medical School have all told a similar story.

Greatest Gains for Seniors

Volunteering has health benefits — especially for seniors!

While there are potential gains to be had for high-schoolers and middle-aged persons, the greatest gains related to volunteering are for those 65 and older.  Some researchers suggest this greater gain for seniors may be because they start out lower before volunteering. Their health may not be as good as that of younger people or they may have lower self-esteem and more social isolation due to retirement.  Even if that proves true, starting to volunteer at an earlier adult stage seems to correlate with fewer health issues later in life.

Regarding functional capacity, the Hopkins study showed improved brain function associated with activities that get you moving and thinking at the same time.  As for happiness, though some of the happiness data is based on self-reporting alone, other data show hormone levels and brain scan activity consistent with physiologic changes associated with happiness.

Studies in UK

In addition to the improvements shown above, a large review of nearly 25,000 articles in the UK notes increased coping ability, better parenting skills and richer personal relationships.

Impact on Chronic Illness and Longevity

Several studies examined in particular the impact for those with chronic illness. They found that these volunteers reported decreased pain and depression. People with a prior heart attack also had lower incidences of depression after volunteering.

A United Health Group survey showed these striking figures:

  • 25% reported volunteering helped them live better with chronic illness
  • 76% reported feeling healthier
  • 78% reported lowered stress levels
  • 94% reported improved mood
  • 96% reported an enriched sense of purpose

Finally U.S. census data confirms that those states with high volunteer rates show greater longevity and lower rates of heart disease.

Come Join the Common Good Gardens

There’s always room for an extra pair of hands …

Come join us at the Common Good Gardens.  Whatever your age, level of health, or skill set, there’s a way for you to contribute while benefiting from volunteering.

Yes, gardeners are needed to plant, weed and harvest, and beginners are always welcome. But also needed are people with computer skills, carpentry skills, writing and speaking skills;   people who can drive a car to deliver produce; leaders to organize small groups and work with public schools; people who love nature or are excited about nutrition, and folk who want to help experiment with natural ways to deter pests or make soil richer.

Common Good Gardens by the numbers

  • 14: Number of years garden has been in existence (2002-2016)
  • July 7, 2011: Date the garden incorporated and received non-profit 501(c)3  status
  • 10: Number of Board members
  • 220,000: Total pounds of produce grown, collected and delivered 2004-2016 through garden volunteer efforts
  • 50: Number of core active volunteers (gardeners, drivers, other)
  • 3,000: Number of volunteer hours donated annually
  • 1/2 acre: Size of garden located at rear of Grace Episcopal Church, 336 Main Street, Old Saybrook
  • 22: Number of different varieties of fruits and vegetablesgrown at the garden during 2016
  • 6,900: Pounds of produce grown at the garden in 2016 season
  • $17,200: Dollar value of produce grown at the garden in 2016 season
  • 7: Number of farm stands that donate excess produce to garden for distribution to pantries in 2013.

Many hands make light work at the Common Good Gardens.

Current volunteers at the Common Good Gardens encourage you to get involved so that together, a healthy future for the garden, ourselves, and our shoreline community can be created.

If interested, contact Common Good Gardens at PO Box 1224, Old Saybrook, CT 06475 or call Barbara Standke at 860-575-8645 with questions, or to sign up for the annual new volunteer orientation on March 11.

Editor’s Note: The authors of this piece, Kate Wessling and Barbara Standke, are respectively Common Good Gardens President and Common Good Gardens Volunteer Coordinator.

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Update From Essex Tree Warden on Gypsy Moths 2017

Gypsy moth caterpillars – photo by Peter Trenchard, CAES

AREAWIDE — The 2016 report on the gypsy moth from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) indicates the extent of the 2016 gypsy moth outbreak.  The heaviest outbreaks were concentrated in 4 eastern counties: Middlesex, New London, Windham and Tolland Counties.  CAES has published both a map and an updated fact sheet on their website at this link.

Those areas that suffered extensive defoliation in 2016 should expect a large hatch of caterpillars in 2017.  The egg masses in these areas are numerous and widespread.

As the caterpillars age and move into the later instars, they will defoliate the trees and shrubs, particularly oak trees, but also apple, birch, poplar and willow.  However, if there is enough rain this spring (May-June), the E. maimaiga fungus may be activated and provide complete control of the caterpillars. If the NPV virus spreads throughout the caterpillar population, the caterpillars may be killed as they become crowded.

The visible egg masses can be removed from accessible locations, drowned in a container of soapy water and disposed of safely.

Augie Pampel, Essex Tree Warden,  advises residents to stay vigilant, remove eggs masses if possible  and contact  local arborists to discuss alternative treatments as caterpillars reappear.

Pampel is also available for questions/concerns at: augiepampel@att.net.

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Siegrist Requests Changes to House Bill to Allow Chester to Receive Funds to Combat Invasive Species

Rep. Bob Siegrist testifies during a Public Hearing about invasive species.

HARTFORD – State Rep. Bob Siegrist (R-36) recently testified during a public hearing regarding a proposal that he co-sponsored, namely House Bill 5503, An Act Concerning Lake Authorities and Combating Invasive Plant and Animal Species. Siegrist asked that the legislation be amended to assist local towns like Chester.

Under current law, 25 percent of Community Investment Account funds within the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection can be used for municipal open space grants. House Bill 5503 would provide grants to lake authorities for the control of invasive species.

Rep. Siegrist is in full support of House Bill 5503, but suggests that the bill be amended to allow municipalities access to the grants to combat invasive species.

“Current law states that two or more towns that have a body of water of state water within their territory can establish a lake authority. Cedar Lake in Chester is wholly within the Town of Chester. The problem in Cedar Lake is similar to what many lakes are dealing with — invasive species,” Siegrist said.

“Mitigation of this problem can be very expensive and requires ongoing maintenance, approximately every two years depending on the aggressive nature of the species. Cedar Lake is a 70-acre-lake fully owned by Chester, whose residents enjoy it for passive and active recreation. This legislation as it is currently written, would not allow such towns to have access to this grant. It is my hope the legislature’s Environment Committee would consider my language to make it fair for those towns like Chester.”

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Niko’s Snow Blankets the Region

A winter wonderland. Photo by Jerome Wilson.

AREAWIDE — Winter Storm Niko pounded the Tri-Town region yesterday dropping some 12 inches of heavy, wet snow, thus creating some challenging snow-clearing.  It also created some picture-perfect snow scenes like the one captured above.

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Winter Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises Depart Weekend Days from CT River Museum

RiverQuest start Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises Saturday, Feb. 4.

ESSEX  – Connecticut River Expeditions of Haddam offers cruises on the lower Connecticut River this February and March for the 14th year of Winter Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises. This year they have teamed up with the Connecticut River Museum and will be departing from the Museum’s dock in Essex. With this partnership, passengers enjoy both the river and its wildlife from the water and also the entire Museum including their special “Eagles of Essex” exhibit.

A magnificent Bald Eagle.

As the river, lakes and ponds to our north freeze, eagles and other wildlife make their way to the lower Connecticut River for their favorite food – fish. Eagles have made a major comeback over the past few decades and more eagles are being sighted in this area. On past cruises, up to 41 Bald Eagles, three types of grebe and swan and merganser, golden eagle, many different gull and hawk species, loons, coyote, fox, deer, three types of seal, and even a bobcat have been spotted.
“Winter is such a special time on the river, it is serene and scenic and there is a sense of tranquility. With no leaves on the trees, the river’s edge offers a much different view, making it easier to find and see our winter wildlife.  On this cruise we will search for the majestic Bald Eagle and other winter species,”notes Mindy, Captain Mark’s wife, crew and co-owner of RiverQuest, pointing out, “Each cruise is different and you never know what we will find.”

Winter Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises include more than just big birds. Passengers often site beautiful winter ducks and even harbor seals. Photo by: Bill Yule.

RiverQuest has a heated cabin, but it is suggested that you dress in warm layers since the best views will be from the open decks. Bring your own camera and binoculars, but if you forget –or don’t have — them, there are plenty on board to borrow during the cruise. 

“We are excited to be working with the Connecticut River Museum. We feel that our mutual interest in the river is a perfect match,” comments Captain Mark of the eco-tour vessel, adding, “RiverQuest is already docked in Essex at the Museum and we are ready to go. We are hopeful that relocating RiverQuest from her home berth in Haddam further south this winter will increase our chances of running every trip.”
 
“There are few places as breathtaking or as tranquil as the Connecticut River in winter. We look forward to working with RiverQuest and sharing this experience with visitors,” says Chris Dobbs, Executive Director of the Connecticut River Museum.
In the Museum you can brush up on your Bald Eagle facts and field identification. With life size comparisons of local raptors you will get a close up idea of how large these birds really are. You can also try your nest building skills and enjoy all the other exhibits the Connecticut River Museum has to offer.   Additional eagle related public programs will be offered at the Museum during the Winter Wildlife Cruise season.

Cruises will be Feb. 4 through March 19. Departures on Fridays are at 10am and 12:30pm. Departures on Saturday and Sunday at 9am, 11:30am and 2pm.  Cost is $40 per person.

For more information visit www.ctriverquest.com  or www.ctrivermuseum.org
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Chester Garden Club Hosts Presentation on Night Singing Insects, March 14

John Himmelman

On Tuesday, March 14, at 7 p.m., the Chester Garden Club will host a presentation by author, John Himmelman from Killingworth, Conn., on “Singing Leaves, The Songs & Stories of the Night Singing Insects” at the United Church of Chester, 29 West Main Street, Chester, CT.

Members of the Chester Garden Club and the public are invited to attend.  The cost for guests will be $5.

For additional information, contact Chester Garden Club Co-President Brenda Johnson at (860) 526-2998.

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More Than Eight Inches of Snow Falls in Local Area

A view of the snowfall in Essex taken yesterday, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017 by Jerome Wilson.

AREAWIDE — On Friday, Mother Nature gave us a foretaste of her plans for the weekend.  A scant couple of inches fell over the Tri-Town area, but sufficient to turn everything white and offer some wonderful winter photography opportunities, as the beautiful photo above demonstrates.

View of today’s snow-covered landscape in Essex. Photo by Jerome Wilson.

Yesterday (Saturday, Jan. 7) the weather was a different story.  Winter Storm Helena arrived bringing with her steadily falling snow from around 10 a.m.  and when she was done, more than eight inches had settled, causing slippery conditions and slow-moving traffic.

It is light, fluffy snow so when you step outside to shovel, it should not be too back-breaking … but nevertheless, please take care!

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Essex Land Trust Hosts Cross Lots Preserve Autumn Clean-up Today

Ready for action! Volunteers gather before they start work on the Autumn clean-up.

Ready for action! Volunteers gather before they start work on the Autumn clean-up.

ESSEX — Help put this Land Trust’s Cross Lots Preserve at 40 West Ave. to bed for the winter, get a mild workout, and connect with your neighbors in a beautiful setting. All this offered on Saturday, Nov. 19 starting at 9 a.m.

Refreshments will be served. Please bring rakes, blowers, etc. Families, dogs welcome.

Rain date is Saturday, Nov. 26 at 9 am.

Park on West Avenue or at Essex Town Hall.

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Deadline Extended: Become a UConn Extension Master Gardener

AREAWIDE — UConn Extension is accepting applications for the 2017 Master Gardener Program. Master Gardener interns receive horticultural training from UConn, and then share knowledge with the public through community volunteering and outreach efforts. Enrollment in the UConn Extension Master Gardener program is limited and competitive.

“Gardening and the study of it is something we can do our whole lives,” says Karen Linder, a 2015 graduate of the UConn Extension Master Gardener Program at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford. “There is always something new to learn – we can get deeper into a subject. Our instructors truly brought subjects to life that I thought could not be made exciting. Who knew soil had so much going on? It has truly changed the way I think and observe the world around me. That is pretty amazing!”

The program is broad-based, intensive, and consists of 16 class sessions (one full day per week) beginning Jan. 9, 2017. The Master Gardener program includes over 100 hours of classroom training and 60 hours of volunteer service. Individuals successfully completing the program will receive UConn Extension Master Gardener certification. The program fee is $425.00, and includes the training manual. Partial scholarships may be available, based on demonstrated financial need.

“Working at the Courthouse Garden signature project in Hartford gave me the opportunity to use my gardening skills to help feed and educate others,” says John Vecchitto, a 2015 graduate from Hartford County. “We’re teaching others, many of whom have never gardened, to enjoy the gardening experience. People expressed their satisfaction when they heard the produce we grew would go to a shelter to help hungry people. We fed those who needed good food, and we fed the spirits of our participants with a taste of kindness. It was empowering.”

Classes will be held in Haddam, West Hartford, Bethel, Brooklyn, and Stamford. The postmark deadline for applications has been extended to Friday, Nov. 18, 2016.

For more information or an application, call UConn Extension at 860-486-9228 or visit the UConn Extension Master Gardener website at: mastergardener.uconn.edu.

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Essex Harbor Management Commission Seeks Bids for Annual Servicing of Anchorage Markers, Dock Floats

All bids submitted to the Essex Harbor Management Commission for consideration must include the following:

  1. A Certificate of Insurance must be attached to the bid;
  2. The location where the items of property will be stored must be identified and if not the property of the applicant that the relationship be disclosed (the cost of the storage, if any, must be included in the bid);
  3. The type of the equipment, boat, float and capacity must be included;
  4. The response bid must include a provision that a representative of the HMC may be present at the time of installation.

The Commission hereby notifies all response bidders that payment is made one-half after pulling and one-half after the reinstallation.

Payment will be made within 30 days of receipt of the invoice.

SCOPE OF WORK

The bid is to remove, store and re-set and to provide an inspection report with needed repairs and estimate of cost to implement those repairs:

Markers: 

9 markers (A-J, excluding C) from the main anchorage;

2 markers (A & B) from the Meadows anchorage;

Rock obstruction markers.

Floats:

The float connected to the Main Street Dock;

The float and ramp from the Town Park site in Middle Cove;

The float and ramp from the Mack Lane site in Middle Cove;

Removal of markers and floats to be accomplished after November 15, 2016.  Re-setting must be accomplished prior to April 15, 2017, but not earlier than March 15, 2017.  Dates to be adjusted in concert with the HMC and the Harbor Master.  Marker position in accordance with GPS points maintained by HMC.

All bids are due to HMC no later than 4:00 p.m. on September 22, 2016 at the First Selectman’s office.

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Latest Beautification Phase of Bushnell St. Access Point Now Complete

View of the tree plantings.

View of the tree plantings at Bushnell Street Access Point.

ESSEX — The Essex Harbor Management Commission recently completed its latest phase for the beautification of the Bushnell Street Access Point.  The current project removed an older, overgrown hedge row and replaced it with Arborvitae plantings. The old hedge proved to be problematic aesthetically and hindered keeping the area properly manicured.

The Commission wishes to thank the Town’s Tree Warden Augie Pampel, the Town’s Maintenance Department, and Acer Gardens for their assistance.

Over the past five years, the Commission has managed numerous improvements to the Bushnell Street Access Point, including the removal of older, diseased trees, strategic plantings to provide added privacy for its neighbors, the removal of abandoned small boats, an observation deck, and storage racks for the highly successful Small Vessel Storage Program.

These improvements have been made possible through Grants and Permits Fees from the Small Vessel Storage Program.

The Bushnell Street facility has become a popular launching area for kayakers and canoeists who utilize the protected waters of North Cove.  The Access Point is available for all to use and provides ample parking.

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House Approves Courtney-Sponsored Amendment Restricting Sale of Plum Island

Representative Joe Courtney

Representative Joe Courtney

Local Congressional Representative Joe Courtney (CT-02) announced yesterday, Thursday, July 7, that a bipartisan amendment he had led, along with Representatives Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Peter King (R-NY), to prohibit the sale of Plum Island was passed by the House of Representatives.

The amendment, which will prohibit the General Services Administration (GSA) from using any of its operational funding to process or complete a sale of Plum Island, was made to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2017..

In a joint statement, the Representatives said, “Our amendment passed today is a big step toward permanently protecting Plum Island as a natural area. Plum Island is a scenic and biological treasure located right in the middle of Long Island Sound. It is home to a rich assortment of rare plant and animal species that need to be walled off from human interference.”

The statement continued, “Nearly everyone involved in this issue agrees that it should be preserved as a natural sanctuary – not sold off to the highest bidder for development.”  Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump had shown interest in the property at one time.

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In 2008, the federal government announced plans to close the research facility on Plum Island and relocate to Manhattan, Kansas. Current law states that Plum Island must be sold publicly to help finance the new research facility.

Aerial view of Plum Island.

Aerial view of Plum Island.

The lawmakers  joint statement explained, “The amendment will prevent the federal agency in charge of the island from moving forward with a sale by prohibiting it from using any of its operational funding provided by Congress for that purpose,” concluding, ” This will not be the end of the fight to preserve Plum Island, but this will provide us with more time to find a permanent solution for protecting the Island for generations to come.”

For several years, members from both sides of Long Island Sound have been working in a bipartisan manner to delay and, ultimately, repeal the mandated sale of this ecological treasure. Earlier this year, the representatives, along with the whole Connecticut delegation, cosponsored legislation that passed the House unanimously to delay the sale of Plum Island.

 

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Local Golfers Play in Nancy Lehr Benefit Tournament, Two of Winners From Essex

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Nancy Lehr Benefit participants

On June 2, the Old Lyme Country Club held the annual Nancy Lehr Benefit Tournament to support Junior Girls Golf in Connecticut through the CWGA/PME Foundation. The tournament raised $500 for this worthwhile organization.

The winners of this year’s tournament were Esther Boyle (Essex), Karen Danielson (Old Saybrook), Carol Gordon (Essex) and Hyla Cohen (Old Lyme).

 

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Still Irritated by Those Gypsy Moth Caterpillars? Advice from Essex Tree Warden

Gypsy moth caterpillars - photo by Peter Trenchard, CAES

Gypsy moth caterpillars – photo by Peter Trenchard, CAES

AREAWIDE – The potential for gypsy moth outbreak exists every year in our area.  For this reason, Essex Tree Warden Augie Pampel sent in this release, encouraging Essex residents to keep a vigil for the gypsy moth caterpillar, which can defoliate many trees, thus impacting the trees’ ability to thrive. But Valley News Now wants to spread this warning to the entire area, as the gypsy moth is in all our towns.

Dr. Kirby Stafford III, head of the Department of Entomology at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, has written a fact sheet on the gypsy moth available on the CAES website (click here).  The following information is from this fact sheet.

The gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar, was introduced into the US (Massachusetts) by Etienne Leopold Trouvelot in about 1860.  The escaped larvae led to small outbreaks in the area in 1882, increasing rapidly.  It was first detected in Connecticut in 1905.  By 1952, it had spread to 169 towns.  In 1981, 1.5 million acres were defoliated in Connecticut.  During the outbreak of 1989, CAES scientists discovered that an entomopathogenic fungus, Entomophaga maimaiga, was killing the caterpillars.  Since then the fungus has been the most important agent suppressing gypsy moth activity.

The fungus, however, cannot prevent all outbreaks and hotspots have been reported in some areas, in 2005-06 and again in 2015.

The life cycle of the gypsy moth is one generation a year.  Caterpillars hatch from buff-colored egg masses in late April to early May.  An egg mass may contain 100 to more than 1000 eggs and are laid in several layers.  The caterpillars (larvae) hatch a few days later and ascend the host trees and begin to feed on new leaves.  The young caterpillars, buff to black-colored, lay down silk safety lines as they crawl and, as they drop from branches on these threads, they may be picked up on the wind and spread.

There are 4 or 5 larval stages (instars) each lasting 4-10 days.  Instars 1-3 remain in the trees.  The fourth instar caterpillars, with distinctive double rows of blue and red spots, crawl up and down the tree trunks feeding mainly at night.  They seek cool, shaded protective sites during the day, often on the ground.  If the outbreak is dense, caterpillars may feed continuously and crawl at any time.

With the feeding completed late June to early July, caterpillars seek a protected place to pupate and transform into a moth in about 10-14 days.  Male moths are brown and fly.  Female moths are white and cannot fly despite having wings.  They do not feed and live for only 6-10 days.  After mating, the female will lay a single egg mass and die.  The egg masses can be laid anywhere: trees, fence posts, brick/rock walls, outdoor furniture, cars, recreational vehicles, firewood.  The egg masses are hard.  The eggs will survive the winter and larvae hatch the following spring during late April through early May.

The impact of the gypsy moth can be extensive since the caterpillar will feed on a wide diversity of trees and shrubs.  Oak trees are their preferred food.  Other favored tree species include apple, birch, poplar and willow.  If the infestation is heavy, they will also attack certain conifers and other less favored species.  The feeding causes extensive defoliation.

Healthy trees can generally withstand one or two partial to one complete defoliation.  Trees will regrow leaves before the end of the summer.  Nonetheless, there can be die-back of branches.  Older trees may become more vulnerable to stress after defoliation.  Weakened trees can also be attacked by other organisms or lack energy reserves for winter dormancy and growth during the following spring.  Three years of heavy defoliation may result in high oak mortality.

The gypsy moth caterpillars drop leaf fragments and frass (droppings) while feeding creating a mess for decks, patios, outdoor furniture, cars and driveways.  Crawling caterpillars can be a nuisance and their hairs irritating.  The egg masses can be transported by vehicles to areas where the moth is not yet established.  Under state quarantine laws, the CAES inspects certain plant shipments destined to areas free of the gypsy moth, particularly for egg masses.

There are several ways to manage the gypsy moth: biological, physical and chemical.

Biologically, the major gypsy moth control agent has been the fungus E. maimaiga.  This fungus can provide complete control of the gypsy moth but is dependent on early season moisture from rains in May and June to achieve effective infection rates and propagation of the fungus to other caterpillars.  The dry spring of 2015 resulted in little or no apparent fungal inoculation or spread until it killed late-stage caterpillars in some areas of the state, after most defoliation.

Infected caterpillars hang vertically from the tree trunk, head down.  Some die in an upside down “V” position, a characteristic of caterpillars killed by the less common gypsy moth nucleopolyhedrosis virus (NPV).  This was not detected in caterpillars examined in 2015.

Physical controls include removing and destroying egg masses, which can be drowned in a soapy water and disposed of.  Another method is to use burlap refuge/barrier bands wrapped around tree trunks so that migrating caterpillars will crawl into or under the folded burlap or be trapped by the sticky band.

There are a number of crop protection chemicals labeled for the control of gypsy moth on ornamental trees and shrubs. There are treatments for egg masses, larvae and adult moths.  Detailed information about these chemical treatments is available in the CAES factsheet.

For complete information about the gypsy moth and its management, please go to the CAES website (www.ct.gov/caes) and look for the fact sheet on gypsy moth.  You may also contact Augie Pampel by email: augiepampel@att.net with questions and concerns.

 

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Small Vessel Permits for 2016 at Bushnell Access Have Reached Maximum Capacity

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ESSEX — Bushnell Access maximum storage capacity of 75 small vessels has been reached. Applications received from this point forward will be placed on a wait list and checks will be returned to the applicants.

Bushnell Access is still open to use for those who wish to bring their craft for the day and take it away at the end of the day.  Should it be determined that additional vessels can be accommodated at some point during the season, which runs from April 1 to Nov. 30, additional permits may be issued.

Direct any inquiries to the Harbor Management Commission email address at HarborManagementCommission@EssexCT.gov.

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CT Legislators Support Study to Preserve Plum Island From Commercial Development

Aerial voew of Plum Island lighthouse. (From Preserve Plum Island website)

Aerial view of Plum Island lighthouse. (From Preserve Plum Island website)

OLD SAYBROOK — Last Thursday, March 24, at a press conference in Old Saybrook, a triumvirate of Congressional legislators from Connecticut, State Senator Richard Blumenthal and US Representatives Joe Courtney (D-2nd District) and Rosa DeLauro (D-3rd District) confirmed their support for a study to determine the future of Plum Island located in Long Island Sound.

Members of the Plum Island Coalition — which has some 65 member organizations all dedicated to preserving the island — were in attendance to hear the good news.

The island still houses a high-security, federal animal disease research facility, but the decision has already been taken to move the facility to a new location in Kansas with an opening slated for 2022. The current facility takes up only a small percentage of the land on the island and significantly for environmentalists, the remainder of the island has for years been left to nature in the wild.

In supporting a federal study on the future of Plum Island, Sen. Blumenthal said, “This study is a step towards saving a precious, irreplaceable national treasure from developers and polluters. It will provide the science and fact-based evidence to make our case for stopping the current Congressional plan to sell Plum Island to the highest bidder.”

He continued, “The stark truth is the sale of Plum Island is no longer necessary to build a new bioresearch facility because Congress has fully appropriated the funds. There is no need for this sale – and in fact, Congress needs to rescind the sale.”

Congress, however, still has a law on the books that authorizes the sale of Plum Island land to the highest bidder. Therefore, opponents of the sale will have the burden of convincing Congress to change a law that is currently in place.

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Inaugural Meeting of ‘Friends of Whalebone Cove’ Set for Today, Group Plans to Protect Famous Tidal Wetland

The newly formed friends of Whalebone Cove are working to prevent this sort of activity in the waterways.

The newly formed ‘Friends of Whalebone Cove’ are working to preserve and protect the Cove’s fragile ecosystem.

A new community conservation group to protect Whalebone Cove, a freshwater tidal marsh along the Connecticut river in Hadlyme recognized internationally for its wildlife habitat, will hold its first organizational meeting this coming Sunday, March 6.

Calling the group “Friends of Whalebone Cove” (FOWC), the organizers say their purpose is to “create a proactive, community-based constituency whose mission is to preserve and protect the habitat and fragile eco-systems of Whalebone Cove.”

Much of Whalebone Cove is a nature preserve that is part of the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge (www.fws.gov/refuge/silvio_o_conte) under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFW). The Refuge owns and manages 116 acres of marshland in Whalebone Cove and upland along its shores.

Prior to being taken over by USFW, the Whalebone Cove preserve was under the protection of The Nature Conservancy.

As part of the Connecticut River estuary, the Cove is listed in the Ramsar Convention on International Wetlands (www.ramsar.org) as tidal marshlands on the Connecticut River that constitute a “wetlands complex of international importance.”

The Ramsar citation specifically notes that Whalebone Cove has one of the largest stands of wild rice in the state. Except at high tide, most of the Cove is open marshland covered by wild rice stands with relatively narrow channels where Whalebone Creek winds its way through the Cove to the main stem of the Connecticut River.

Brian Slater, one of the group’s leaders who is filing the incorporation documents creating FOWC, said the creation of the organization was conceived by many of those living around the Cove and others in the Hadlyme area because of increased speeding motor boat and jet ski traffic in the Cove in recent years, damaging wetland plants and disrupting birds and other wildlife that make the Cove their home.

Slater said “Our goal is to develop a master plan for protection of the Cove through a collaborative effort involving all those who have a stake in Whalebone Cove – homeowners along its shores and those living nearby, the Silvio O. Conte Refuge, the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), hunters, fishing enthusiasts, canoeing and kayaking groups, Audubon groups, the Towns of Lyme and East Haddam, The Nature Conservancy, the Connecticut River Watershed Council, the Lyme Land Conservation Trust, the Connecticut River Gateway Commission, and others who want to protect the Cove.”

“Such a plan”, said Slater, “should carefully evaluate the habitat, plants, wildlife and eco-systems of the Cove and the surrounding uplands and watershed and propose an environmental management plan that can be both implemented and enforced by those entrusted with stewarding the Cove and its fragile ecosystems for the public trust.”

FOWC has written a letter to Connecticut DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee asking that he appoint a blue ribbon commission to conduct the research and develop the management plan. FOWC also asked that Commissioner Klee either deny or defer approval on any applications for new docks in the Cove until the management plan can be developed and implemented. Currently there are no docks in the Cove.

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“We are very concerned that the installation of docks permitted for motor boat use will greatly increase the amount of motorized watercraft in the Cove,” said Slater. “There’s already too much jet ski and speeding motorboat traffic in the Cove. Those living on the Cove have even seen boats towing water skiers crisscrossing the wild rice plants at high tide. Something has to be done to protect the birds and marine life that give birth and raise their young in the Cove.”

Slater urged all those “who treasure Whalebone Cove and the many species of birds, turtles, fish, reptiles, amphibians, beaver, and rare flora and fauna that make their home in it to attend the meeting, whether they live in the Hadlyme area or beyond.”

Expected to be at the meeting will be representatives from USFW, DEEP, the Connecticut River Watershed Council, and several other conservation organizations.

The meeting will be at 4 p.m., Sunday, March 6, at Hadlyme Public Hall, 1 Day Hill Rd., in Lyme, which is at the intersection of Ferry Rd. (Rte. 148), Joshuatown Rd., and Day Hill Rd. Representatives from the Silvio O. Conte Refuge will make a short presentation on the history and mission of the Conte Refuge system, which includes nature preserves throughout the Connecticut River Valley in four states.

Refreshments will be served.

For more information, call 860-322-4021 or email fowchadlyme@gmail.com

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RiverQuest Offers Osprey/Eagle Cruises During April

An osprey, returned from his winter spent in the southern hemisphere, feeds his young on the nest.

An osprey, returned from his winter spent in the southern hemisphere, feeds his young on the nest.

AREAWIDE – Late March into early April is when the Osprey returns to Connecticut from its southern wintering grounds. It is a wonderful sign that spring is finally here!

The Osprey, a large bird of prey with a 4’6” to 6’ wingspan, eats only fish, so it is sometimes referred to as the Fish Hawk. Ospreys migrate south for the winter to areas where their food supply will not be affected by frozen rivers and lakes. They settle down in the southern US, Central America, South America, and have been seen as far south as Argentina. Ospreys of breeding age are returning north now, to start a new nest or to re-establish a nest they may have used in previous years.

There are many Osprey nests along the lower Connecticut River, from the mouth of the river in Old Lyme/Old Saybrook to as far north as Middletown. There will be activity on the many man-made nesting platforms at the Roger Tory Peterson Preserve in Old Lyme and on other platforms located along the Connecticut River, in “natural” tree settings and on the top of each of the large navigation aids that mark the river channel.

A great way to see this nesting activity is by boat.

During the month of April, RiverQuest, an eco-tour vessel located at Eagle Landing State Park in the Tylerville section of Haddam, is offering several cruises to the general public to view and learn about the Osprey and other wildlife, including hawks and another famous raptor, the Bald Eagle, which may be spotted.

After disappearing from Connecticut in 1948, the Bald Eagle has made a return and there are several active eagle nests on the river. Two of these nests will be visible from RiverQuest and we will most likely see one or more of our resident Bald Eagles.

Other areas of interest that will be seen on our cruise include the Goodspeed Opera House, Gillette Castle and the Chester/Hadlyme Ferry. The cruises are approximately 2.5 hours in length and cost $40 per passenger (no children under 10 years old please). There are binoculars on board for loan during the cruise and complimentary coffee and tea. To learn more about these informative cruises or to reserve your spot, please visit ctriverquest.com or call (860) 662-0577.

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Search for Vernal Pools and Emerging Life in the Preserve, April 9

#4-SalamanderESSEX – On Saturday, April 9, at 9 a.m., join ecologist and Ivoryton resident Bob Russo on a hike in the Preserve in search for salamanders, frogs and plants emerging from the long winter. He will guide you to a few of the Preserve’s vernal pools and describe the biological and geological features that make these areas so unique and bountiful.

Bob Russo is a soil scientist, wetland scientist and ecologist who frequently played in swamps while growing up. He works for a small engineering company and is also the chair of the Essex Park and Recreation Commission.

Meet at the Preserve East Entrance parking lot, off Ingham Hill Road in Essex. The hike is 1 1/2 hours duration on easy to moderate terrain.  Bring boots.  Open to all ages. Bad weather cancels.

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Chester Land Trust Erects New Signs on Its Properties

Richard Harrall, Chester Land Trust president (left) and Bill Meyers, Trustee, installed new Land Trust signs. Photo by Vivian Beyda

Richard Harrall, Chester Land
Trust president (left) and Bill Meyers, Trustee, installed new Land Trust signs. Photo by Vivian Beyda

CHESTER –  The Chester Land Trust, an all-volunteer non-profit organization in Chester, provides stewardship for 10 preserves and three easements. These properties are protected for open space in perpetuity.

Recently, new Land Trust signs have been installed on Rte. 154 by the bridge and along  Water Street for the Chester Creek preserve (46 acres in three  parcels). Another sign was placed on the south side of Rte. 148 near Camp Hazen for the Duck Pond Preserve (6.1 acres).

More information about the organization is at chesterlandtrust.org.

 

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CT River Museum Begins EagleWatch, Winter Wildlife Boat Tours

Connecticut River Museum environmental educator Bill Yule leads the boat tours and helps participants spot Bald Eagles, wintering hawks and waterfowl and other wildlife from the deck of EnviroLab III. Photo: Connecticut River Museum

Connecticut River Museum environmental educator Bill Yule helps visitors spot Bald Eagles, wintering hawks and waterfowl and other wildlife from the deck of EnviroLab III. Photo: Connecticut River Museum

AREAWIDE – The Connecticut River Museum, in partnership with Project Oceanology, will begin its annual EagleWatch and Winter Wildlife boat tours aboard the EnviroLab III on Friday, Jan. 29.

Winter is the best time for seeing Bald Eagles in Connecticut, and the best place to see them is from a boat on the Connecticut River. Connecticut has more than 80 year-round resident breeding eagles, but in winter the number can swell to 150 as rivers and lakes freeze farther north.

Eagles are not the only attraction for winter wildlife viewing, as other raptors like marsh hawks, Peregrine falcons and snowy owls can be spotted from the river. Ducks, loons, harbor seals and other wildlife all become more visible in the austere beauty of the winter riverfront landscape.

From Jan. 29 through March 13, boat tours will be offered on Fridays at 1 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Each tour on the EnviroLab III is 90 minutes long. You can stand out on the deck looking for wildlife or relax in the heated cabin with complimentary coffee and watch the river through the windows. Naturalists will narrate the trip and help you spot the eagles and other wildlife.

For more information or to make reservations, visit www.ctrivermuseum.org or call 860-767-8269. The Connecticut River Museum is located on the Essex waterfront at 67 Main Street and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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RiverQuest Now Booking Annual Winter Wonderland/Eagle Boat Cruises

EagleAREAWIDE – Connecticut River Expeditions is ready to cruise on the lower Connecticut River this February and March for their 13th Annual Winter Wonderland/Eagle Boat Cruises. These perennially popular winter cruises will depart from Eagle Landing State Park in the Tylerville section of Haddam, Conn.

Cruises will start on Saturday, Feb. 13, and run through March 20.

These cruises are very popular; it is suggested you book early to reserve your spots.

“We are really looking forward to offering this unique cruise during the 2016 winter season. After last year’s horrific ice conditions on the river, we can’t wait to make it work this year!” Capt. Mark of the quiet, friendly eco-tour vessel RiverQuest says. “On this very special cruise, our goal is to search for and learn about resident and visiting Bald Eagles and other wildlife we will find on our journey. We feel very fortunate that we are able to bring people out on the river during this quiet season to experience these magnificent raptors and one of our greatest natural resources, the Connecticut River.”

Without the summer boat traffic, there is a sense of tranquility on the river and with no leaves on the trees, the river’s edge offers a much different view, making it easier to find and see winter wildlife. In past years, bird sightings have included from one to forty-one Bald Eagles, along with numerous hawk and duck varieties, falcons, cormorants and more. On occasion, fox, coyote, deer, bobcat and even seals have been seen!

Winter and early spring are also a great time of year to explore and experience the entire lower Connecticut River Valley. Come out, enjoy and support local businesses. There are shops and restaurants in Haddam, East Haddam and neighboring towns; stop by and visit one before or after your cruise. Although Gillette Castle, a mere 4.5 miles away from RiverQuest is closed, the park grounds are open for daytime visitors.

So take a trip and beat winter cabin fever! Take your camera and binoculars. If you have no binoculars, no worry, there are extras available on RiverQuest for your use during the cruise. There will be complimentary coffee and tea on board.

Weekend and weekday times are available for these 2+ hour cruises. Cost is $40pp.

It is requested that no children under 10 travel. For more information, departure times and easy on-line reservations visit RiverQuest at ctriverquest.com. 860-662-0577. Private Charters and Gift Certificates are also available.

 

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Malloy, Blumenthal Join Celebrations Marking 15-Year Effort Culminating in Protection of ‘The Preserve’

Governor Dannel Malloy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal cut the ribbon. (L to R: Carl Fortuna, Old Saybrook First Selectman, Alicia Sullivan, CT State Director of the Trust for Public Land, State Representative Brendan Sharkey, Speaker of the House, Gov. Dannel Malloy, Will Rogers, President and CEO of The Trust for Public Land, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, State Representative Phil Miller).

Governor Dannel Malloy (third from left) and US Sen. Richard Blumenthal (second from right) cut the celebratory ribbon at yesterday’s event.  Also pictured from left to right are Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna, CT State Director of the Trust for Public Land (TPL) Alicia Sullivan, State Representative Brendan Sharkey (D-88) who is also Speaker of the House, TPL President & CEO Will Rogers and State Representative Phil Miller (D-36.)  All photos by Nigel Logan.

OLD SAYBROOK — Governor Dannel P. Malloy and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal joined over 200 state and local officials, and local residents at a reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony in Old Saybrook on Thursday to celebrate the permanent protection of “The Preserve,” the 1,000 acre coastal woodland recently acquired primarily by the state and the Town of Old Saybrook. The Essex Land Trust also owns some 70 acres in Essex.

Hosted by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), the celebration was held at the Great Cedars (West) Conservation Area on Ingham Hill Rd. in Old Saybrook where a large tent was erected to provide seating, a refreshment area and space for a band. All guests other than VIPs were ferried on school buses from the M & J Bus Depot on Ingham Hill Rd. to the site.

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy addresses the large audience.

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy addresses the large audience.

Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna spoke briefly followed by Governor Dannel Malloy. “The Preserve is no longer the largest unprotected coastal forest between New York City and Boston, because it’s now protected,” said Malloy, stating emphatically, “This is a monument to Connecticut and who we are and what we are … part of history is now permanently preserved.”

US Senator Richard Blumenthal speaks.

US Senator Richard Blumenthal speaks.

Blumenthal enthused, “There is no way to describe in words the stunning beauty of this land,” continuing, “It will now be enjoyed by our children and our children’s children.” Prompting ripples of laughter, he also apologized with tongue in cheek to, “… all the golfers who will never have the benefit of playing on the golf courses,” that were once planned for the area.

State Representative Phil Miller

State Representative Phil Miller (D-36) has been deeply involved in the project to protect ‘The Preserve.’

Also sharing the celebration and offering thanks to the many thousands of individuals and organizations who helped make saving “The Preserve” possible were Connecticut State TPL Director Alicia Sullivan; Speaker of the House and State Representative Brendan Sharkey (D-88); State Representative Phil Miller (D-36); DEEP Policy Director Jessie Stratton; and TPL President and CEO Will Rogers.

Crowds gather to celebrate the successful conservation of 'The Preserve' at Great Cedars, Old Saybrook

Crowds gather to celebrate the successful conservation of ‘The Preserve’ at Great Cedars, Old Saybrook.

Refreshments, speeches and award presentations were followed by a ceremonial ribbon-cutting by Governor Malloy and Senator Blumenthal against the striking back-drop of the green trees of “The Preserve” and a brilliant blue sky.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (left) chats with State Representative Phil Miller after the ribbon-cutting.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (left) chats with State Representative Phil Miller after the ribbon-cutting.

The celebration marks the culmination of 15 years of hard work, fund-raising and collaboration by an enormous number of individuals, local, state and federal organizations and public figures. Blumenthal remarked that he was reminded of a favorite quote from Margaret Mead, “Never doubt the ability of a small group of intelligent, committed people to change the world – it is the only thing that ever has.”

Rounding off the official part of the ceremony, Rogers noted, “The Trust for Public Land has always referred to ‘The Preserve’ project as the Holy Grail,” adding with a broad smile, “We have now found the Holy Grail.”

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Nature Conservancy, East Haddam Preserve 133 Acres of Priority Lower CT River Lands

LogoEAST HADDAM — A project providing a key addition to a 10-mile conservation corridor has been successfully completed by The Nature Conservancy.  Protection of more than 130 acres of forest will connect two popular conservation and outdoor recreation areas, while safeguarding three-quarters of a mile of streams and wetlands that feed into one of New England’s most important natural resources: the Connecticut River.

“Protecting the forests and wetlands that border Connecticut River tributaries benefits the health of the entire lower Connecticut River, as well as everything—and everyone—that relies on it,” said Sarah Pellegrino, land protection and strategies manager for The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut.

“In this case, the newly protected land will help preserve water quality for brook trout, migratory fish and mussels; provide habitat for migratory birds and other animals and secure beautiful outdoor spots where current and future generations can hike, birdwatch and simply get out in the woods,” Pellegrino said.

Located within the basin of the Eightmile River, a Connecticut River tributary, the acreage includes two separate acquisitions on which the town of East Haddam and The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut collaborated. Both acquisitions were awarded Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition grants from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Both areas will be open to the public for passive recreation.

The acquisitions are adjacent to the Conservancy’s Burnham Brook Preserve, which was the first land protected by the Conservancy in the entire Connecticut River watershed, starting in 1960.

Conservation of one of these properties—the 113-acre Lefebvre property—accomplished a long-standing Conservancy goal of connecting Devil’s Hopyard State Park and Burnham Brook Preserve. It adds to a roughly 10-mile conservation corridor that extends to the confluence of the Eightmile and Connecticut rivers.

This project was awarded a DEEP open space grant of $263,700 towards the total purchase price. The property will be jointly owned and managed between the Conservancy and the town.

The second acquisition—the 20-acre Zeleznicky property—is a 20-acre parcel that supports mixed hardwoods and contains over 1,000 feet of Burnham Brook. To protect this land, the Conservancy and East Haddam jointly applied for a DEEP open space grant and were awarded $78,000 towards the purchase price.  The town will own and manage the property.

“These acquisitions were possible only because of the patience and commitment of willing land owners and of the conservation partners who played a role,” Pellegrino said “We’re extremely pleased both of these properties will remain as natural areas.”

Editor’s Note: The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.  To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org/connecticut.

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