October 18, 2021

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.


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.”

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.

Essex Corinthian YC Explores “Teaching Life Lessons & Character Through Sailing,”


ESSEX — For more than 100 years, the United States Coast Guard Academy (CGA) has consistently developed exceptional leaders of character who are Semper Paratus (Always Ready) to perform courageously in any conditions of the maritime environment.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Zeke Lyons, one of the Officers in Charge in the Coast Guard Academy’s Coastal Sailing Program, will visit the Essex Corinthian Yacht Club on Sunday, May 31, at 4 p.m. to reflect on three years of adventure and guiding experiential learning with CGA cadet crews during summer cruises throughout New England on board the Academy’s fleet of eight custom designed Leadership 44 sloops.

Lt. Cmdr Lyons is completing a three year assignment as a Company Officer on the Academy’s staff.  In addition to sailing each summer as part of the Coastal Sailing Program, he was also an Instructor of Organizational Behavior and Leadership in the Management Department.

Prior to his assignment at the Coast Guard Academy, he graduated from the Eisenhower Leadership Development Program at the United States Military Academy at West Point in conjunction with Columbia Teacher’s College in New York City.

Lt. Cmdr Lyons will combine humor and insights about the CGA experience to shed light on how the Academy develops leaders of character and his talk will highlight why, as Vice Admiral James Pine said, “The sea has, though the ages, been of all schools, the best for bringing out the qualities of leadership.”

This talk is open to the public but space is limited.   Contact the club’s office at 860-767-3239 or ecyc@essexcorithian.orgto reserve space.  There will be an informal reception following the talk.

The Essex Corinthian Yacht Club is located at 9 Novelty Lane in Essex.   For more information about the Club, visitwww.essexcorinthian.org

RiverQuest Teams up with Old Saybrook Boy Scout Troop for Selden Island Clean-up

With the backdrop of the Goodspeed Opera House, the Old Saybrook Scouts gather for a photo to display the fruist of their labors after their trash pick-up efforts on Selden Island.

With the backdrop of the Goodspeed Opera House, the Old Saybrook Scouts gather for a photo to display the fruist of their labors after their trash pick-up efforts on Selden Island.

HADDAM/OLD SAYBROOK — It was a sunny, warm day with a little breeze.  The Connecticut River was inviting as always in the eyes of Captain Mark and Mindy Yuknat, the owners of the eco-tourism vessel RiverQuest.

On Saturday, May 2, they invited Boy Scout Troop 51 from Old Saybrook to help with what they hope to become an annual event called, “The 1st Annual Selden Island Clean-up.”

For years Captain Mark has been navigating the Connecticut River.  RiverQuest offers guided tours throughout the year, educating the public about the river and its rich history, wildlife (eagles and ospreys), flora and fauna.  On this day RiverQuest was bringing the Scouts, leaders and volunteers out to Selden Island for a clean-up and a campout.

These Boy Scouts are hard at work on Selden Island.

These Boy Scouts are hard at work on Selden Island.

With the help of the CT DEEP staff located at Gillette Castle, they acquired a camping permit and plenty of trash bags.  Phil Yuris, the park maintainer, was excited to help.  He was very grateful for all the work that was done by the group and hopes that more groups will get involved in the future. As he had hoped, it was a very positive experience for all.

Scoutmaster Dan Sullivan had originally presented the “clean-up” idea to the boys and they were very enthusiastic.

“What a great experience this was, not only for the 16 Scouts, but, also for the four accompanying adults as well. “ Sullivan said, “This was a very different trip for us and all the boys walked away with a very positive experience.  I believe every one of them will take away a new appreciation of the motto “Leave No Trace” and leave everything better than they found it.”

He continued, “We were also able to have all the boys work on earning two merit badges over the weekend, Bird Study and Nature, thanks to  John Ogren from the Old Saybrook Land Trust.  These lessons along with the Clean-up effort hopefully will foster a lifelong appreciation of our environment.”

On Sunday, with about enough trash to fill a pickup truck, they headed back to RiverQuest’s berth at Eagle Landing State Park.  Mindy Yuknat stated, “The Connecticut River starts in a beaver pond in New Hampshire near the Canadian border.  It is cleaner than it ever has been, but there is always room for improvement.  It is amazing how much debris and trash is deposited on the river banks. “

Captain Mark said, “It was a fun weekend and we are already talking about another trip this year.  We hope to get more Scout troops and other groups involved and we hope to get better equipment to help us remove and transport larger items like tires.”

For more information about Selden Neck State Park, visit http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2716&q=435364&deepNav_GID=1650.

For more information about Old Saybrook BSA Troop 51, visit http://www.ostroop51.org

For more information about RiverQuest, visit http://ctriverquest.com/

For more information about Mark Yuknat, visit captainmark@ctriverquest.com or call 860-662-0577.

RiverQuest Offers Osprey/Eagle Cruises in 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 in the nest.

HADDAM — 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 here …

The Osprey is a large bird of prey (raptor) with a wingspan up to 6’ that eats fish, hence, it is sometimes referred to as the fish hawk. Connecticut Ospreys migrate south in late August through late September to areas where their food supply will not be affected by frozen rivers and lakes, sometimes as far south as Argentina. Ospreys of breeding age, at least three-years-old, are returning north now to start a new nest or to re-establish and re-build a nest they may have used in previous years.

Ospreys nest along the edges of the lower Connecticut River, from the mouth of the river in Old Lyme/Old Saybrook up river as far as Middletown. There will be activity on the many man-made nesting platforms at the Roger Tory Peterson Preserve near the mouth of the river in Old Lyme and on several other nesting platforms on the river, in “natural” tree settings and on the top of each of the navigational day markers that indicate the river channel. It is also hoped there will be Ospreys nesting on the new Osprey platform placed on the 101-year-old East Haddam Swing Bridge.

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 April to view and learn about the Osprey and other wildlife that may be spotted, including hawks and another famous raptor, the American 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. It will be possible to view two of these nests from RiverQuest and very possibly, see one or more of the local resident Bald Eagles.

Other areas of interest that will be seen on the cruise include the Goodspeed Opera House, Gillette Castle and the Chester/Hadlyme Ferry. The cruises are about 2.5 hours in length and cost $40 per passenger (no children under 10-years-old.) There will be complimentary coffee and tea and a limited supply of binoculars on loan for the cruise.

To learn more about these informative cruises and/or reserve your spot with the easy on-line booking system, visit ctriverquest.com or phone 860-662-0577.

CT River Museum Offers Canoe, Kayak Paddle Program Partly Funded by Cabela’s

Connecticut River Museum Expands On-water Experiences with the Development of a Canoe and Kayak Paddle Program. Photo credit: Joan Meek.

Connecticut River Museum Expands On-water Experiences with the Development of a Canoe and Kayak Paddle Program. Photo credit: Joan Meek.

ESSEX — The Connecticut River Museum (CRM) will launch a canoe and kayak paddle program on the museum campus in Essex, CT this summer as a major expansion of its environmental outreach.  The Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion, conservation and improvement of wildlife and wildlife habitat, hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor sporting and recreational activities, has made a generous contribution to CRM that will fund the purchase of 10 boats as well as assorted equipment that will make this important educational program possible.

According to the museum’s director, Chris Dobbs, “The Connecticut River Paddle Explorations Program is an exciting expansion of our ongoing environmental education activities and will allow more members and visitors to get out on the water.  We are thankful to the Cabela’s Outdoor Fund for making this possible.”

“Cabela’s Outdoor Fund is proud to support the Connecticut River Museum and its efforts in educating and exposing the community to the great outdoors,” said Jeremy Wonch, vice president of Cabela’s Outdoor Fund. “The Connecticut River Paddle Explorations Program will be great for both the community and the conservation efforts on the Connecticut River.”

Between June and September, CRM will offer canoes and kayaks at a nominal fee as a member benefit and to the public.  The program will allow visitors to explore the local marshes and tributaries around CRM, a great way for adults and families to access the River.

Dobbs commented, “Through the generosity of the Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, the museum will be able to use these boats for a variety of education programs.”  He said that this would include “guided paddles, exploration of nature preserves along the River, and places further afield.”  As part of the expanded vision for the museum, Dobbs would like the paddle program to partner with land trusts, historical societies, and other organizations up and down the River as a way to build appreciation for this “magnificent cultural and environmental resource.”

For more information about this program, to volunteer with the paddle program or to provide additional support, contact the Connecticut River Museum at 860.767.8269 or via email at crm@ctrivermuseum.org.

The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street, Essex and is open daily from 10 AM – 5 PM and closed on Mondays until Memorial Day. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for children age 6-12, free for children under 6.

For more information, call 860-767-8269 or go to www.ctrivermuseum.org.


Photo Credit: Support from Cabela’s Outdoor Fund will allow the Connecticut River Museum to expand its paddle programs and provide more people with wonderful experiences like the annual swallow migration. Photo courtesy of Joan Meek.

Oh, What a Winter … and More on the Way!

Old Saybrook Town beach

Old Saybrook Town Beach.  All photos by Adina Ripkin.

After a snowless first half of winter, the weather finally seemed to catch up with itself as recent snow storms have swept through the northeast.

Piles of cleared snow at the junction of Main Street and Pennywise Lane in Old Saybrook

Piles of cleared snow at the junction of Main Street and Pennywise Lane in Old Saybrook

Storms on Jan. 26 and 27 and then again during the first weekend in February have left snow accumulated throughout Connecticut, especially along the shoreline.

A snowy scene in Saybrook

A snowy scene in Saybrook

Although we dodged the most recent storm, which hit much harder in inland Connecticut and neighboring Massachusetts, bitterly cold weather is just around the corner according to the weather forecasters.

Footsteps_to_the_church_OSIt may seem to have been an endless winter, but no records have been broken here to date — unlike in Boston, Mass., where snowfall accumulation totaled well over 70 inches in January alone!

With more snow and freezing temperatures expected over the next couple of weeks, Shoreline residents are bracing themselves once again for more shoveling, hot chocolate, and picturesque drives!

Stay safe … and warm … and enjoy!

Winter Storm Juno Set to Arrive Today, Two Feet of Snow Possible

Snowfall forecast for the state of Connecticut.

Snowfall forecast for the state of Connecticut.

AREAWIDE – This is the map issued by the state’s Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS) showing predicted snowfall totals for Winter Storm Juno. It looks like there’s little chance we’ll dodge the snow this time, in contrast to last week when we were let off pretty lightly.

The National Weather Service has declared a Winter Storm Watch for all of Connecticut from Monday evening through Tuesday night. Early predictions include heavy snow with considerable blowing and drifting snow with accumulations of 12-24 inches. Anticipated winds of 10 to 20 mph with gusts up to 45 mph are also expected.

Based on these predictions, Essex, Chester, Deep River and Old Saybrook residents should plan for hazardous road and travel conditions along with the potential for loss of power.

Local Emergency Management teams recommends that residents begin to prepare for this upcoming event. Reach out to family members to discuss family plans and remember to care for pets, animals and livestock during this event.

The Emergency Management teams will continue to monitor this storm and post further information as needed.

Here’s a link to track the storm and another to view how to prepare for the storm.

CT River Watershed Council Partners Receive $10M to Improve Long Island Sound 

The Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC) is one of seven partners receiving a $10 million federal grant funded through USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program. This new project brings together seven partners to improve the health of Long Island Sound. The funding will be matched dollar for dollar by other local, state, and private funding sources.

Excess nutrients have been identified as the primary driver of hypoxic conditions (lack of oxygen) in Long Island Sound and are also impacting upland water resources within the watershed, which encompasses areas of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

The project will develop a comprehensive, whole-farm management certainty program for farmers in the area. It will use both working lands and easement programs to improve soil health and nutrient management, establish community resiliency areas with a focus on enhancing riparian areas, and institute a land protection program to agricultural and forestry areas.

The Council is very pleased to be one of the many partners on this important project to improve the health of both the Connecticut River basin and Long Island Sound,” says CRWC Executive Director Andrew Fisk.  “Funding will allow CRWC to continue working with landowners on restoration projects on their land that will improve our rivers and protect their investment in productive farm and forest land.”

The Connecticut River contributes over 70 percent of the freshwater to Long Island Sound and plays an important role in the health of the Sound.  “We are proud to be working with landowners to help them do their part to restore and protect the public’s water,” notes Fisk.  “Many individuals working together across the entire watershed will have a great impact to improve the health of our rivers and Long Island Sound.”

The CRWC works to protect the watershed from source to sea. As stewards of this heritage, the organization celebrates its four-state treasure and collaborates, educates, organizes, restores and intervenes to preserve its health for generations to come. The  work of the CRWC informs the communal vision of economic and ecological abundance.

To learn more about CRWC, visit www.ctriver.org.

This project is one of more than 110 high-impact projects across all 50 states that will receive a portion of $370+ million as part of this new effort.

More information on the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program and other awards is available at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/farmbill/rcpp/

Local Legislators Applaud $2 Million Bond Issue to Help Purchase The Preserve

From left to right, Rep. Jesse MacLachlan, Essex resident Suellen McCuin, Chris Cryder of Save the Sound, Kate Brown of The Trust for Public Land, Sen. Paul Formica, Rep. Phil Miller, Sen. Art Linares, Rep. Devin Carney,  Rep. Terrie Wood, Jim Millard of The Trust for Public Land and Lori Fernand of The Trust for Public Land.

From left to right, Rep. Jesse MacLachlan, Essex resident Suellen McCuin, Chris Cryder of Save the Sound, Kate Brown of The Trust for Public Land, Sen. Paul Formica, Rep. Phil Miller, Sen. Art Linares, Rep. Devin Carney, Rep. Terrie Wood, Jim Millard of The Trust for Public Land and Lori Fernand of The Trust for Public Land.

Five state legislators, State Senators Art Linares and Paul Formica, and State Representatives Phillip Miller, Devin Carney and Jesse MacLachan have applauded the Jan. 12, approval of a $2 million state bond issue to assist in the acquisition of the Preserve. The Preserve property consists of 1,000 acres along the shore of Long Island Sound that is presently open space.

“This is terrific news,” said Sen. Art Linares, who represents Essex, Old Saybrook and Westbrook. “Permanently protecting this forest and wetland is critical, not only for the animal and plant species whose survival greatly depends upon it, but also for the local communities whose water supplies and recreational enjoyment of Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River could be irreparably damaged if development were to occur.  This news is the result of the determination of the many environmental champions in our region, like Rep. Phil Miller and former Rep. Marilyn Giuliano.  We also thank Gov. Malloy for his commitment to this effort.”

“I am delighted to see this vast expanse of land will be protected for future generations. Residents in southeastern Connecticut care deeply for the environment and enjoy hiking and bird watching in The Preserve, among other recreational activities.  This wise purchase by the state will ensure that future generations will be able to continue the stewardship of this land,” said Sen. Paul Formica, who represents Old Saybrook and is a member of the Energy and Technology Committee.  “I thank Rep. Phil Miller, former Rep. Marilyn Giuliano, The Trust for Public Land and the many environmental advocates from our region who have worked so hard for this funding.”

“The approval today by the Bond Commission of $2 million in funding to ensure the purchase of The Preserve shoreline property represents an important landmark decision that is certainly welcomed.” said Rep. Philip Miller (D – Essex/Chester/ Deep River/Haddam). “This will enable us to protect and preserve open space property that will benefit not only people who live in the region, but all of Connecticut’s citizens, for generations to come.”

“The funding for the Preserve will allow generations to come the opportunity to enjoy some breathtaking landscape in its unencumbered state, right here in Connecticut” said Rep. Devin Carney (R), representing Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and Westbrook. “Many people in Old Saybrook and along the shoreline will be thrilled by the finalization of these funds. For many, it has been a long time coming – I am happy to see that all of their passion and hard work has paid off.”

“The citizens of Connecticut value the abundance of beauty within our state and want it to be protected in perpetuity,” said Rep. Jesse MacLachlan (R), representing Clinton, Westbrook and Killingworth.  “It’s wonderful to see that we are making it a top priority to preserve the natural beauty and rural character of towns along the shoreline. Only through initiatives like these can our state’s rural areas obtain the true protection they need for years to come. I’d also like to express my sincere gratitude to all parties involved in seeing this come to fruition.”

Other Facts about The Preserve

Voters in Old Saybrook authorized the town to provide $3 million in funding to purchase a portion of The Preserve located in Old Saybrook and a small piece in Westbrook. The Trust for Public has also raised an estimated $1.2 million to cover the final portion of funding for the purchase, and the Essex Land Trust has agreed to purchase 70 acres of land in Essex that is a portion of The Preserve with the help of a $471,250 open space grant from DEEP.

One of the numerous vernal pools found in The Preserve.  Photo by Jerome Wilson.

One of the numerous vernal pools found in The Preserve. Photo by Jerome Wilson.

The Preserve consists of approximately 1,000 acres of land along Long Island Sound in three towns: 926 acres in Old Saybrook; 71 acres in Essex; and four acres in Westbrook. The Preserve includes 38 vernal pools, 114 acres of wetlands, more than 3,100 linear feet of watercourses, high quality coastal forest, and an Atlantic White Cedar swamp.

The dense canopy of forest and the Pequot Swamp Pond act as a critical refueling stop for many migratory birds, and the many freshwater seeps on the property are home to amphibian species such as the northern dusky salamander, spotted turtles, and box turtles. In all, more than 100 species of amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds thrive on this property, some of which are state-listed species of special concern and others of which are declining in other areas of the state.

In addition to its recreational and habitat resources, The Preserve provides important water quality benefits to residents.  Surface waters on the property drain to three different watersheds: the Oyster River, Mud River and Trout Brook, as they make their way to Long Island Sound.  The protection of The Preserve will ensure that storm water on the site is recharged to local aquifers.  An aquifer protection area is located just east of the Preserve and supplies an average of 200,000 gallons per day of drinking water to Old Saybrook and surrounding communities.

The Preserve also offers benefits for coastal resiliency in the face of climate change, and conservation of it will ensure lessened storm water impacts from hurricanes and other intense storms. The Preserve acts act as a sponge for storm water, releasing it slowly into the tributaries and rivers that lead to the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound, protecting downstream property owners from flooding.

Editor’s Note: This article was prepared directly from a press release issued by the House Republican Office.

Land Purchase and Donation Expand Conserved Areas and Wildlife Refuge

LYME — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently partnered with The Nature Conservancy to add 66 acres of tidal marsh and coastal lands along Whalebone Cove in Lyme to the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

Announced today, this expansion of the refuge includes the purchase of 26 acres from a private landowner, along with a donation of four previously conserved properties totaling 40 acres, from the Conservancy to the Service. Together, these parcels establish the new Whalebone Cove Division of the refuge.

The Nature Conservancy negotiated the new 26-acre property purchase on behalf of the Service and made option payments over 2 ½ years to allow time for the Service to secure funding for the purchase.

The newly protected property contains approximately 2,000 feet of Connecticut River frontage and forms the southern entrance to Whalebone Cove. It features extensive high and low tidal marsh communities; steep, wooded slopes; an upland kettle-hole wetland complex; floodplain forest; upland meadows; and mature forest. Whalebone Cove features exemplary tidal marshes that host one of the largest stands of wild rice in Connecticut. It is an important wintering area for bald eagles and black ducks and a significant feeding area for migratory waterfowl.

Just south of Gillette Castle State Park in Lyme, Whalebone Cove is one of the most undisturbed and biologically significant freshwater tidal marshes on the Connecticut River. The Cove has been a longtime conservation priority of The Nature Conservancy as well as a “special focus area” for the Conte Refuge. The donated acreage was originally conserved by The Nature Conservancy more than a decade ago.

“Today, we celebrate the permanent protection from development of these precious natural areas,” said Nathan Frohling, the Conservancy’s director of Connecticut coastal and marine initiatives.

“The new acquisition, combined with the parcels the Conservancy is now donating, will build on a legacy of conservation here and in the Lower Connecticut River. The Conte Refuge represents an important new and trusted partner in achieving a larger conservation vision for Whalebone Cove. The Service’s role was key to making the purchase possible, and with it 80 percent of this freshwater tidal marsh site is now protected,” Frohling said.

“This acquisition would not have been possible without the Service’s close partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the continued support from the Congressional Delegation and the Administration,” said Andrew French, project leader at the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. “Now, we look forward to collaborating with local residents and our partners in being good stewards of this land and good neighbors with those who live in the area.”

Connecticut leaders this week expressed their support for the refuge.

“I commend the Nature Conservancy for their longstanding commitment to preserving vital natural habitats in Connecticut and nationwide. This partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve 26 acres of beautiful and environmentally-precious land deserves to be applauded and replicated,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal. “I will continue to work alongside advocates to ensure that our valuable habitats are protected and treasured for generations to come.”

“This project is a testament to the incredible power of the Land and Water Conservation Fund when it comes to completing high-value conservation acquisitions,” said Senator Chis Murphy. “Unspoiled tidal lands are a rarity in heavily-developed states like ours, and this parcel will be a valuable addition to the Silvio O. Conte Fish and Wildlife Refuge.”

“The Connecticut River is an ecological treasure, and this project will help to protect it for generations to come,” said Representative Joe Courtney, of Connecticut’s 2nd District, which includes Lyme. “I applaud the Nature Conservancy for their work to secure this parcel of undeveloped land, and their commitment to protecting our state’s natural landscape.”

Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge was established to conserve native plants, animals and their habitats in the 7.2 million acre Connecticut River watershed that stretches across four states. It is the only refuge in the country dedicated to a river’s entire watershed. The refuge works to protect land, form partnerships with citizens to foster conservation efforts, educate the public, and pass on the importance of the watershed to future generations.

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.


Work Helps Control Damaging Invasive Plant Along Lower Connecticut River

phragmites australis

Phragmites australis

In order to help restore and sustain the tidal wetlands along the lower Connecticut River, The Nature Conservancy last year undertook invasive phragmites control work at 12 locations on more than 215 acres.

Paid for by funding provided by the Ecosystem Management and Habitat Restoration grants administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the state-permitted and safe herbicide treatments are necessary to help sustain the gains made by DEEP, The Nature Conservancy and others against phragmites.

Initial post-treatment monitoring concluded in June 2013, and the DEEP grant-funded work completed last year by the Conservancy helps ensure that gains made from previous phragmites control efforts are sustained.

In addition to sustaining gains made against phragmites, the project provides more experience and know-how for partners to better analyze best management practices, ensuring future decisions remain well informed.

The treatments took place at sites in East Haddam, Lyme, Old Lyme, Essex and Old Saybrook. Observation of conditions in treated areas will be ongoing.

“The Conservancy is grateful for the DEEP’s leadership on this issue,” said David Gumbart, assistant director of land management for The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut. “We’re also grateful to the many private landowners who granted permission for work on their lands and appreciative of the many supportive local land trusts and towns.”

In the 1990s, a study documenting the invasion of phragmites along the lower Connecticut River showed that the outstanding native biodiversity for which these marshes are famous was disappearing at an alarming rate. In some locations, over 40 percent of the native plant communities had been converted to phragmites in less than 30 years.

Subsequently, the Conservancy, DEEP and others began work to stop these losses and rein in phragmites in the tidal marsh system using conventional herbicide and mulching treatments. Over time, an approximately 80 percent reduction of the plant has been achieved in the tidal marshes of the lower Connecticut River. These efforts also helped regain additional habitat that will see colonization by native species.

More about phragmites and the Lower Connecticut River

Invasive European strains of Phragmites australis were introduced to the United States in the 1880s, possibly through ships’ ballast, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Invasive Species Information Center.

Since then, phragmites has become one of the biggest threats to the lower Connecticut River’s exemplary tidal marsh system. This is because it overruns the native plant communities that are a primary feature in the system’s health and productivity.

Although common birds and wildlife can utilize stands of phragmites, the biodiversity and overall ecological integrity of a marsh system is severely compromised by the invasive plant.

Sustaining the tidal marsh habitats through efforts such as phragmites control sustains rare plant species, as well as the migratory, shore and wading birds that thrive in these habitats. Among the other beneficiaries are fish, including the Atlantic silverside, that utilize the marshes at high tide. Such work also helps sustain the quality of the Long Island Sound.

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy at www.nature.org/connecticut

Pettipaug Yacht Club Excels in Small Boat Sailing Programs for Young Sailors

A shoreline view of the high school racing teams on the water

A shoreline view of the high school racing teams on the water

The Pettipaug Yacht Club will offer a truly impressive roster of small boat, sailing programs for young people during the soon-to-be-upon-us summer sailing season. The club is located in Essex off River Road, directly on the Connecticut River, making it an ideal small sailing boat location. Among the club’s sailing programs for young sailors this summer are those at the club’s prestigious Pettipaug Sailing Academy.

The guiding spirit behind the Pettipaug Sailing Academy is retired Electric Boat engineer and club Board member, Paul Risseew. Risseew not only directs the Sailing Academy, he runs virtually all of the sailing and boating programs at the Pettipaug Yacht Club.

Learning to Sail at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy

The aim of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, which was founded in 1950, is to teach young sailors in Risseew’s words, “the pleasure of sailing in small boats and also the racing in small sailboats.”

Six rigged sailboats are ready for the afternoon races

Six rigged sailboats are ready for the afternoon races

155 young sailors have enrolled this coming summer for the sailing classes at the Academy. Courses at the Academy are divided into two sessions. The first session begins on July 1 and ends July 23, and the second session begins on July 25 and ends on August 16. Some students take both sessions for seven full weeks. Others opt for a single session of three and a half weeks.

Rolling sailboats into the water; a stiff winds await them

Rolling sailboats into the water; a stiff winds awaits them

Academy days are also broken up into morning classes and afternoon classes.  Morning classes, which are for children, ages 8 to 11, are held from nine o’clock until noon. Afternoon classes, which are for students, ages 12 to 16, are held from one o’clock until four o’clock.

Sailboats ready for winds gusting to 20 knots

Sailboats ready for winds gusting to 20 knots

The curriculum of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy includes lessons in teamwork, rigging, capsize recovery, tacking, gibing, reaching, running, sailing to windward and tying knots. Upon their graduation from the Sailing Academy, students are givens ranks that reflect their respective sailing skills. The rank of progressions as they are called are; Seaman, Seaman First Class, Second Mate, First Mate, Boatswain, Skipper, and Racing Skipper.

With the wind blowing hard a sailboat sets sail from the dock

With the wind blowing hard a sailboat sets sail from the dock

This year the enrollment at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy was completely filled by March 30. However, sometimes there are drop outs, just before classes begin. When this happens, new students are taken off the waiting list. The tuition at the Academy for both sessions is $700 and $400 for a single session.

A Sailboat “Race Clinic” to Precede Academy Classes

 Prior to the instructional sailing classes of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, the club will hold an intensive, five-day “Race Clinic” for small boat, racing sailors. Classes for the clinic will be held from Monday, June 24, to Friday, June 28. The “Race Clinic” is designed to teach students how to win sailboat races, and it is expected to attract some 25 students, ages 12 to 15.

All eight fulltime sailing instructors at the club will serve on the faculty of “Race Clinic.” The clinic’s curriculum will include; in getting a good start in a race, reading the wind to attain the fastest speed, as well as learning what are sometimes not so nice, but permitted, racing tactics. Tuition for the intense, five day “Race Clinic” is $200.

Other Summer Programs at the Pettipaug Yacht Club

Another program featured this summer at the Pettipaug Yacht Club will be Powerboat Courses designed by the U.S. Powerboating Association. There will be eleven, one day, Powerboat Courses held throughout the summer sailing season. The first course will be held on Sunday, April 28, and the other course dates will be posted on the club’s web site at www.pettipaug.com and on the club’s bulletin board.

The Powerboat Courses are for students of all ages, and the one-day course begins at 8:30 a.m. and end at 6:00 p.m. The tuition is $180. For further details contact Paul Risseew at 860-767-1995, or at PRisseew@aol.com .

Teaching Sailors to Teach the Art of Sailing

As if the above programs were not enough, there will also be two courses at the club on teaching sailors how to teach the art of sailing.  A Level 1 Instruction Course for would-be sailing teachers will be held over the two weekends of June 8-9 and June 15-16. A more advanced Level 2 Instruction Course for sailing teachers will be held over three consecutive days, June 17, 18 and 19.  The tuition for the Level 1 course is $350, and $300 for the Level 2 course.

In addition, there will be Windsurfing Courses, mostly for the young, throughout the summer, for which there could be a small charge.

Club’s Hosting of High School Racing Teams

Finally, during the months of March and April of this year, the club has been hosting sailboat races for three local, high school sailing teams. (Photos of a recent race of these teams are pictured with this article.) The teams are students from; Valley Regional High School, which has nine sailors; Xavier High School, which has 16 sailors; and Daniel Hand High School, which as 28 sailors.

Fifteen of the sailboats used in this pre-season sailing program are owned by the Pettipaug Yacht Club, and twelve are owned by Xavier High School. Although it is understood that all of the sailors participating in this program are members of the Pettipaug Yacht Club, there is no financial cost involved for the racing participants.

Paul Risseew’s Philosophy of Teaching Young Sailors to Sail 

 In teaching young sailors Risseew said, “Our priorities at Pettipaug are Safety, Fun and Learning, in that order.” He also noted, “If the students are not having fun, they won’t pay attention to the learning.”

Pettipaug Sailing Academy leader, Paul Risseew

Pettipaug Sailing Academy leader, Paul Risseew

“The majority of students return year after year, because they are spending the warm summer days with friends and playing on, and in, the water,” he continued. “Pettipaug is able to provide expert racing coaching to those who want to go in that direction. We send Optimist and 420 race teams to over a dozen regattas at other clubs in Connecticut.”

Putting it all in perspective, Risseew said, “As Rat said to Mole, in Wind in the Willows:  “‘There is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” 

Connecticut River System Highlights Role of People in Sustaining Nature

Dr. Frogard Ryan,  state director, The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut

Dr. Frogard Ryan, state director, The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut

A fishway around a dam on the Mattabesset River in East Berlin might not seem to have much to do with the towns along the lower Connecticut River.

But the fishway The Nature Conservancy is building on the property of StanChem, a polymer manufacturing company about 35 miles from my home in Old Lyme, is good news—here and there.

As the Conservancy’s state director, I have a vested interest in the project’s success. It’s no stretch, though, to say we all have an interest in this work.

The Mattabesset River is a tributary of the Connecticut River, and the elaborate U-shaped fishway being built near the StanChem complex will help improve the health of the river area residents know and love as a neighbor.

That’s just for starters, though.

As I toured the site recently with StanChem President Jack Waller and Conservancy Connecticut Director of Migratory Fish Projects Sally Harold, I was reminded of a fundamental truth:  Conservation is made possible by people, and if Connecticut’s natural resources are to be sustained into the future, it will be because people make it so.

River and stream connectivity is an important environmental issue and opportunity in our state. The vast majority of dams in Connecticut are relatively small and privately owned. Many of them no longer serve the purposes for which they were built; some are at risk of failures that could threaten public safety.

From an environmental perspective, dam removal can open access to upstream spawning habitats for migratory fish. It also can restore the natural, swift-moving flows that support some native species, and it can enhance water quality by improving nutrient and sediment transport.

Removal isn’t always an option, of course, and that was the case with this project, where the impoundment created by the dam provides water that would be crucial for StanChem in case of a fire. In such circumstances, a well-thought-out fishway is a great—if not always easy— alternative.

The fishway on the Mattabesset is designed so that American shad, alewife and blueback herring will be able to use it. Because the old dam has been a complete barrier, none of those species has been above it in maybe 100 years.  All told, about 50 miles of habitat—including tributaries to the Mattabesset—will become available to them, improving the overall health of the Connecticut River system.

An embedded tube for migrating American eels is part of the project, too, and the Connecticut Department Energy and Environmental Protection will gather information from an observation room there for its “No Fish Left Behind” reports about monitored fish runs across the state.

Equally important, though, is how this project has happened.

A $308,000 Connecticut DEEP Ecosystem Management & Habitat Restoration grant, a $10,000 contribution from the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership through Northeast Utilities, and private donations to The Nature Conservancy are helping pay for this work. Of course, it also couldn’t happen without StanChem’s active buy-in.

With the state and the private and nonprofit sectors involved, the cooperation that characterizes this project is a model for conservation.

Still, it wouldn’t be possible without the commitment of individuals—people who want to make a difference. Mr. Waller, whose buoyant enthusiasm for the project is infectious, comes to mind, as does DEEP Supervising Fisheries Biologist Steve Gephard, a long-time champion of the project.

A great deal of work was done last year to improve the health of Connecticut’s rivers and streams. In East Berlin, Farmington, Stonington and elsewhere, there were real successes with dam removal and fish passage.

With so many of Connecticut’s dams privately owned, the future of this type of work depends greatly on individuals—including, I hope, some readers here—who see and cherish the opportunity to make a difference. There are so many dams out there where work of real ecological value could be done. Perhaps one of them is yours.


Dr. Ryan, who is the State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut, lives in Old Lyme; the Conservancy’s Connecticut Chapter is located at 55 Church Street, Floor 3; New Haven, Conn. 06510-3029.

Enjoy an Exciting, Educational ‘Eagle Watch’ Cruise with CT River Museum


The view east into Hamburg Cove from the Connecticut river

Last Friday was the perfect winter weather for a boat trip on the lower Connecticut River to view the wildlife and enjoy the experience of being one of the very few boats on the river during mid-February.  I was a guest aboard the 65 ft. Project Oceanology vessel Enviro-Lab III  for one of the “Eagle Watch” boat trips offered by Connecticut River Museum in partnership with Project Oceanology during February and March each year.  This is the fourth season the Connecticut River Museum has teamed up with the Groton-based marine science and environmental education organization, Project Oceanology, to provide a dynamic on-water experience.

The 65 ft Enviro-Lab III owned by Project Oceanology who have partnered with Connecticut River Museum to offer the Eagle Watch trips

The 65 ft Enviro-Lab III owned by Project Oceanology who have partnered with Connecticut River Museum to offer the Eagle Watch trips

Although visitors to the river in winter can see many interesting avian species, the bald eagle is the one most visitors hope to see.   Declared an endangered species in 1973 with the passage of the federal Endangered Species Act, populations began to recover following the ban on DDT, and by 2007,  the bald eagle populations had recovered to the extent that they have now been removed from the endangered species list.  They 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.

Every winter a number of bald eagles migrate south looking for open water to feed as the lakes and rivers in Canada and northern New England  freeze.  Many of these birds stop in Connecticut and winter along major rivers and large reservoirs, and can been seen feeding and occasionally nesting on the banks of the Connecticut river.


A juvenile bald eagle in flight over the Connecticut river

Although a sighting is not guaranteed, eagles are spotted on most trips.  On the first trip of the season, six adult eagles and eight juveniles were spotted.  On this trip, we were fortunate to spot our first young eagle soaring high above the boat minutes after casting off from the town dock as the boat headed north up river and then we saw several more eagles throughout the trip, some roosting in riverside trees and some gracefully circling above the river.


A juvenile bald eagle perched on a tree along the river bank

Eagles nesting on Nott Island

One of the highlights of the trip was to observe, from a distance, the rare sight of an eagle on her nest on the eastern side on Nott island, just across the river from Essex harbor.  In the 1950s the bald eagle was no longer a nesting species in Connecticut but, according to the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, in 1992 the state documented its first successful nesting of bald eagles since the 1950s when a pair raised two young birds in Litchfield County.  Since then, the nesting population has increased gradually and, in 2010, 18 pairs of bald eagles made nesting attempts in the state.


Female bald eagle on nest on Nott Island, CT

One such nesting pair is seen here on Nott Island.  The female was about to lay her eggs a week or so ago but was temporarily disrupted by Winter Storm Charlotte.  Hopefully, now that she is back on her nest, the eggs have been successfully produced.

“Let’s go out on the river and have some fun!”

The Eagle Watch boat trips are led by local expert naturalist and lecturer Bill Yule, who is an educator at the Connecticut River Museum.  He is not only an expert on most wildlife species found along the Connecticut River but also a renowned expert on local mushrooms and fungi.  Yule welcomed visitors aboard the trip with the invitation, “Let’s go out on the river and have some fun,” and throughout the trip he helped locate and identify birds, related historical stories about life along the river and made sure all the passengers were warm and comfortable with plenty of hot coffee.

Naturalist and lecturer Bill Yule provides interesting and informative information on all wildlife species seen along the river throughout the cruise

Naturalist and lecturer Bill Yule provides interesting and informative information on all wildlife species seen along the river throughout the cruise

Yule was accompanied by two educators from Project Oceanology, Chris Dodge and Danielle Banco, who cheerfully helped identify interesting birds and assisted the boat captain with docking and navigating up and down the river between the ice flows.

Bald eagles are certainly not the only avian species guests can enjoy on the trip and on this particular voyage, we enjoyed numerous sightings of  cormorants, black-backed gulls, red-tailed hawks and common merganser ducks.

We returned to the town dock some 90 minutes after departure excited by all the birds we had seen and moreover, educated about them, and, despite the cold, I am confident I am not the only traveler on that voyage who will be taking another trip later in the season.  All in all, it was an awesome experience!


The common merganser duck in full flight along the river

February Vacation Week Programs

The Connecticut River Museum is also offering a week-long program of vacation week activity for the February school break starting tomorrow, Feb. 19.  In addition to an Eagle Watch adventure on Friday, Feb. 22, the program will also include a day exploring the many galleries in the museum, an outdoor exploration day including a nature hike and animal tracking, and an arts and crafts day building models boats, learning knot tying and other maritime arts.


Avian wildlife exhibit in the Connecticut River Museum

To make reservations for the vacation week program or for more information about Connecticut River Museum educational programs or Eagle Watch Tours, visit www.ctrivermuseum.org or contact Jennifer White Dobbs in the Education Department at jwhitedobbs@ctrivermuseum.org or Bill Yule, also in the Education Department, at byule@ctrivermuseum.org.

Project Oceanology in Groton also offers Winter Seal Watch trips during weekends in February and March.  These two and a half hour trips travel out into Fishers Island Sound to view these playful creatures, which are abundant in this area.  The ticket price of $25 (adults) and $20 (children) also includes a 20-minute slide presentation.


The Connecticut River, a National Treasure – Nov.15 Essex Library

Join Steve Gephard, Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection Supervising Fisheries Biologist for his review of significant past and ongoing Connecticut River conservation efforts on November 15 at 7.30 p.m. at the Essex Library.

The talk will provide updates on fish restoration programs but will go beyond that to highlight the many attributes of the Connecticut River.  Steve will share his knowledge of the river, natural history facts, and perspectives on the future.

Steve Gephard

Steve Gephard has been on the Connecticut River for over 50 years, beginning as a child swimming in the river at a time when no one really should have been swimming in the river.  He has spent the last 30 years working as a fisheries biologist for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, where he currently supervises the Diadromous Fish Program within the Inland Fisheries Division.  Throughout his career, he has been involved with the program to restore Atlantic salmon to the river and enhance runs of shad, river herring, eels, and other species. He serves on many regional committees and is appointed as one of three U.S. Commissioners to the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, which regulates harvest of salmon in international waters.  In addition to his fish-related duties, Steve is an ardent land conservationist, founder and past-president of the East Haddam Land Trust, and boater on the river.

Frostbite Sailors Brave the Wind and Cold, “all for the love of sailing”

Snow on boats before launching (Photo courtesy of Bob Leary)

In a bright, bright sun, on a cold, cold day, with the wind gusting well over 20 knots, twenty-five hearty sailors raced last Sunday (Oct. 30) for the better part of an afternoon in Essex Harbor.

These Frostbiters, as they call themselves, didn’t seem to mind conditions such as these. For them the more blustery it is, the better. In fact, when it was learned that ten “frostbiting” sailboats had capsized while sailing this afternoon, it was taken as a point of pride, rather than  a demonstration of what some might consider pure foolishness.

Readying the boats in parking lot

There were four kinds of boats in the afternoon’s competition in the cold.  They were: (1) the graceful, 30 foot Etchells, (2) the JY-15’s, (3) the Ideal 18’s, and (4) the one person, single sail Lasers of 13 feet, 9 inches. Most of the boats that capsized during the afternoon races were Lasers, with a few JY-15’s as well.

Single-handed Lasers round a mark

Once a Laser capsizes there is only one person at hand, who can bring the boat back upright, and that is the one man crew. Regular dunking into the water is the primary reason why Laser skippers wear full-bodied wet suits. The wet suit, however, does not keep a capsized sailor’s head from getting wet, and there is always a bit of water leaking down into the wet suit, after the boat and sailor have gone into the drink.

Crew struggles with capsized boat in water (Photo courtesy of Bob Leary)

A Crash Boat, fully motorized, patrols the Frostbite races, manned by  Frostbite Yacht Club Commodore, Scott Baker. If Baker sees that a capsized Laser sailor is having a difficult time righting his vessel, he has the power to send the boat back to the dock, because of the sailor’s evident fatigue. “If they are having trouble, we send them back in,” Baker says.

On this afternoon the Commodore sent three exhausted Laser skippers back to the dock, because of fatigue. In fact, there was such a concern for capsizing Lasers that the crash boat began following them around their course.

The larger Etchells can suffer a variety of breakdowns, such a broken spinnaker pole or traveler, but they are rarely, if ever, ordered back to dock, because of skipper’s fatigue.

As for Sunday’s sailing competition, the Frostbite sailors spoke with real feeling. “It was an awesome, windy day,” said Toby Doyle, who took first place with his Etchells in the afternoon’s races. “We survived,” he added.

An Etchells close-hauled

Other winning skippers were Mathew Wilson, first place of the JY-15’s; Ed Birch, captain of the winning Ideal 18, who is frequently a winning skipper; and Chris Field, the first place Laser skipper, who had only himself to thank for his victory.

As for the weather conditions, Ed Birch said, “It was nasty out there, with big puffs coming up.” A one point Birch said, “We were getting killed out there.”

An Etchells with full spinnaker

For her part Charlotte Posey, who sails an Ideal 18 with her husband, Dennis Posey, she was shocked when her husband said he wanted to go sailing today. They first had to shovel the snow out of their driveway.

The Ideal 18 requires a crew of two, and Charlotte Posey says that she and her husband “are one of the few couples out there who can sail together.”

After the races a former Commodore of the Frostbiters, Rick Harrison, said simply while sipping some hot soup, “It was a day of survival.”

Frostbnite Commodore Scott Baker eating soup after the race

The ultimate arbiter, whenever there is a dispute, is the club’s   Principal Race Officer, Tom Carse. As for the winds this day he termed them, “Very difficult, very puffy.”

Commodore Baker officially termed the day’s weather conditions as, “challenging but not dangerous.” Do the Frostbiters sometimes sail in  “dangerous conditions?” The Commodore answered, “Yes.”

Of the 25 sailboats boats in the races, there were four Etchells, four JY-15’s, 8 Ideals 18’s, and 9 Lasers. After all the boats were pulled out of the water, and stored until next week’s race, beginning at 1:00 p.m. Sunday, November 6th, in Essex Harbor, the Frostbiters retired to a local yacht club and some hot soup. Sailing a boat is always a matter of moods, it seems. This past Sunday was one of just pure excitement.

Frostbiters' Race Committee Boat

Pettipaug Yacht Club Still Showing Effects of Irene

Debris taken out of the water by club members

Hurricane Irene visited the Pettipaug Yacht Club in a big way on Sunday, August 28, and the club is still feeling the after effects. For one there is literally a parade of floating logs coming down the river, and clogging up with debris the club’s boat ramp to the river.

“We have to clear the boat ramp at least every two days,” says Paul Risseeuw, who is the Director of the club’s Sailing Academy and informal caretaker of the club.  A pile of the debris that has been collected by club members is kept next to the boat ramp. The sizes of some of the pieces taken out of the river by club members are impressive.

However, as Risseeuw admits, some of the whole trees that pull up at the club’s docks are simply too big to handle, Reluctantly, they have to be pushed back into the river to continue their journey towards the sound.

Paul Risseeuw points high water mark at club

When the Irene’s storm water reached its highest, it was up to the second step from the top of the stairs at the club house. The club house itself is on a platform some four feet above the ground, and no water touched the deck.  However, all the grounds of the club were completely submerged during the storm period.

When the water on the grounds reached a certain point although anchored in some fashion, the boats began to float. (All of the boat’s masts and been removed before the storm.) This meant that some 120 boats were floating around during flood periods. The boats afloat included: Blue Jays, 420s, Lasers, as well as several Boston Whalers.

Although anchored to the ground, because of the leeway in their painters, the floating boats began to sway, and a number of them banged into each other. A few boats were damaged in this fashion. Also, a storage shed, where wind surfers had been kept, was badly banged out by wind, water and swinging boats.

However, saved from banging boats on the flooded grounds, were the small Optimist sailboats. They had been stacked on the floor of the clubhouse and were unharmed.

The story was very different for one boat owner at the club, who decided to keep his boat in the water in spite of Irene. It was a big mistake. Early in the storm the boat was flipped over to its side, and a floating tree coming down the river dragged the capsized boat and mooring down the river, and eventually hung up on another mooring. The owner found his boat after a hunt only to learn that the boat’s mast had been broken into three pieces. The boat owner had to hire a floating crane to get his boat out of the water.

Some club grounds still a jumble

Meanwhile the club’s docks completely avoided any damage, although the poles that are driven into the river bottom to hold the docks in place now appear bent. If the poles themselves had failed, it would have meant the loss of the club’s docks.

With the exception of the single boat left in the water, and the only minor damage caused by the boats anchored on the club grounds banging around, the club got away pretty easily from the visit by Irene. As Risseeuw puts it bluntly, “We got away cheap.”

A second chapter to Irene

There was also a week or so later, a second chapter to Irene. Some are calling it, the “Vermont mud slide.” Because of the heavy rains during Irene, the Vermont shore of the Connecticut River, way up north, flushed an enormous amount of sediment, i.e. mud, into the river.

In fact, there was so much Vermont mud coming down the river, the waters out in front of the club turned brown for a number of days.

Also, according to Risseeuw, there was a layer of Vermont mud dumped on the grounds of Pettipaug. There was also a second surge of high water, but nothing on the scale of Irene.

With its grounds scarcely above high tide levels, it is inevitable that future hurricanes will again completely flood the grounds of the Pettipaug Yacht Club.

Entrance sign of the Pettipaug Yacht Club

Risseeuw says that before another hurricane hits, which is inevitable, the club has decided to order all boats off the club grounds, and moved to higher elevations. Whether that means storing them in private driveways, or even in well elevated marinas, it won’t make any difference. “The boats are not going be allowed to be left here,” Risseeuw says.

Also, there will be strict rule that all boats, when a hurricane threatens, must be hauled out of the water, no exceptions. Some sailors simply have to be saved from themselves.


Vista’s 3rd Annual Tour de Shore Cycle Event

Vista’s 3rd Annual Tour de Shore Cycle Event will take place Sunday October 16, 2011 in Westbrook, CT!

Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center, Inc. is pleased to announce the 3rd Annual Tour de Shore Cycle Event taking place on Sunday, October 16. Proceeds from the Tour de Shore benefit the Endowment Fund of Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center.

This year’s cycling event features a fun ride and rides of 60, 40 and 25 miles.  All rides start and end in Westbrook Center behind the Westbrook firehouse.  Last year more than 200 riders participated in this fundraising event.

Of particular note to cyclists is that Steve Johnson, President of USA Cycling is participating in this year’s event and riding in the 60-mile ride!

All rides have routes with plenty of beautiful Connecticut back roads and shoreline views.  All participants receive cue sheets and route maps.  The event concludes in Westbrook with a barbecue, a raffle drawing and awards ceremony.

For more information, or to register for this year’s, event please visit www.vistatourdeshore.com or call Susan Bradley at 203-318-5240.

Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center, Inc. is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting adults with neurological disabilities to live independent and successful lives.  For more information about Vista, please visit www.vistavocational.org.

Camp Hazen YMCA Summer Camp Open House Sunday, October 9

On Sunday, October 9, Camp Hazen YMCA will host an Open House from 2-4 p.m.   Families are encouraged to attend to learn more about summer opportunities for children.   Now is the time to plan for the summer of 2012 and research the right camp for your child.  Camp Director, Kath Davies, states “Attending an Open House provides a valuable opportunity for families to meet the Camp Directors and see the facilities to determine if Camp Hazen is the right choice for their family.”

Located on Cedar Lake in Chester, Camp Hazen YMCA offers one and two week session of both day and resident camp.  Camp Hazen provides children with a community of positive role models who nurture children to ensure that they are successful, have fun, make friends and develop life skills such as independence and leadership.   Campers may choose traditional camp activities like swimming, arts and crafts and campfires – along with more unique programs including a skate park, alpine tower, mountain biking and windsurfing.  All activities are designed to ensure that campers will not only have fun, but also learn how to get along with others, feel part of a community and become confident in trying new things both at camp and at home and school after camp.

When asked why she sent her child to Camp Hazen YMCA, a camper parent reported, “Generation “Pop Culture” kids today need a wholesome experience like one provided at Camp Hazen!!! No focus on mastering gadgets, instead, developing important life skills….socialization, coping, independence and confidence, to name a few. Terrific role models at Camp Hazen!!!”

Camp Hazen YMCA believes the summer camp experience is a vital part of a child’s development and offers a tier pricing program to make camp affordable for all.  For more information, contact Danita Ballantyne at 860-526-9529 or visit www.camphazenymca.org

Schooner Mary E Returns to Steamboat Dock for Daily Cruises

Schooner Mary E sails the Connecticut River daily from Steamboat Dock at the Connecticut River Museumecticut River Museum.

Essex, CT – Now a familiar sight along the Connecticut River, the historic schooner Mary E has returned to her home port at the Connecticut River Museum and hoisted sail for public cruises and private charters for the 2011 season. The 75-foot gaff rigged schooner was built in 1906 in Bath, Maine and believed to be one of the last remaining of her kind.

Now through October 30, the general public can take a 1.5 hour afternoon sail at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. or a 2 hour sunset sail at 6 p.m. and enjoy the natural beauty and cultural heritage of New England’s Great River.  Afternoon cruises which include admission to the museum’s exhibits and galleries are $26 per adult and $16 for children age 12 and under.  Sunset sails are $30 per person, all ages.  Public cruises are not offered on Wednesdays.  Group tours and private charters are also available.    For more information on schedules, fees, and reservations, call 860-767-8269 or go to www.ctrivermuseum.org.   The Connecticut River Museum, located at 67 Main Street, on the scenic Essex waterfront.

CT Naturalist: Barred Owl vs. Blue Jay

Connecticut backyards never cease to provide amazing encounters with wildlife. This week we highlight an amazing interaction between a Barred Owl and a Blue Jay.

It’s rare enough to encounter an owl in your backyard, but the feud with the blue jay adds a whole new dimension to this sighting.

A Barred Owl perched above an open lawn at twilight, browsing the grass for small rodents and large insects. But this owl is not alone; there is still enough afternoon light for blue jays to remain active. And when a blue jay discovers an owl, it declares a major turf war.

This blue jay dive bombs, flanks, and screams at the quite Barred Owl.  Although, the owl appears harmless, Barred Owls have been known to feed on blue jays, if the jays are on the ground during the owls hunting hours.

Barred Owls are difficult to find in the wild because of their nocturnal behavior and camouflage plumage. However, of all the owl species, Barred Owls are the most likely to be active during daylight hours.

If pileated woodpeckers are present in the area, there is a good chance a Bard Owl may nest nearby, as owls often take residence in the woodpecker’s abandoned tree cavities.

A Barred Owl has a distinct call that has cadence that resembles the phrase, “Who..Cooks..for..you”.

Be on the lookout for Barred Owls in your community. They are one of Connecticut’s most amazing birds!

Family Canoe & Kayak on Mill Pond

Naturalist Phil Miller will lead a canoe/kayak trip on Mill Pond, Sundat October 2, from 1 p.m.

The Essex Land Trust invites you to enjoy the beautiful fall colors that can be seen on this paddle, led by naturalist Phil Miller, along with a possible walk on Jean’s Island on Sunday October 2, beginning at 1 p.m.  Open to paddlers of all ages, but basic experience in paddling is required. This event is co-sponsored by the Town of Essex’ Park and Recreation Department and is part of its Essex Great Outdoors Pursuit Program. Park at the canoe/kayak landing on Falls River Drive in Ivoryton. Bad weather cancels.

Jean’s Island is a seven-acre preserve on Mill Pond in the Falls River. The wooded island has an easy, well-marked loop trail and a landing site. Similar to neighboring Falls River Preserve, Jean’s Island provides both a resting place for migrating birds and habitat for the local population, including songbirds and hawks. Swans, ducks and wading birds such as herons and egrets are also plentiful. The pond waters are home to bass, perch, sunfish and catfish.

The Essex Great Outdoor Pursuit has been created by the Essex Park and Recreation Department with the mission of bringing the families of Essex together through positive and healthy outdoor endeavors while increasing the presence and awareness of our local parks, open spaces and preserves to the community. The Essex Land Trust is pleased to be a co-sponsor of this program. For more information about the program, please visit the town website www.essexct.gov; click on “Park and Recreation”.

For more information about the event please contact Peggy Tuttle at 860-767-7916 or e-mail peggytuttle@gmail.com.


Fourth Annual Antique & Classic Car Show Returns to Essex on September 24

This 1930 Packard Roadster owned by Jay Beveridge of Essex is just one of the many classic cars that will be on display at the Essex Automobile Club’s 4th Annual Classic & Antique Car Show on September 24 at Hubbard Field in Essex.

The Essex Automobile Club will host its 4th Annual Antique and Classic Car Show on Saturday, September 24, 2011.  The show has become a highlight of the early fall season here in the scenic Connecticut River Valley town of Essex.   Antique and classic cars from around the state and beyond will be on display at Hubbard Field located at 75 North Main Street.  The event begins at 10 a.m. and runs until 2 p.m.  Rain date is Sunday, September 25.

According to show co-chairman Terry Lomme, “This is our fourth annual show and every year it gets better. This year we are featuring a class of “woodies”, both foreign and domestic, which will add to the wonderful  antique, classic and exotic cars that we anticipate.”

Automobiles from several eras will be featured, including Brass Era Cars, War Era Cars, Baby Boomer Cars, and sports cars from America and Europe.  People’s Choice Awards will be given to the first and second place entries in multiple domestic and foreign car categories.

Admission is $5.00 per person with children under age 12 admitted free.  Proceeds from the show will benefit Child and Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut.   For more information or to register as a show participant, go to www.essexautoclub.com or email tim@essexautoclub.com.  All exhibitors must be pre-registered. “Cruise-ins” are not permitted.

Essex Garden Club Presents “A Feast for the Senses”


These are the design inspirations for the floral arrangements at the Essex Garden Club’s Small Standard Flower show. This show takes place at the Essex Art Association at 10 North Main St., Essex, Conn., from Friday September 23 through Sunday September 25.

The show will include floral floor designs complementing paintings, functional table settings featuring arrangements of edible and fresh plant material, and creative designs focusing on glamorous eras. Traditional floral arrangements as well as creations made with a healthy dollop of whimsy will be displayed as well.   Open and free to the public, the show will also feature horticulture, children’s displays and container grown plants.

The location for this flower show, The Essex Art Association, is an Essex gem in it’s own right. Started, in 1946, as a non-profit organization for artists to display their work in a 2 room schoolhouse, the Art Association now proudly exhibits paintings, drawings and other media in it’s excellent exhibition space.  The Essex Art Association’s art displayed during the flower show will reflect “A Feast For the Senses” in a Juried Art Show and the location of the Art Association is steps from the heart of Essex for easy access to restaurants and shopping.




Swallow Cruise on RiverQuest

Join Potapaug Audubon and the Essex Land Trust for a “Swallow Cruise” aboard RiverQuest on Tuesday, September 2o at at  5 p.m.  RiverQuest departs from the Essex Yacht Club, 13 Novelty Lane. Bring your own snacks and beverages. Register by calling Goody at 860-767-9763. Fee: $40 per person.

Watch the amazing annual Tree Swallow migration ritual and learn about the phenomenon when you join the Essex Land Trust and Potapaug Audubon for an evening cruise on board RiverQuest. Each year, as many as half a million tree swallows congregate in the lower Connecticut River Valley as they migrate south. Swallows by the thousands converge at dusk, often creating a spectacular “ballet” in the sky, eventually forming a “funnel” or “rain”. As the sunset progresses, the swirling mass become more organized and reaches greater and greater heights. Each evening the swarm takes on a different form. Some nights a tornado shape is formed, some evenings it seems more like a ball or an amoeba flow. Sometimes they fly in higher in the sky while on other nights very low to the water and very close to the boat. As if upon some subtle signal, the swallows drop in to the fragmities at incredible speed.

Cost is $40 per person, payable at the dock. Reserve your spot by calling Goody LeLash at 860-767-9763 by September 15. Make checks payable to RiverQuest and mail to Goody LeLash at 22 Maple Ave., Essex, CT, 06426. Space is limited so plan ahead! Some refreshments provided, but bring your own favorite beverage, snack and binoculars (there is a limited supply on board). Park at the Essex Yacht Club, 13 Novelty Lane in the back lot. The boat will leave promptly at 5pm, rain or shine; so plan to arrive early. Strong winds cancel.


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


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

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

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

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

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

Essex Harbor Master Sets Minimum Storm Preparations for Hurricane Irene

Picnic tables upside down in Pettipaug clubhouse awaiting storm

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

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

The required preparations are as follows:

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

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

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

CT Naturalist: Why do Snakes Have Forked Tongues?

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

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

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

Here’s where it gets even more interesting.

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

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

CTNaturalist: Baby Racoon Rescue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CT Naturalist: Wasp vs. Wasp Fight for Food

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CT Naturalist: The Gray Tree Frog

We are pleased to be able to offer a new series of weekly articles from CTnaturalist, which will provide an in-depth look at Connecticut’s local wildlife. Producer, Will Michael, is an environmental educator and filmmaker. He is a lifelong resident of Connecticut and National Geographic has recognized his work with local habitats. This exciting achievement emphasizes his message that one needn’t travel far to discover fantastic wildlife; Connecticut is home to some of the most diverse and fascinating animal species in the world!

We begin the series with a look at the gray tree frog…

As August begins in Connecticut, keep your ears open for the final songs of the gray-tree frog. The famous trill is heard from June through the end of July, but the recent hot weather is causing frogs to linger longer this year. Take a look at the following video to see live action:

On hot summer nights the trills of male tree frogs emanate out from the perimeters of ponds and wetlands.  The gray-tree frog is a small arboreal frog that spends most of its time in the trees. When breeding season they travel near the water to conduct their annual breeding ritual.

Males produce a high-pitched trill using an air sack under their throat.  The female will choose the male with the most appealing song to be her suitor.

Females lay their eggs in the water where tadpoles will hatch and develop. When they transform into frogs, they will leave behind the water and join their parent’s generation in the trees.

Gray tree frogs are extremely camouflaged and are nearly impossible to distinguish from their surroundings. They have the special ability to change color from a range of green, gray, and charcoal.

Each of their fingers and toes has suction cup-like tips, enabling them to stick to nearly any surface and climb up a vertical terrain with ease.

The trills of the gray tree frog are a sound of high summer – keep ears and eyes open this summer, for this special amphibian in your community.

Stay tuned each week as CTnaturalist explores amazing wildlife found in your backyard!

Will Michael is the producer of CT Naturalist Productions, providing environmental media and education to throughout Connecticut through video and live presentation. His work with vernal pool life has been recognized by National Geographic, emphasizing his message that one needn’t travel far to find natural diversity. Some of the most amazing wildlife in the world can be found right here in our own community!

Local legislators split on state’s new “land swap” law; Daily in favor, Miller against

View of the state land in the swap, which has a river view

The “Haddam land swap” bill, which the Governor approved last Friday (July 8), is now the law of the State of Connecticut. The two local legislators who represent the towns of Essex, Deep River and Chester took completely opposite views on the issue.

State Senator Eileen Daily was the enthusiastic sponsor of the new law, whereas State Representative Phillip Miller strongly opposed it, consistent with his reputation as an uncompromising environmentalist.

The new “land swap” law provides that the state can enter into an even swap of 17.4 acres of a state owned, wildlife management area in Haddam, for an 87 acre track of woodlands adjacent to Cockaponset State Forest in Higganum, owned by a private developer.

A big issue is whether this is a fair deal for the state, since the state paid $1.3 million for the property that it is swapping, and the private developer paid only $428,000 for its property in the deal. Furthermore, the purchase dates of the two properties were only six years apart, 2003 in the case of the state, and 2009 for the developer.

There is no money involved in the swap. The entire deal, sanctioned by the new law, is a pure swap, one parcel of land for another.

Haddam bridge and Goodspeed Opera House, close to the state land being swapped

The state’s 17.4 acre land in the swap overlooks the Eagle Landing State Park, as well as in the distance the Haddam swings bridge and the Goodspeed Opera House across the river. The private developer’s Higganum land in the swap is 87 acres of woodlands, next to the state’s second largest park. In addition, according to swap sponsor Daily, “as many as 33 new single family homes could be built on the Higganum parcel.”

To still the controversy over the fact that the state paid far more for its land than the private developer, the new law mandates that current appraisals be made of the properties to make sure that they are, presently, of equivalent value.

Also, both parties under the new law must make “all reasonable efforts” to conclude the details of the swap by the end of this year. In addition, the new law provides that the State Properties Review Board must approve the swap deal.

The mission of the Review Board, according to its website, is “to provide oversight of State real estate activities … as proposed by State Executive Branch agencies.”

Furthermore, the Board is directed “to assure that transactions are done in a prudent, business-like manner that costs are reasonable, and that proposals are in compliance with State laws, regulations and procedures.”

This language could address the question as to whether or not the state was getting a good or bad deal in the swap, regardless of disparities in the original costs involved in acquiring the two properties.

State Senator Eileen Daily

Also, of course the Governor’s view of the swap could weigh heavily on what the Review Board ultimately decides. As for the Governor’s take on the deal, the Hartford Courant reported that Governor Malloy visited both parcels last Thursday (July 7), and said, “I came to the conclusion that it is potentially a fair transaction, subject to a process,” which would include valuation of both properties and local zoning approvals.

Swab bill sponsor, Senator Eileen Daily said, “I supported this initiative because it makes good sense to concentrate development in the built-up area of Tylerville and add 87 contiguous acres to what is already Connecticut’s second-largest State Forest.  This plan makes good sense environmentally and in terms of economic development for the area,” she said.

In his comments freshman State Representative Miller was careful to be respectful of Senator Eileen Daily, who is a five term incumbent Senator. He said, “I wish I was not against Senator Daily on this [issue], since her public service is quality.”

Miller then went on to harshly criticize the Governor’s actions in signing the swap bill into law. “I am surprised that Governor Malloy would not recognize the bad public policy and false argument  that this bill represents, ” Miller said.

State Representative Phil Miller

Miller also said the bill “presupposes that the legislature would first convey what is clearly conservation land, as though it were surplus to a private developer.” This precedent undermines the foundation of our conservation [policies] hundreds of years in the making here in Connecticut,” he said.

Miller then took a swipe at the state’s new environmental commissioner, saying, “It is too bad that a world [class] academic like Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Esty would not commit to study this issue.”

“Conservationists, sportspeople and citizens from all walks of life in Connecticut are disappointed with the process,” Miller said. “Some citizens of Haddam feel disenfranchised because not a single Board or Commission has had this subject on their agendas, and no town-sponsored public forum was ever convened.”

The Representative Miller concluded, “I am proud to still stand with citizens who feel as we do about this issue.”

Deep River environmental activist John Kennedy was even more outspoken in his criticisms of the swap law. Kennedy criticized what he called “the shameful way that Governor Malloy and his appointed environmental chief, Dan Esty, dodged and fumbled this matter.”

John Kennedy

Kennedy also criticized swap sponsor Senator Eileen Daily. “Daily clearly has an agenda, whatever it is,” he said, and he added, “She is powerful because no one gets any money for their constituent’s projects without her.”

Furthermore, Kennedy charged that Governor Malloy and Commissioner Esty had “no understanding of the state’s environmental law,” exemplified by the Governor’s signing of the new swap law, which Kennedy called “this scarlet letter.”

As for the new law’s impact on Haddam and East Haddam, Kennedy predicted that it will mean “the death of almost all of their small, local businesses … , suffocated by the new shopping mall and hotel.”

“But – [both towns] will have the wonderful bonus of a new river view of a hotel and shopping center – instead of that horrible and ‘polluted’ wildlife management area,” he said sarcastically.

“My – what a great idea this is. This is a perfect storm of stupidity and greed.”

Canoe Kayak North Cove and Falls River

Phil Miller

The Essex Land Trust invites you to paddle North Cove into the Falls River with naturalist Phil Miller leading the way on Thursday July 21 at 5.30 p.m. beginning at Bushnell Street shore access in Essex.

North Cove is a 230-acre body of tidal water between the Falls River and the Connecticut River. The cove is formed in part by Great Meadow, a 200-acre “pendant bar”, or levee, along the Connecticut River. North Cove is part of the Connecticut River Estuary Canoe/Kayak Trail.
North Cove was noted for ship building, and the Williams yard turned out sloops and schooners for the commercial trade in the 19th century. On the eastern shore is Great Meadow which was a beehive of activity, too. Cattle were grazed, salt hay harvested and duck hunting blinds once lined the shore. The bar was also a base for the local shad fishing industry. Great Meadow is topped by cat-tails and reeds while wild rice and bulrush grow at the water’s edge. Rare plants include horned pondweed and tidewater arrowhead. A well-known eagle habitat, the area also attracts two species of rail, along with ospreys, hawks, egrets and herons.

Open to paddlers of all ages but basic experience in paddling is required. Park at the shore access lot at the end of Bushnell Street in Essex. Bad weather or strong winds cancels. For more information about the event please contact Peggy Tuttle at 860-767-7916 or e-mail peggytuttle@gmail.com.


Local Sailors Compete in Essex 12 Meter Challenge

Intrepid, crewed by Essex Corinthians, in action during the 2011 Essex 12 Meter Challenge.

Newport’s Museum of Yachting at Fort Adams was the rendezvous point for over 110 sailors from the Essex, Essex  Corinthian, Pettipaug, and Niantic Bay Yacht Clubs for the 2011 Essex 12 Meter Challenge on Saturday, June 18, 2011.

Following a week of rain and questionable forecasts, the conditions were perfect as sailors boarded eight historic 12 Meter yachts for an afternoon of exciting racing in Narragansett Bay.

Wearing team red shirts, crews from the Essex Yacht Club manned Onawa, the oldest 12 Meter in existence, and American Eagle, a 1964 America’s Cup contender raced by Ted Turner to win the World Ocean Racing title in 1970.

Three crews from the Essex Corinthian in blue boarded Intrepid, the legendary two time America’s Cup winner in 1967 and 1970; Weatherly,  America’s Cup Winner in 1962; and Gleam, build in 1937 and used as a trial horse in the 1958 America’s Cup defense.

In black club polo’s, the Pettipaug team crewed Heritage, a contender in the 1970 defense.

Finally, two crews in white shirts from Niantic Bay manned Columbia, winner of the 1958 America’s Cup, and Northern Light, launched in 1938 and used as a trial horse in the 1958, ’62, and ’64 defenses.

As the 12’s headed into Narragansett Bay, the fleet was met not only with a stiff 15 to 20 knot breeze from the south but also by the awesome sight of the J Class regatta of Velsheda and Ranger staging their first competitive race in Newport since the 1937 America’s Cup.

For the Essex 12 Meter Challenge, a windward –leeward race course started at the north end of Gould and rounded a leeward mark just north of the Newport Bridge.

The fleet was divided into three classes, Vintage, Classic, and Modern.

The Vintage Class included Onawa, Gleam, and Northern Light.   The Classic Class consisted of American Eagle, Columbia, and Weatherly.   The Modern Class pitted Heritage against Intrepid.

The fleet engaged in four very competitive races with all eight 12’s crossing the starting line at once.

In the Classic class, following two outstanding starts, Weatherly (Essex Corinthian) suffered a broken outhaul twice, requiring the crew to improvise a solution to compete well in the final two races.   American Eagle and Columbia experienced very close races with American Eagle (Essex) nudging Columbia (Niantic Bay) for first place in the class.

For the Modern class, Heritage and Intrepid (Essex Corinthian) traded first places between the first and second race.  However, Intrepid was ruled over the starting line early on two occasions, giving first places honors to Heritage (Pettipaug).

In the Vintage Class, Onawa (Essex) earned the first place trophy after several very competitive back and forth races, giving the Essex Yacht Club its second first place trophy on the day.

Following the races, boats and crews returned to the Museum of Yachting for a results party and the story telling that naturally follows any sailing event.   Trophies were awarded to the top two finishers in each class.   To top off the event, each club presented their burgee to be added to the Museum’s historic collection.

The 2011 Essex 12 Meter Challenge embodied the best of great fellowship among fellow yachtsmen and women sailing incredible boats in a grand location.

Offspring of Historic Elm Planted on Old Saybrook Town Green

On July 4, 1876, a committee of Old Saybrook citizens arranged for the planting of 56 American Elms to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence 100 years before. Two hundred thirty-five years after the signing (give or take a couple of days) a group from the Old Saybrook Garden Club, plus Selectman Bill Peace, gathered on the Town Green to plant a seedling of one of those “Centennial Trees.”

Only five of the orignial 56 elms have survived hurricanes, ice storms, development, and the dreaded Dutch elm disease. One of the survivors is on Main Street near Boston Post Road, where it drops its seeds into the garden club’s Constitution Garden, in front of Saybrook Country Barn. Garden-club member, Judy Grover, has dug and potted up several of the successful seedlings in recent years and gave one over to the care of Barbara Maynard, another garden club member and a former First Selectman. This little elm, now about three feet tall, was deemed ready for transplanting and a spot was arranged on the Town Green.

Thus with Bill Peace wielding the shovel, Barbara Maynard steadying the tree, and half a dozen members of the Old Saybrook Garden Club looking on, this handsome little sapling was planted, mulched, and watered in. “It remains to be seen whether the ‘mother tree’ passed on its resistance to Dutch elm disease,” noted Judy Grover, “and the strength to stand up to hurricanes.” But maybe, just maybe another stately elm will one day grace Old Saybrook.

Ivoryton Talk and Walk – Johnson Farm and the Millrace

Chris Pagliuco leading a walk on the Millrace Preserve in 2009

On Sunday July 10 at 2 p.m. Polly and Murwin Johnson will present an informal talk about the history of the Johnson Farm (for which the Essex Land Trust acquired development rights in 2008), which will be followed by a short walk on the Millrace preserve.

Old and new photos of the farm and a video of the sheep shearing event held in June 2009 will also be shown.  At 3 p.m. join Ivoryton resident and historian Chris Pagliuco who will lead an educational walk on the historic Millrace preserve. This half-mile trail along the Falls River is directly behind the library. Park in the Ivory Street lot or on the street. Refreshments served. Event will take place rain or shine.

Scene of the Johnson farm for which the Essex Land Trust acquired development rights.

Essex Harbor 4th July Boat Parade

The Essex Corinthian Yacht Club will be hosting the 4th Annual Essex Harbor 4th of July Boat Parade, Monday, July 4. 

All interested boats are invited to join the parade and are encouraged to dress and decorate your boat and crew!   Boats will marshal north of buoy G25 at 12 noon. Monitor Channel 69 for instructions.

The parade will make two rounds through Essex Harbor, taking the Essex Corinthian Yacht Club to port. For questions, please contact Steve Rodstrom of the Corinthian at 207-841-2333.

New Start Time for the Chester Rotary’s “Four on the Fourth” Road Race

On Monday, July 4, 2011, The Rotary Club of Chester will sponsor its 33nd annual Four on the 4th Road Race.  The start time for the race has been moved to 9:00 a.m.  This year’s event will once again make use of state of the art chip timing.  The scenic, rolling course that loops its way around and through the quaint Village of Chester is USATF sanctioned and measured. 

The start time will be 9:00 a.m. sharp.  Prizes will be awarded to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place female and male runners in all divisions.  As in past years, food and soft drinks for participants and spectators will be available from the Chester Hose Company.  Beer will once again be available at the Rotary sponsored beer tent.  Entertainment will be provided by the Side Doors.  This popular event is a Chester tradition that should not to be missed!
Entry forms, the link to on-line pre-entry through www.Active.com  and race information for this year’s event are available at the club’s website, www.chesterrotary.org. Entry forms are also obtainable at various merchant locations in Chester. The entry fee is $20 for pre-registration before June 20th and $25 thereafter and on race-day.  We encourage participants to pre-enter on-line. On-line registration will be open until 9pm on July 2, 2011.  

Race day registration for all participants will take place between 7:30am and 8:30am at St Joseph’s Parish Center on Middlesex Avenue (Rte 154) in Chester.  On race day, all entrants will receive an official Chester Road Race T-shirt and a complimentary drink ticket for use after the race.   Please note that Main Street in Chester will be closed at 8:00 am on race day. Information, including any detour and parking data will be available on-line at the club’s website, www.chesterrotary.org.

“Mahogany Memories” Antique & Classic Boat Show Set For July 9 at Connecticut River Museum

Holiday Girl is just one of the “Nifty Fifties” boats to be featured at the 27th Annual Mahogany Memories Antique & Classic Boat Show at the Connecticut River Museum on Saturday, July 9 from 9 am – 4:30 pm. Admission is free.

Essex, CT – The Southern New England Chapter of The Antique and Classic Boat Society will present the 27th annual “Mahogany Memories” boat show on the grounds and docks of the Connecticut River Museum on Saturday July 9 from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm.  Admission is free.

The show will feature numerous examples of the finest classic wooden and fiberglass boats commonly seen in this area in the last century.  Boats built by Chris Craft, Century, Lyman, Gar Wood, Elco and many more will be showcased.  Also for this year, boats of the 1950’s will be the featured marquee class,  representing a time of post war prosperity and social and economic growth in the country that made the boating hobby affordable and accessible by everyone. The decade started with runabouts and utilities with large underpowered engines and blonde decks, to boats manufactured at the end of the decade with high powered engines, fins with aerospace inspired designs, specialty ski boats and even the advent of new materials such as fiberglass and the wider use of aluminum. 

Boat owners will be on hand to talk about their boats, exchange ideas and share the joys of using and preserving these beautiful “woodies” and other memorable classics.  In addition, marine supplies, clothing and boat merchandise will be available for purchase and a raffle will be held at the end of the show.  This year’s sponsors include Antique Boat Center, Ashcroft Inc., CCJ, Clark Group, Connecticut River Museum, Essex Savings Bank, Hagerty Collector Boat Insurance, Heritage Marine Insurance, ki Advertising, Middle Cove Marina, New England Chrome Plating, Pusser’s Navy Rum, Schick-Wilkinson Sword, and Soundings.  

The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street on the historic Essex waterfront.  For more information on the Antique and Classic Boat Show and other Connecticut River Museum programs and events, go to www.ctrivermuseum.org or call 860-767-8269.

Free T’ai Chi Classes in Deep River

The Rotary Club of Deep River is sponsoring free T’ai Chi Classes this summer from June 23 to August 30. They will be held Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. The classes will be held at the Waterfront Park in Deep River near the town marina. Wear comfortable clothing that you can move freely in.

The class will be taught by Shifu David Shaver of Peaceful Wolf T’ai Chi Ch’uan. His school is located in East Haddam. Mr. Shaver has been studying T’ai Chi Ch’uan for twenty-four years and teaching for seventeen years. His principle teacher was Grandmaster Jou, Tsung Hwa, the author of “The Tao of T’ai Chi Ch’uan”. His present teacher is Master Bruce Frantzis. He finds this opportunity in Deep River an exciting one. During his trips to China he saw people playing T’ai Chi every morning in the parks. This is somewhat rare in this country. So come and be introduced to this traditional art in a traditional setting.

You will be learning the Fragrance Qigong, which gets the energy moving throughout the body. The T’ai Chi Form will be the short Yang Style form the class has worked on the last three years so returning students can refine their practice. Basic principles of  T’ai Chi movement will be taught and as well as basic T’ai Chi and Taoist philosophy.

While T’ai Chi Ch’uan is truly a martial art and can, after several years training, be brought to a high level of effectiveness for self defense, it is best known in the west for it’s health benefits. Medical and scientific studies have shown T’ai Chi to be highly effective in benefiting a large number of conditions. These include high blood pressure and hypertension, Raynaud’s syndrome, angina, migraine, stress, type A anxiety, depression, arthritis and osteoporosis. It can improve peristalsis and appetite, memory and concentration, strength, flexibility, balance and
immune function.

T’ ai Chi, based on the philosophy of Taoism, is also a wonderful path to spiritual growth and emotional development. It must be understood, however, that all of these benefits can only be realized through regular practice.

Come and play with us this summer – it’s free!

For further information go to www.deepriverrotary.com of call Hedy Watrous at (860)304-1917.

Connecticut River Gateway Commission Reconsiders Land Swap

The Connecticut River Gateway Commission has advised Commissioner Daniel Esty of the Department of Environmental Protection that it is reconsidering its recent offer to transfer thirty-six acres of conservation land in Moodus to the State. The Gateway Commissionʼs position is due to the uncertainty created by the proposed Haddam “land swap” which is pending in the Legislature.

The Gateway Commission has participated in a program for acquisition of conservation land with the DEP for almost thirty years, the partnership having been established by the Legislature in 1973 in the enabling Statutes for the Commission. Throughout the years, the Gateway Commission has acquired conservation easements as well as fee simple property and has in turn transferred those easements and properties to the State of Connecticut. These easements and properties wereeither purchased, using the Commissionʼs own funds, or donated.

In 1986, the Gateway Commission purchased thirty-six acres, known as the Klar Property, in Moodus. The parcel borders Machimoodus State Park on three sides. Because of the uncertainty created by the Legislature’s proposed conveyance of seventeen acres of open space land in Haddam to a private entity (Senate Bill 1196), the Commission is now considering donating the Moodus parcel to a conservation partner other than the State.

The Gateway Commission is concerned the transfer of State-owned conservation land, believed protected in perpetuity, to a private entity for the purposes of development would send a chilling message to property owners who might donate or sell land to the State. Potential benefactors will no longer have confidence that the land would remain in conservation as originally intended. A letter of opposition to the proposed Haddam land swap has been sent by Gateway to the leadership of the State Senate and House in the hopes of having the Haddam land swap section removed from the Conveyance Bill.

The Connecticut River Gateway Commission, like everyone else, awaits the conclusion of the legislative process for Senate Bill 1196 to determine how to proceed with the Klar Property.

Family Fun Walk, Picnic and Concert at Cross Lots

The Essex Land Trust will hold its annual Cross Lots picnic and concert on Sunday June 5, 2011 starting at 4 p.m. From 4-5 p.m. join naturalist Phil Miller and Jen Crown from Park and Rec as they lead special walks through the property.

Phil will focus on environmental points of interest and Jen Crown from Park and Rec will concentrate on fun (but educational) games and scavenger hunts for kids of all ages. At 5pm, find a spot on the hill to listen to the Essex Corinthian Jazz Band. Bring your picnic, blankets and chairs. After the band finishes playing, the Land Trust will unveil an updated plaque of Conservators for Life.

The Essex Land Trust has partnered with Essex Park and Recreation Department as part of the Essex Great Outdoor Pursuit, with the mission of bringing the families of Essex together through positive and healthy outdoor endeavors while increasing the presence and awareness of our local parks, open space and preserves to the community.  The event is also part of the 19th Annual Connecticut Trails Day Celebration promoted by the Connecticut Forest & Park Association.

Cross Lots is situated across from the Essex Library on West Avenue; parking is at the Essex Town Hall, 29 West Avenue. The event is free and open to the public. Bad weather cancels.

For more information please contact Peggy Tuttle at 860-767-7916 or e-mail peggytuttle@gmail.com.

A Singles Club kicks off their Sailing Season

Shoreline Sailing Club is seeking single Skippers & Crew over age 35 for their new sailing season and upcoming cruises to Hamburg Cove and Block Island. 

Visitors are welcome at their meetings held throughout the year on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the Westbrook Elk’s Lodge. Learn how you can participate in sunset cruises, day sails, weekend trips and other activities including dances, hiking, lobster bash, skiing, golfing, and kayaking, dinners, brunches, “dockside” house parties and more throughout the year. 

For more information visit their website at www.shorelinesailingclub.com or call Wayne 860-652-5000.