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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Anthropologist Margaret Meade 

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Fall 2016

November 10 Fall is here and so is your GOSA Fall Newsletter!

GOSA News Fall 2016Please click here or on the newsletter icon at left to: catch up on GOSA’s many activities since last spring; read a wonderful article on sea serpents in Long Island Sound; get an update on our latest land acquisition project; find out where we are with Connecticut’s constitutional amendment to protect conservation lands and what’s happening with the related issue of Groton’s Mystic Education Center. Also, learn how you can protect the wild, the theme of this issue, by converting your traditional lawn into a productive, ecologically sound and naturalistic landscape.

November Click here to learn about an exciting new land acquisition. GOSA is helping the State of CT acquire a property of “exceptionally high conservation value” as a “cooperator” and is raising funds. We hope you will donate to the cause!

Do you have an account at Charter Oak Credit Union? Double your donation! Click here to learn about their matching program for charitable contributions.

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October 13 GOSA Annual Meeting  began promptly at 7 p.m. Joan Smith, GOSA’s president, briefly informed the membership in her President’s Address about GOSA’s accomplishments over the past year. The Treasurer reported on GOSA’s strong financial position in 2016 and the Vice President, Sidney Van Zandt, reported on membership. Click here to read about this year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Herster Barres, who shared his inspiring story about growing trees in the tropics to capture carbon. There were many questions and a lively discussion about Dr. Barres’ work in Costa Rica.

October 7  For the third consecutive year, Pfizer employees, this year from Pfizer’s Manufacturing Department, spent their Pfizer Day of Caring at GOSA’s Candlewood Ridge. According to Joan Smith, GOSA’s President, this year’s volunteers were tops…. It is nice to continue to engage Pfizer personnel again in this successful land restoration project. Some asked me if Pfizer could work with GOSA every year! The answer would be, definitely yes.

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Pfizer employees spend their Day of Caring at GOSA’s Candlewood Ridge

The volunteers were wonderful: hardworking, intelligent, able to learn quickly and taking initiative to come up with efficient ways to get the job done. They provided weeding, fertilizing, watering and mulching to the hundreds of shrubs and trees planted by earlier groups of Pfizer personnel. The plants will now head into winter with a good start. I like the continuity of having Pfizer volunteers involved in so many stages of this project.”

 

 

October 4   GOSA Vice President, Sidney Van Zandt, led a group of eight art students and their teacher on a hike on the Sheep Farm. It was a beautiful day. One of the hikers thoughtfully wrote the following thank you note to Sidney:

caterpillar-by-charles-shaw“Hi Sidney. Thank you so much for taking the painting group out for the hike. Very nice area. The caterpillar (photographed on the hike) becomes the Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly. The caterpillar’s diet is spicebush & sassafras leaves.
Thanks
Charles I. Shaw”

For more in-depth information about this acquisition, please click here to read an article titled An Unusual Jewel in Groton’s Emerald Necklace written by GOSA’s President, Joan Smith and botanist, Whitney Adams.

Stargazing snip2GOSA co-sponsored a Family Stargazing event with the Thames Amateur Astronomical Society at Candlewood Ridge on Friday, August 26.  It turned out to be a beautiful, relatively clear night for stargazing. At least six or seven astronomers and their telescopes were set up and trained throughout the evening on Saturn, Polaris,  the M13 or Great Globular Cluster. Alternatively, gazers could simply follow an astronomer’s laser beam to see the outline of constellations like the Big and Little Dippers, Cygnus, the Milky Way, and Cassiopeia, to name only a few. Around 55 people of all ages, including Society and GOSA hosts, attended; an excellent turnout. All agreed that Candlewood Ridge provided a great venue for stargazing. GOSA wishes to extend a sincere thank you to the Society’s astronomers who were so very generous to share their amazing telescopes and considerable exertise with all who attended.

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Edith Fairgrieve, a former GOSA director and one of four beloved pioneers of the Groton land conservation movement, passed away on August 4. A memorial service was held in her honor on Sept. 12 at 11:00 a.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Mystic. Click here for more infomation about Edith’s conservation work with GOSA and beyond. An obituary was published in The Day on Aug. 17th.

GOSA’s president, Joan Smith shared the following with the Board when she learned of Edith’s passing:

It is sad to see the passing of one of GOSA’s earliest and stalwart members. As Jim Furlong once said, Edith had a moral compass of “true north.” Her legacy lives on in many of GOSA’s principles and projects. She made especially generous contributions to the acquisition of Avery Farm and to the Mystic Woods appeal. We admired her quiet but firm defense of the environment.

Photo, left to right: Edith Fairgrieve, Priscilla Pratt, Sidney Van Zandt and Omar Allvord, at the GOSA Annual Meeting Oct. 12, 2006, in the Latham Chester Store, Noank, where they were honored for pioneering contributions to land conservation in Groton.

Click here to read more about Edith and her work in defense of the environment, including Sidney Van Zandt’s “Rembrance” from the memorial service.

Campers Have a Fun Day at Haley Farm

frog at HF summer 16kids rush boulder at HF 7.21.16

GOSA’s President and VP led a group of William Seely Summer Day Camp 6- and 7-year-olds and their counselors on a tour of Haley Farm.The kids enjoyed playing around the old farm foundations, seeing Goose Pond and its resident frog, spotting butterflies, prospecting for gold in a tunnel, and climbing on boulders. All-time favorite activities included being first in line and finding wild animals, precious rocks, even dead bodies! Everyone – kids,counselors, and GOSA guides alike – had a wonderful time.

Effects of Drought on Habitat Restoration Projects

The key word this summer for GOSA stewardship volunteers has been RAIN, or unfortunately, the lack thereof. According to the U. S. Drought Monitor, as of early October nearly all of Connecticut (98%) is experiencing “severe drought” conditions. Perhaps you have heard that the dry conditions have led to a high level of fire danger and that the wells of many homeowners are running dry. 

What you may not have heard is how an organization like GOSA is affected by drought conditions. Beginning in the fall of 2014, and most recently this past spring, GOSA planted hundreds of native grasses, shrubs and trees in selected areas of its Candlewood Ridge and Avery Farm Nature Preserve properties to restore habitat for at-risk wildlife including the New England cottontail. These plants depend on regular rainfall and the dry summers of 2015 and 2016 have meant that GOSA volunteers have had to think quickly and creatively to find a way to water the plants. Firetruck photo at left: Thanks to Fire Chief Derek Fauntleroy and Nathan Shank of the Center Groton Fire Department for their deliveries of water to fill our pools.

Pool photo: GOSA volunteers watering bucket by bucket the nearly 1000 plants installed with funding from of the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Long Island Sound Futures Fund and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

 

 

 

 

 

March 14 GOSA Advocacy GOSA’s President and Treasurer traveled to Hartford’s Legislative Office Building on March 14th to attend and testify at a hearing held by the Government Administration and Elections Committee on two bills pertaining to one issue: the sale, trade and gift of public lands to developers, municipalities, and others by means of the Conveyance Act. Right now, there is a plan afoot in Groton to convey 68 acres of Mystic River waterfront land owned by the State (now known as the Mystic Education Center, formerly the Mystic Oral School) to the Town of Groton for development. This parcel of land is one of the last undeveloped open spaces on the Mystic River. Both spoke in opposition to the Conveyance Act and in support of a constitutional amendment to make the process more transparent and protctive of open space. Read GOSA’s Call to Action!and articles in The Day and in CT News Junkie about a plan that is far from a done deal. Read below for the background story.

Constitutional Amendment to Better Protect Open Space in CT  Responding to many the attempts over the years to hand over public land to developers, municipalities and others who had no intention of protecting it, Canton State Senator Kevin Witkos has called for a constitutional amendment to protect open space in Connecticut. People who want to save their favorite picnic spots, hiking trails, fishing holes, wildlife watching areas, and recreational space for the future should get behind the proposed amendment. David Leff, the former deputy commissioner for the state DEP who approached Witkos with the amendment idea, reminded us our our “sacred duty to be good stewards” of public lands. “No generation has the right to damage them or give them away.” New York, Maine, and Massachusetts have long had constitutional provisions to protect valuable open space from lawmakers tempted to peddle public properties. It’s time that Connecticut joined them.”

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GOSA closed on the Avery Farm on December 29th! This beautiful 305-acre property will now be protected forever thanks to our many individual donors, foundations, and municipal, state and federal grants. Members of the Weber family, GOSA’s President, V.P., Treasurer, stewardship committee chair, and lawyers attended the closing. It was a great day for open space and for the people of Groton and Ledyard and who can look forward to visiting Avery Farm Nature Preserve as soon as the trails are ready. Stay tuned! Meanwhile, Judy Weber’s delightful story about “Life Growing Up on Avery Farm” as told to Liz Raisbeck, GOSA News writer, is a must-read!

Ongoing Issues and Events: Advocacy,  Education, and Land Care

Education
Why has GOSA been cutting down trees at Candlewood Ridge and the newly-acquired Avery Farm?
Please click here to find out.

Outreach to Kids
CK Explorer’s Club
Click here to read an article about this outdoor hiking program for kids.

.16.15Campers from the Groton Town Parks & Recreation/William Seeley School program visited the Sheep Farm last summer. The 9 to 10 year-old youngsters identified butterflies with guidance from Bea Reynolds. The children scrambled over rocks and a historic house foundation, admired large sycamore and oak trees and enjoyed  a woods walk, the brook, waterfall, and grist mill dam. GOSA president Joan Smith pointed out caddisfly larvae clinging to the bottom of rocks, a sign of clean stream water.

State of Connecticut Land Conservation Goals   A conservation goal set more than a decade ago points to an “ambitious” target: preserving 21 percent of Connecticut’s land as open space by 2023. Since the first Green Plan conservation goal was proposed in 2001, and an update came out in 2007, 73 percent of that goal has been reached over 15 years. That is outstanding news! However, open space funding has now lagged, the state said, and it won’t reach that goal. Read morepine_beetle2_h

Beetle Invasion   Another issue of concern to Connecticut is the latest beetle invasion, threatening three varieties of our pine trees: the red pine, Scots pine and pitch pine. Of these, pitch pine — the only native species of the four — is at the greatest risk. After the warmest winter on record recorded in much of New England, the concern is even greater. Click here to learn more.
Land Care
Invasives Control on Avery Farm   As the saying goes, many hands make light work!  UCONN Ecohuskies, 26 strong from both the Avery Point and Storrs campuses, were joined by GOSA members Jim, Sidney, Syma, Mike, Joan, and newcomer Joel Strauss who together took advantage of a beautiful day to attack invasive plants at the Avery Farm. Most volunteers worked the entire 10 – 2 event.
AF UCONN 11 15 15A large field of Japanese knotweed was first cut back as a warm-up. Next came liberating cedars and other trees from tangles of bittersweet, honeysuckle and multiflora rose. Black swallowwort was bagged for removal from the site, autumn olive cut down, and low-growing vines mowed. Found and removed from the underbrush were trash, glass artifacts, mattress springs, PVC pipes, radios, lamps, and rusty buckets. The site had been an orchard and pasture before being abandoned and overgrown by invasive plants.
GOSA was awarded a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation/Long Island Sound Futures Fund grant to improve habitat for the New England cottontail (NEC), until recently a candidate endangered species at both the Candlewood Ridge and Avery Farm sites. The endangered rabbit had been positively identified by DEEP officials by wintertime DNA sampling of pellets. Because of successful efforts by CT DEEP, GOSA, and other land trusts to improve habitat, the NEC has been delisted as a candidate endangered species. 

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Two groups of volunteers from the Groton area joined forces with to clear invasive bittersweet vines and multiflora rose from a section of Avery Farm. A group from the Groton-New London International Church of Christ volunteered their help and spent a day lopping down vines. Pfizer “Annual Day of Caring” employees  came in two shifts a few days later and lopped and sawed too. Altogether 66 intrepid souls waded into some gnarly thickets of vines and liberated quite a few trees. Thank you!Pfizer Day of Caring 2015

 

 

moving imageRecords Project 

GOSA is collaborating with the Connecticut Land Conservation Council (CLCC) and the Land Trust Alliance (LTA) to organize and digitally scan our paper records according to Land Trust Alliance standards. We are honored to have been selected for this competitive program. The records initiative will help us protect land by protecting the records that document them in perpetuity. There will be back-up systems, both digital and paper, to hopefully last for hundreds of years.

Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge Over the past century, many shrublands and young forests across the Northeast have been cleared for development or have grown into mature forests. As this habitat has disappeared from much of the landscape, the populations of more than 65 songbirds, mammals, reptiles, pollinators, and other wildlife that depend on it have fallen alarmingly.

Last spring, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal to establish the Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge dedicated to managing shrubland habitat for wildlife and connecting existing conservation areas (including GOSA properties) in southeastern New London and western Litchfield. The agency has also identified nine areas in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island. To read the full release, click HERE.

where.we.live_logoLearn all about land conservation on WNPR’s Where We Live program titled This Land (Trust) Was Made for You and Me.

CLCCdoc.ProtectingtheLandYou LoveProtecting the Land You Love   This booklet was written by the Connecticut Land Conservation Council for landowners who love their land and want to learn more about options for permanent protection and what to expect during the conservation process. Click on the icon to discover that there is no “one-size-fits all” approach to land protection, and that you can choose the option that best meets your family’s needs. Throughout the booklet, you can read real stories and advice from landowners who have conserved their own special places.  

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Bridge Built Over Cowslip Brook at the Merritt Family Forest Improves X-Town Trail

Assisted by 20 young, enthusiastic and strong Naval Submarine Base volunteers, the bridge was completed in record time: less than 30 minutes! Volunteers carried the previously fabricated frame from the road to the brook, and pushed or carried the wheel barrels filled with pre-cut boards and equipment to the crossing site. With five drills working, we started at both ends and met in the middle. As the last board fell into place, the Cutler Cross-Country team crossed the bridge for its first official use. Thank you U.S. Navy Volunteers! The bridge even came in under budget with donated surplus screws and supplies. 

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Sheep Farm waterfall after a summer storm