“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
Upcoming Events / Recent News and Events
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 of 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.
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:
“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.
Charles I. Shaw”
Click here or on the GOSA Instant! Fundraising Drive image at left 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 now raising funds.$25,000 of matching funds from an anonymous donor are available for your donation up to $5000. We hope you will donate to the cause!
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.
GOSA 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.
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
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. From the pictures below you can see the strategies employed.
June 4, 2016 CT Trails Day X-Town Hike
An astounding 62 hikers met GOSA’s Sidney Van Zandt and Avalonia’s Joellen Anderson, the X-Town hike leaders, at 9:30 a.m. sharp at the Bluff Point State Park parking lot. The six-mile hike began at the Poquonnock River, continued through Haley Farm, crossed Rte. 215 to the town-owned Mortimer Wright Preserve, passed through GOSA’s Merritt Family Forest, town-owned Beebe Pond Park, Avalonia’s Moore Woodlands, and ended at “Town’s End” at Beebe Cove. “It was a beautiful day for a hike,” wrote Sidney. “We had a hiker group from Barnum Elementary school and their leaders. They were 5th graders– really great and receptive kids to all the “show & tell” stops on the hike.” Click here for a X-town map if you are interested in hiking the trail on your own. This event was sponsored by Connecticut Forest & Park Association, Groton Open Space Association, Avalonia Land Conservancy, and the Town of Groton Parks and Recreation Department.
June 5th, 2016 More Hikes! GOSA also led hikes on the Sheep Farm (14 hikers) and Avery Farm North (17 hikers) to celebrate Trails Day.
May 2016 Work Parties GOSA’s stewardship committee organized a dozen work parties over the month of May to remove invasives, plant native species, and build habitat piles on Avery Farm.
April 15 It’s not over ’til it’s over! An OpEd piece in the Day recommends that the Town of Groton continue the fight to develop the Oral School parcel in Mystic, calling it “an opportunity state officials should grab onto.”
April 3 GOSA’s Sheep Farm was written up in an article by Peter Marteka in the Hartford Courant titled, A Visit to a Groton Farm that Dates Back Centuries. First line: “I love places that ooze human and natural history. And Groton’s Sheep Farm oozes with old foundations, animal pounds, glacial erratic boulders, Native American paths and Colonial-era stonewalls.”
Monday, March 21 Good News! The Government Administration and Elections committee: 1. voted to strike a section of the Conveyance Act (HB5619) that proposed a transfer of 66 acres of the former Mystic Oral School property from DEEP to the town of Groton and 2. voted unanimously to approve Senate Joint Resolution 36 (SJ 36), a bill that would amend the State Constitution to better protect our public conservation, recreation and agricultural lands. All good news. Regardless, GOSA will remain tuned into the legislative process and be in touch with our supporters should further advocacy on be needed.
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.”
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
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.
Campers 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 more…
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!
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.
Learn all about land conservation on WNPR’s Where We Live program titled This Land (Trust) Was Made for You and Me.
Protecting 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.
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.
Most Recent News
- GOSA Instant! News Annual Meeting and Lecture Fall 2016
- Edith Fairgrieve Memorials
- Constitutional Amendment to Protect Your Public Lands Is Necessary Now by Eric Hammerling, Connecticut Forest & Parks Association
- Town of Groton Open Space Greenbelt Map
- Shifting the Mosaic: Creating Early Successional Habitat to Conserve Species by Syma Ebbin 3.29.16
Selected Conservation Links