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Bidder offers $270,000 for Little Gull Island

By Judy Benson

Publication: theday.com

Published October 10. 2012 3:00PM   Updated October 10. 2012 11:17PM

The auction for Little Gull Island is continuing at least through today, with a bid of $270,000 listed as the top offer as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Over the course of the day Wednesday, bids jumped from $190,000 to $270,000 for the 1-acre island in eastern Long Island Sound, and the New London Maritime Society kept up its efforts to raise enough money to top the highest offer.

"We're seeing what we can do to rally more support over the next day," Susan Tamulevich, director of the maritime society, said.

The society on Tuesday bid $100,000 for the island, which houses a 143-year-old lighthouse with an automated navigation light and a foghorn that sounds every 15 seconds. The Coast Guard will retain an easement to maintain the foghorn and the light, and deed restrictions will require preservation of the granite lighthouse. The General Services Administration is handling the sale.

The maritime society is raising funds online at http://en.indiegogo.com/Save-Little-Gull-Island. The society worked with Save the Sound, a program of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, to raise the funds for its initial bid. The donations came from the New London Community Foundation, several anonymous donors and the Quebec-Labrador Foundation, a nonprofit group that supports conservation initiatives in the North Atlantic.

Originally, the auction was scheduled to close on Wednesday. Patrick Sclafani, spokesman for the GSA, said under agency rules the auction is extended past the initial closing date if a bid is placed within 24 hours before that date. After that, each time a new bid is placed, the clock is reset another 24 hours.

"The system is dictated by bidder activity," he said. "It resets if bidding activity continues. It can go on for days."

The bidding will close after no new bids have been received for 24 hours.

Tamulevich is hoping to generate interest from the public in donating to the fund for the Little Gull Island purchase by calling attention to the role of the lighthouse in the War of 1812. This year, as the war's 200th anniversary is recognized, she said, local residents should work to protect this part of the region's historic heritage.

The lighthouse was the center of an important local episode during the war, when the lighthouse keeper refused British orders to extinguish the light. The British then forcibly removed the light.

"A small British force landed at Little Gull Island and removed all of the lamps and reflectors, putting the station out of service for the duration of the conflict," Tamulevich said in an email. "... It seems like, two hundred years ago, Little Gull did its best to protect our shores. We now should return the favor and protect Little Gull. We should band together to preserve this emblem of our maritime history."

The maritime society plans to preserve the lighthouse and work with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to protect areas of the island used by shorebirds.

Tamulevich said she hopes GSA will consider the society's historic preservation and conservation goals for the island in deciding which bidder can buy the island.

"We're hoping somebody speaks up," she said, adding that her group has lobbied U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, for help. "We are most in line with the goals of historic preservation. We're hoping there will be some discussion at the GSA about the importance of historic and cultural preservation. Public outcry might make a difference."

Sclafani said GSA has some discretion in deciding which bidder can buy the island but that the primary factor would be the amount of the bid.

j.benson@theday.com

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