Preserving The Preserve in Old Saybrook: A Triumph Over Greed

Extending for 1,000 acres on the shore of Long Island Sound and the mouth of the Connecticut River, and containing a mix of unspoiled woodlands, wetlands and Atlantic White Cedar Swamp, the magnificent tract known simply as The Preserve represents, as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said last week, “the last large unprotected coastal forest between New York City and Boston.”

For decades developers envisioned building houses and a golf course on the sprawling parcel located in Old Saybrook, Essex and Westbrook, but now a complex, long-awaited agreement could keep The Preserve unspoiled forever.

All it will take, not surprisingly, is money. For better or worse, that often seems to be the case these days.

Back in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, it seems, a president simply had to declare that a beautiful piece of land deserved to be designated a park — and there was plenty of unclaimed property ripe for such classification.

Over the years, of course, as more land fell into private hands, setting aside open space became more problematic and costly.

A plan unveiled by the governor calls on the state legislature to appropriate $3.3 million toward the $8.1 million purchase price, supplemented by $3 million from Old Saybrook, where most of the property lies, with the balance paid by Essex, Westbrook, the federal government, The Trust for Public Land and private donors. The three towns will all have to vote separately in favor of the acquisition, along with the Connecticut General Assembly. As the governor said, the purchase involves many moving parts and is one of the most complicated land acquisition deals in recent memory.

But, he added, “I don’t know of any other land acquisition that is higher-ranked in importance across the state than this particular action we are taking.”

I agree. I’ve hiked on Preserve trails and kayaked along its shores. It’s a treasure.

Due to my own perverse sense of humor and justice, I also find it particularly gratifying that the route leading toward preservation has been paved, so to speak, by the financial collapse of the greedy S.O.B.s who had been trying to develop the property. Lehman Brothers, the global financial services company that epitomized avarice and rapaciousness, had hoped to build an 18-hole golf course and 200 luxury homes on the site but it declared bankruptcy in 2008 during the nationwide financial crisis and it was forced to unload its holdings.

Lehman’s loss is our potential gain. The state, the towns and citizens must not let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity slip by. Get on the phone, send an email or text, or write a snail mail letter to your state representatives and town officials, urging them to allocate the funds. It will be money well spent.

Happily, this is a gubernatorial election year, so all sorts of public officials are lining up with the governor in support of the plan.

The Preserve is now home to more than 100 species of amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds. Let’s keep it that way.

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

Training For Mystic Sharkfest: The Loneliness Of The Long-Distance Swimmer

Among the many benefits of active recreation is hanging out with friends – which of course you can do at a bar, pizza parlor or coffee shop, but since most of my pals prefer to spend their leisure time on the trail or water, we...

Stung By Wasps AND Suffering From Lyme Disease: I Can't Catch A Break

You know that funny, itchy feeling when something is crawling around or worse, lodged where it doesn’t belong?

Which Is Worse: Getting Devoured By A Grizzly Bear Or A Great White Shark?

During years of roaming hither and yon on land and sea, I’ve been chased by a grizzly bear, nearly trampled by stampeding yaks, charged by a bull, attacked by swarms of hornets and almost struck by a copperhead – but what...

A Whitewater Dream Taking Shape in Willimantic

Asked to name the best whitewater kayaking and canoeing stretches in Connecticut, most paddlers would single out a gnarly, 2.6-mile section of Class IV rapids on the Housatonic River from Bulls Bridge Dam to Gaylordville, or Diana's Pool...

My War With Canada Geese

Years ago I looked forward to autumn, not so much for the kaleidoscopic foliage but because the evening serenade of migrating Canada geese that lulled me to sleep.

Take A Hike Or A Paddle June 6-7 During Connecticut Trails Weekend

In a culture that celebrates virtually every pastime and passion – from National Kazoo Day Jan. 28 to Public Sleeping Day Feb. 28 to Moldy Cheese Day Oct. 9 – we outdoor enthusiasts finally get our day in the sun on June 6,...

A Fourth Straight Victory At The Essex Boat Race in Massachusetts: Paddling In A Small Division Pays Off

As Ian Frenkel and I paddled exuberantly toward the finish line last Saturday at the Essex River Race in Essex, Mass., I thought about what it had taken to pull off our fourth consecutive tandem sea kayaking victory.

Hiking The Continental Divide Trail From Mexico To Canada: 'It Is Fun Even When It's Miserable'

Applying the ancient Chinese proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," Mystic native Hilary Sueoka and her boyfriend, Dan Stedman, should have taken three steps April 22 when they set out on their...

Turtles And Osprey And Otters, Oh My – So Much To See By Kayak

The turtle has an ill-deserved reputation for lethargy.

The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Dirt Bikes

Fingernails across a chalk board, a baby crying, a dog barking incessantly – all are music to my ears compared to the whine of a dirt bike tearing through the forest.

Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Even Elizabeth Warren All Have Something In Common: The Black SUV

Here’s how ABC News reported an appearance last week by former Florida Gov. Bush, who is considering a bid for the Republican presidential nomination:

A Snowy Hike To Carter Notch In New Hampshire's White Mountains

Midway up the staggeringly steep Wildcat Ridge Trail in New Hampshire’s White Mountains earlier this week, after my son, Tom, and I had postholed up to our knees 487 times through rotten snow despite wearing snowshoes, we began...

Ah, Spring: Moving Rocks, Lugging Logs, Digging Holes And Other Fun Activities

A 3-foot-high mound of snow still stubbornly piled beneath the deck serves as a grim reminder of this past winter’s relentless brutality, and of the months spent shoveling, shoveling, shoveling.