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

How to Build a Stone Wall in 14,863 Easy Steps

I realized long ago that you’re never really finished building a stone wall, even after you’ve dragged and hefted into place what seemed like the final boulder, exhaled mightily and stepped back to admire your work.

Just in Time for the Holidays: Fagin's Annual Gift Catalogue for the Discerning Outdoorsman and Outdoorswoman

How often does this happen to you: You’re merrily tearing through the woods in your four-wheeler and come to what looks like a shallow stream but turns out to be a deep, water-filled ditch, so your beloved machine sinks like a stone beneath...

Arduous Autumn

In spring we crawl out of our cocoons and celebrate bursting rejuvenation; in summer we play outside from dawn to dusk; during the dark, frigid winter we hunker down like hibernating bears – which leaves fall, when we try to set aside time...

Chain Saw? We Don't Need No Stinking Chain Saw…

So, did you hear that doctors have developed a new method of performing an appendectomy without using anesthesia? It’s exactly like the old operation, except it hurts like a son of a b.

You CAN Go Home Again: A Run Through My Old West Haven Stomping Grounds

Although for decades I’ve been living in a home surrounded by trees that is heated primarily by wood stoves, and I enjoy kayaking, mountain climbing, building stone walls, growing organic vegetables and many other active outdoor pursuits,...

Utah Rocks Part II: Kayaking Down The Colorado River

Propelled by a swift current on the Colorado River earlier this month, my son, Tom, and I gazed at red rock cliffs gleaming against an azure, near cloudless sky. The rustle of aspen and cottonwoods in a gentle breeze mingled with the rush of...

Utah Rocks: Adventures Among The Arches And The Rapids (Part I)

You know how it feels when you witness something so astonishingly exquisite and surreal it literally takes your breath away, and all you can do is gasp in amazement?

Oops. I Meant To Say, Whatever You Do, NEVER Try To Pose For A Selfie With Bear Cubs While Mama Grizzly Is Watching, And Other Corrections

• Alert readers have correctly pointed out a slight flaw in my instructions for the proper rock climbing command when you have unclipped from your rope. You should loudly announce, "Rappel off," not "On rappel."...

Use It Or Lose It: Trails Disappear If Nobody Hikes Them

Nature really hates a vacuum when it comes to paths.

Plunging Through Plum Gut And Bongo Sliding Through The Race In A Kayak: Maybe There Is Such A Thing As Too Much Fun

So a rabbi and a psychiatrist are kayaking in the ocean when a giant wave crashes over them and knocks the rabbi unconscious. The psychiatrist manages to pull the rabbi ashore, where he regains consciousness.

Once Again, Pink Gloves (Plus a Clever Signal) Help Save The Day At The Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon

"On your left!" Phil Warner shouted from the bow of a tandem kayak, racing toward a buoy during the paddle leg of last Sunday’s Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon in Lenox, Mass.

It's Swallow Time Again On The Connecticut River

Early Thursday evening was a magical time to paddle on the lower Connecticut River near Lyme.

Rocks In Their Heads Again: Another Bunch Of Idiots Knock Over An Ancient Stone Formation, This Time In Oregon

"Every now and again people do something so monumentally destructive, dimwitted and dishonorable it belongs in a class of disgracefulness normally reserved for trophy hunters ... It’s almost as if they wake up one morning and say to...