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

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.

A Short But Sweet Eagle-Watching Season On The Lower Connecticut River

The hummingbird hovers, sparrow flutters, tern dives, duck flaps frenetically, but in the avian world the eagle soars majestically, barely moving its enormous wings while wheeling effortlessly through the heavens.

A Grand Canyon Gondola Ride – What An Idea! How About A Tram Up Mount Everest?

I don’t know about you, but I was extraordinarily excited to hear about plans to build a gondola tram that would take visitors 1.6 miles to the floor of the Grand Canyon in 10 minutes – way faster and less strenuous than...

The Magic and Misadventures of Making Maple Syrup

The instant the whirring drill bit pulled free from the trunk of a maple tree behind our house the other morning a splendid stream of sap began oozing before I had a chance to pound a metal spile into the half-inch-wide hole.

A Tough Time For Deer, But Elephants Finally Catch A Break (Sort Of)

Traipsing on snowshoes the other day through, over and around waist-high drifts in the woods behind our house I crossed a veritable superhighway of deer tracks that meandered among the rhododendron, laurel, pine, spruce and fir, and...

Death in the White Mountains: Recklessness and The False Security of GPS, Cellphones and Locator Beacons

After being battered by 70 mph winds, blinded by whipping snow and nearly frozen in temperatures that plunged to 20 below zero and beyond, Kate Matrosova must have realized early on she had no hope of completing her solo climb of four of...