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


The Continental Divide Trail: 'Overall It's Amazing, But You Have To Be OK With Getting Lost'

After tramping more than a month some 700 miles along the fabled Continental Divide Trail, Mystic native Hilary Sueoka and her boyfriend, Dan Stedman, who started hiking April 22 at the U.S.-Mexican border, finally rambled from the...

The Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon: Racing Is The Easy Part.

By the time Phil Warner and I hit the water in his lightning-fast tandem kayak last Sunday for our team’s leg in the Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon in Lenox, Mass., we had already spent a good part of the morning lugging gear...

There’s No Accounting For Taste When It Comes To Favorite Mountains, Or Tacos

En route to a hiking expedition in Nepal’s Himalayas a number of years ago, my wife and I took a detour to India and spent a day bouncing along on a bus from New Delhi to Agra to tour the Taj Mahal.

Mount McKinley Renamed Denali: Better Than Mount Reagan

Three cheers for the Obama Administration’s decision this week to officially restore the name of North America’s tallest mountain to Denali, which is what early inhabitants called the 20,310-foot peak in the Alaska Range.

The Endless Summer: Too Much Of A Good Thing?

Remember when you were a kid how your mom wouldn’t let you have ice cream every day even though nothing in the world tasted better on a hot day than a double scoop of butter crunch?

My Favorite Kayak Race: The T.I.A.G.A.T.I.N.M.R. In Rangeley, Maine

Paddling like the dickens last Sunday on Maine’s Rangeley Lake, we competitors had two choices: steer clockwise or counter-clockwise around Maneskootuk Island.

Selden Island: Once A Bustling Quarry, Now A Quiet Haven

More than 40 years ago, Dave Wordell of Salem took his then-10-year-old son, Dave Junior, on a boat ride up Selden Creek, a narrow, secluded tributary of the Connecticut River in Lyme.

Life As A Lumbersexual

I can never remember – do you apply facial cleanser before or after the exfoliating scrub, and then finish up with healing balm and moisturizer, or should you start with the scrub, work your way through the cleanser and then top...

R.I.P. Cecil the Lion: Let's Make the Trophy Hunter an Endangered Species

The international outrage sparked by an American trophy hunter’s killing of Cecil, Zimbabwe’s beloved lion, justifiably vilifies the despicable practice of slaughtering wildlife for sport – but it also exposes the human...

All Who Wander Are Not Lost: Searching For The Elusive South Bog Stream In Rangeley, Maine

"Head for that tree stump," I instructed authoritatively one afternoon earlier this week, as if I knew for sure where we should be heading. I have learned to exude confidence when giving directions on any expedition, even...

Scott Jurek's 'Reward' For Breaking Appalachian Trail Speed Record: Three Summonses

When internationally celebrated speedster Scott Jurek scrambled last Sunday to the 5,269-foot summit of Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, he broke the record for the fastest assisted hike of the 2,189-mile...

No Swimming at Seaside: What’s Next? No Hiking at Bluff Point?

Most of the time I’m reasonably scrupulous about abiding by government regulations.