The selfish class on Masons Island

A group of Masons Island residents are fighting plans to replace this deteriorating sea wall on Enders Island. (Joe Wojtas/The Day)
A group of Masons Island residents are fighting plans to replace this deteriorating sea wall on Enders Island. (Joe Wojtas/The Day)

Stonington's Masons Island is not, I would suggest, the most beautiful or interesting of the many seaside communities of the eastern Connecticut shoreline.

Still, Masons Island presents itself as the most exclusive, the only one I can think of with a guard house at the entrance.

Indeed, it seems, incredibly, many on the island have been circling the Mercedes to try to stop an Army Corps of Engineers project to repair a failing seawall at Enders Island, a retreat run by the Catholic Society of St. Edmund on a small island off the southeast coast of Masons Island proper.

Island residents, including the head of the property association, have been flooding the Corps of Engineers' inbox, raising red flags about the seawall repair project.

This is shocking on a lot of fronts, the least of which, of course, is the notion that you would try to deny your neighbor, a religious institution no less, the means to protect itself from dangerous storms.

The Corps, as part of its commitment to help protect nonprofits that serve the public, has agreed to pay 65 percent of the estimated $2 million cost of the new seawall, with the retreat paying the balance.

Because of the deterioration and partial collapse of the original wall, the entire retreat and its septic system are in danger in the event of a serious storm surge.

The Corps also suggests the wall is needed to protect other property, beyond Enders Island, on the main part of Masons Island.

Some especially mean-spirited residents even have written to implore the Corps to stop work on the project altogether. Wow. I'm glad they are not my neighbors.

The underlying gripe about the retreat, of course, is that it allows the public to pass through the pearly gates of Masons Island, piercing the veil of exclusivity by those who want to head out to the seaside chapel and toss a few prayers to their maker.

This is a complaint island residents unsuccessfully have pursued before, only to be turned down by town planning officials who note they can't regulate the agenda on a religious property, especially when it predates zoning.

Indeed, the Sisters of Charity were doing what they took to be God's work on Enders Island long before many of the houses were built on Masons Island.

It's not like the retreat is building a roller coaster, selling drinks in a tiki bar or staging rock concerts.

I can't see how hosting prayer conferences, sobriety programs and watercolor classes and holding Mass is bothering the neighbors. Parking is limited, the atmosphere is spiritual.

"We are a recognized leader in the spiritual renewal and healing ministry of Jesus Christ through retreats, recovery, and sacred art programs," the retreat says on its website.

"Enders Island welcomes everyone to enjoy the grounds whether or not they are participating in a program. The island provides all visitors the opportunity to come and enjoy the beauty of nature in a unique environment where people of all faith backgrounds have profoundly encountered a Higher Power. At Enders Island, visitors can find the peace and beauty that is frequently missed in the busyness of everyday life."

Not exactly an invitation to come and be rowdy.

It is especially ironic that residents of Masons Island are objecting to federal money being used to help Enders Island, when the causeway from the mainlaind to Masons Island has been identified as one of the greatest flood risks in Stonington, in need of a major rebuilding.

Something tells me the residents of Masons Island will be glad to welcome whatever federal, state and local money that needs to be spent to rebuild their storm-challenged infrastructure.

It seems to me the people of Masons Island ought to embrace their God-focused neighbors on Enders Island.

The day may be soon at hand when they will need all the prayers they can get, when the winds start to pick up.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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