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Fish and wildlife service will allow only bow hunting on Stonington site

Stonington — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it will allow only archery hunting on the Al Harvey Road property it will acquire with the town, the Avalonia Land Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land. 

Hunting will be allowed from one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset, and Fish and Wildlife will designate a hunting area to encompass only the northern section of the so-called Brewster tract.

Hunting of big and small game as well as birds can take place Monday through Saturday from September to December. These include deer, turkey, coyote, quail, pheasant, squirrel and raccoon, among other species.

Signs and informational brochures will be created, electronic calls and baiting will be prohibited, and tree stand blinds and other hunting equipment cannot be left on the refuge overnight.

Also allowed will be wildlife observation, photography, environmental education and interpretation. A small parking lot will also be created.

The Fish and Wildlife's Service's announcement on Friday came two days after the Board of Selectmen signed a memorandum of understanding  with the Avalonia Land Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land to purchase, manage and preserve 130 acres of forested land on Al Harvey Road.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is also working with the Trust for Public Land to purchase the adjacent 102 acres and make it part of the Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge.

The closing is expected to take place by the end of the month, and Avalonia will manage the 130 acres of open space. The town is contributing $270,000 from its $375,000 open space fund to help purchase the land from trustee Katherine Anne Brewster-Duffy. The plan also calls for the Fish and Wildlife Service to contribute $580,000 and the Aquarion Water Co. to add another $230,000.

First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough said last week the Town and Avalonia will now create a plan for trails and parking for 10 to 20 cars, which she said she hopes will be ready by the end of the year. The land will be open to the public for passive recreation. 

The Fish and Wildlife Service purchase has been controversial after neighbors raised concerns over whether hunting will be allowed on the site and what steps would be taken to ensure the safety of those who use both properties. The neighbors were unsuccessful in having Fish and Wildlife officials discuss details of possible hunting on the land the agency would control or hold a public hearing to outline its hunting plan.

In February, the Fish and Wildlife Service allowed people to submit comments on its plans to buy the 102 acres and open it up to activities that could include hunting, hiking, photography and other uses. Fifty people submitted comments.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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