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    Wednesday, June 12, 2024

    What’s Going On: Alewife Cove getting a lot of love thanks to Lamoureux, Perch

    From left, New London Mayor Michael Passero, Alewife Cove Conservancy board Co-Chairman Chris Clouet, Jack Perch, with mother Anna Perch, and conservancy co-founder Edward Lamoureux react to a standing ovation from a crowd of more than 400 at the Port N’ Starboard restaurant at Ocean Beach Park on Nov. 11. Jack Perch received the conservancy’s Outstanding Citizen Award for inspiring a vigil at Ocean Beach after teenagers there attacked a snowy egret. Photo by Lee Howard

    The most touching moment in a fantastic fundraiser last weekend at Ocean Beach Park for the Alewife Cove Conservancy occurred when co-founder Ed Lamoureux presented young Jack Perch with the group’s first-ever Outstanding Citizen Award.

    Perch, you may remember, was the 8-year-old kid who inspired a vigil at Ocean Beach last summer after two teens from Glastonbury attacked a snowy egret near Alewife Cove, most likely killing it, though the bird was never recovered. The young men were accused of throwing rocks at the endangered species, tackling it and holding it by the neck.

    Jack couldn’t abide the violence, telling his mother Annah Perch, who once led the New London Main Street organization and now is the development manager for the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, that he believed the principle of treating others the way you want to be treated should apply to animals, too.

    “Those animals are like friends. The Golden Rule is for nature, too,” he said.

    Lamoureux said those words should be taken seriously, and he wanted to honor Jack Perch’s kindness and consideration for nature. Not only did Jack receive a framed certificate honoring his work on the vigil, but Perkins & Murphy College Admissions Consultants run by Betsy and Tim Murphy in New London gave him a new laptop.

    Thanks to Lamoureux’s good energy, the all-volunteer Alewife Cove Conservancy has been making headway in raising awareness of and funding for this beautiful waterway that once was teeming with alewife, a small fish that grows only a bit more than a foot long. The goal is to remove a small dam and dredge the cove, which divides New London and Waterford, to allow the waterway to return to its previous vibrancy, enhancing an area long known for kayaking and fishing.

    The more than 400 people who showed up Nov. 11 for the conservancy’s annual fundraiser at Ocean Beach’s Port ‘N Starboard sure helped the cause, though it will take government funding and approval to get the work done. But if anyone can push it through, Lamoureux would be the guy to do it.

    “In government, the squeaky wheel gets the grease and there's no more squeaky a wheel than Ed Lamoureux,“ New London Mayor Mike Passero told the crowd. ”We need grants. Our cove has to be dredged. We’ve got to take care of our greatest asset.”

    But both Lamoureux and Passero admitted Waterford and New London are reliant on government action.

    “We will not get it done unless we work together and we get the political powers that be in Hartford to get DEEP to know that this estuary is incredibly, incredibly important to preserve,” Passero said. “And we'll get there, we'll get it done, I promise you, we will.”

    Passero pointed to the many former lifeguards and captains of the lifeguards in the crowd last weekend, and he recalled the time when they all referred to Alewife Cove as “the creek.”

    “It's just great to join partnership with the town of Waterford on a matter like this,” he said, pointing out that Waterford First Selectman Rob Brule had planned to be at the fundraiser as well until a family emergency arose.

    Alewife Cove includes a tidal creek and marshland habitat where kids love to wade in the summer, marveling at hermit crabs, soaring birds and small fish. To one side is busy Ocean Beach, with a wide range of activities from volleyball courts to restaurants and bars to a waterslide, and on the other is Waterford Town Beach, where swimming, sunbathing and fishing is the norm.

    The cove area is home to great blue herons, ospreys, striped bass and the occasional eagle. I once spotted a horseshoe crab there, but haven’t seen one in years now.

    The alewife fish live in ocean waters until spring, when they return to spawn in freshwater habitats like our local cove. Alewife used to be plentiful in the cove, but in recent years, particularly after Hurricane Sandy, their numbers were been cut drastically as shallow water and obstructions along the way made spawning more difficult.

    Recognizing the problem, Alewife Cove Conservancy got its start as a nonprofit just seven years ago with hopes of making the restoration of alewife a priority for local politicians, and a lot of them attended last weekend’s event. The nonprofit will hear in the next few days about a key grant it hopes to receive from the Long Island Futures Fund that will pay for studies required of the watershed to support plans for dredging.

    The conservancy also supports school and community programs that use the cove for scientific research, and next spring it is planning a plein air art event to invite accomplished artists to paint the cove.

    In addition, Lamoureux told me Thursday that the event, which raised about $15,000, will help fund two scholarships a year, one for Waterford and one for New London, to help budding environmental scientists to further their education.

    “People love the cove,” he said. “We have great momentum, we’re really taking off.”

    Lee Howard is The Day’s business editor. Reach him with story ideas and comments at l.howard@theday.com.

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