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    Thursday, August 11, 2022

    Preserve open space for all

    Living in one of the most densely populated parts of the country enhances our appreciation of natural enclaves where we can at least temporarily escape the press of humanity and surrounding concrete, asphalt and gas-powered engines.

    We especially treasure the region's many public parks, preserves, lakes and rivers permanently protected from private development, and are grateful for the determination and farsightedness of those who have worked to set aside these havens.

    Without community efforts such unspoiled areas as Bluff Point and Haley Farm state parks in Groton, and the Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve in East Lyme would almost certainly be criss-crossed by pavement and dotted with houses.

    Wide-ranging opportunities now exist for the public to help preserve additional properties, or make them more accessible for future generations to enjoy.

    From 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, the TriTown Trail Association, which for years has been trying to establish a 14-mile path connecting open space and existing trails between Bluff Point Coastal Reserve in Groton and the Preston Community Park, plans a party and silent auction at The Paddock Tack Shop at 55 Rose Hill Road in Ledyard. Money raised from the event will support applications for state grants to build and maintain the trails, and to obtain necessary easements.

    We encourage all those who enjoy hiking, biking and horseback riding away from traffic to support this project, and also to help persuade the City of Groton Utilities Commission, which owns reservoir property in Ledyard through which a part of the trail could pass, to allow public access.

    About eight miles southwest of Bluff Point lies Little Gull Island, long owned by the federal government and home to a granite tower lighthouse built in 1869. As reported in The Day on Wednesday, the government plans to auction the one-acre island between Plum and Fishers islands in Long Island Sound.

    Various environmental groups are trying to raise enough money to put in a bid for Little Gull before the Oct. 10 deadline.

    Though it's unlikely the tiny islet ever would be developed or even inhabited if sold privately - for one thing any resident would have to get used to a lighthouse horn blasting every 15 seconds - we hope conservation organizations prevail in the auction, to serve as a beacon of hope for environmental preservation.

    The government also is considering selling 840-acre Plum Island in nearby Gardiners Bay, if and when it decides to move an animal disease lab operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    Local officials, environmental and community organizations are pressuring the government to reverse its 2008 decision to move the lab to a new, higher-security facility in Manhattan, Kan. Most of Plum Island is undeveloped and is home to some 57 rare bird species and the largest seal haulout in Long Island Sound.

    This newspaper would like it to stay that way - ideally, with the lab continuing to operate, or at least with the island's natural areas preserved for posterity.

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