November 19, 2017

Potapaug Audubon Presents ‘Protecting Plum Island’ at Old Lyme Town Hall Tonight

Aerial view of Plum Island lighthouse. (From Preserve Plum Island website)

Potapaug Audubon presents “Protecting Plum Island” with Curt Johnson of Save the Sound and the Connecticut Fund For The Environment, on Thursday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m. at the Old Lyme Town Hall, 52 Lyme St. Plum Island, one of the islands of Long Island, N.Y., three miles south of East Lyme, is in danger of going up for auction.

Plum Island is home to more than 1,000 species. It is a federally-owned wildlife sanctuary in one of the most densely populated areas of the country, but the government is preparing to sell this national treasure on the auction block.

That’s where Save the Sound comes in. In July 2016, Save the Sound sued the federal government under the Endangered Species Act and other laws, to encourage a conservation sale.

This event is the latest in Save the Sound‘s decades-long history of fighting to clean, protect, and preserve the waters of the Long Island Sound region.

Come learn more and see what you can do to help.

This event is free and open to public.

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Vote for Old Lyme as TripAdvisor’s “Best New England Fall Foliage Getaway”!

Photo of Old Lyme from the Trip Advisor article on “Best New England Fall Foliage Getaways.”

We’re delighted to share the news with our readers that Ashlee Centrella of TripAdvisor has informed us that Old Lyme has been selected as one of their 16 Best New England Fall Foliage Getaways.  That’s good news in itself, but we also have the chance to vote for Old Lyme to be THE Best New England Fall Foliage Getaway!  This honor will be bestowed on the town in New England that offers, in Centrella’s words, “the best small-town charm vacations in New England,” combined with the best fall foliage.

You can read TripAdvisor’s article on the 16 candidates for the honor at this link and most importantly scroll to the bottom to vote (for Old Lyme, of course!) at the end of it.  You don’t have to give your email or register for anything so please, please help Old Lyme win this award.  We’re currently running second with 11 percent of the votes cast, significantly ahead of Essex, Mass. and Damariscotta, Maine, which both have precisely 0 percent of the votes, but way behind Millinocket, Maine, which has a whopping 63 percent of the vote.

So, dear readers, get your fingers to work, and let’s vote like crazy so Old Lyme not only overtakes Millinocket, Maine, but also goes on to win this contest!  We know the Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce will be supporting this effort as it would obviously be extremely beneficial to all our tourist- and hospitality-based businesses to win this competition.  We thank the Florence Griswold Museum sincerely for already having highlighted the contest and voting option in their communications.  We are sure the Town of Old Lyme and other civic and community institutions in town will be putting out the word too. Let’s see if we can get some poster up around town publicizing the news.

And if YOU represent an organization that can share this news and the voting option with your members and supporters, then please go ahead and share, share, share via e-mail, social media, and even good old snail mail!

Thank you and VOTE OLD LYME!

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Lyme Land Trust Celebrates Opening of Brockway-Hawthorne Preserve

Explore the beautiful trails of the Brockway Hawthorne Preserve, Oct. 14.

The Lyme Land Trust hosts an opening celebration for its newest property, the Brockway-Hawthorne Preserve, at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 22.  Meet at the Brockway-Hawthorne Preserve Parking Lot, Brush Hill Rd. in Lyme.

This 82-acre nature preserve has been developed with hiking trails that traverse all the significant places from savannah-like terrain bordered by stone walls to some of the last remaining hemlock stands in Lyme. Parts of the trails meander along Whalebone Creek with wonderful rocky outcroppings and crossings on bridges built by Dominion Power Station volunteers.

See this stone wall in the Brockway Hawthorne Preserve.

The trails connect with the existing system at the Ravine Trail, which, in combination with Selden Creek Preserve, offers an extensive network of trails with many diverse habitats.

After the ribbon cutting, join Ralph Lewis former State of CT geologist and Tony Irving, forest ecologist for a short walk “Talk and Walk” looking at the long- and short-term land-use history of the preserve.  See how bedrock and glacial geology shaped the land, thus dictating how it has been worked over the centuries.

For more information, email Info@LymeLandTrust.org

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Potapaug Audubon Presents ‘Birds: Their Side of The Story’

Potapaug Audubon presents “Birds: Their Side of The Story” on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. at the Old Lyme Town Hall, 52 Lyme St. with guest speaker: John Himmelman, artist, author and naturalist.

Himmelman will offer fun facts and light-hearted stories. What are some of the crazy things they make us do? Why are there so many pigeons in cities? How adept are crows at using a screwdriver? What did Ben Franklin really think about Bald Eagles? John will share light- hearted stories of birds and bird watching – from cuisine to cartoons; ornaments to icons, murmurs to murders. You’ll be given a whole new look at the avian friends we so admire … and some not so much.

Himmelman will also show some amazing photos.

For more information, call 860-710-5811.

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Lyme Land Trust Executive Director George Moore to Retire, Search for Replacement Underway

George Moore, Lyme Land Trust Executive Director, has announced his retirement.

George Moore, the Land Trust’s Executive Director for the last five years, has announced that he will be retiring when his replacement can be brought on board.

Land Trust President John Pritchard made the announcement and said, “The Land Trust is deeply grateful for George’s service and dedication over the last 14 years. He was elected to the Land Trust Board as a volunteer director in 2003. In 2007, he was elected Board President, and in 2013 the Board appointed him as its first Executive Director. Through his vision and effective management, George has helped transform the Land Trust into one of the most active and successful in the State.

Prichard noted that among his many accomplishments – in addition to the day-to-day management of the Land Trust — are building the Land Trust’s membership to the point that it represents half the households in Town; the acquisition of numerous preserves on his watch, including Chestnut Hill, Walbridge Woodlands, Banningwood and most recently, Brockway- Hawthorne; assisting with securing the coveted national accreditation from the Land Trust Alliance; initiating the President’s Circle composed of the Land Trust’s most generous supporters; arranging for the production of the PBS film on the Land Trust and conservation in Lyme, as well as its sequel, The Rest of the Story (both of which can be viewed here); and organizing and managing the Land Trust’s highly successful annual fundraiser, a regionally recognized, fun and scenic biking event for all ages and abilities: the Tour de Lyme.

The Land Trust has commenced a search for a new Executive Director. Potential applicants for the position can find the job description and application process at the following link: http://www.lymelandtrust.org/employment-opportunities/

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Rogers Lake Drawdown to Begin After Labor Day

Every leap year, Rogers Lake is scheduled to be lowered in the fall so that landowners can perform any maintenance at the waters edge. But this did not happen in 2016 due to the drought.

Because of this, the drawdown will take place this fall (2017) as follows:

  • The drawdown will start after Labor Day and the full drawdown of a maximum of 14 inches should occur by mid-September.
  • The drawdown will be maintained from mid-September to Nov. 1.

The Rogers Lake Authority can be contacted at Rogers-Lake-Authority@googlegroups.com

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Lyme-Old Lyme Troop 26 Boy Scouts Conquer ‘Swamp Base’ in Louisiana

These intrepid Lyme-Old Lyme Troop 26 Boy Scouts and Scot Leaders attended ‘Swamp Base’ in July of this year. From left to right, (front row) Brooke Smith, Swampbase guide; Mike Miller, Theodore Wayland, Dennys Andrades, Maxwell Bauchmann, and Peter Bauchmann; (back row)  Mark Wayland, John Miller, Evan St. Louis, and Mary Powell-St.Louis.

Editor’s Note: This personal account of the Swamp Base 2017 experience was submitted by Life Scouts Evan St. Louis and Theodore Wayland.

The steady lapping of our oars was only interrupted as we had to lean back in our canoe seats to avoid low branches, while we were keenly observed by the alligators swimming by …

On July 7, Lyme-Old Lyme Boy Scout Troop 26 became the first ever Connecticut troop to attend the Boy Scouts of America High Adventure called Swamp Base. This program is based at the Atchafalaya Swamps in southern Louisiana. On the day of our arrival, our crew of five scouts and four adult leaders visited the nearby town of Lafayette, to sample local cuisine and to become acclimated to the local temperature and humidity. 

The next day, our first full day in the area, we traveled to a historical region called Vermilionville and learned about the Acadian culture of southern Louisiana. We met our guide for the trip, Brooke, a sophomore at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL.) That night we thoroughly checked all our equipment and provisions then fell fast asleep in the ULL dorms.

Cypress groves stand tall in the Henderson Swamp.

Our swamp venture began very early that next morning as we drove to a spot at the start of a canal and launched our canoes. The canal went on for 4.4 miles. At the end of the canal, it seemed as though there was a wall of trees, and that section of paddling was aptly called “The Wall” by our guide. That area was perhaps the most challenging section of the whole trip. There were trees and shrubs very close together, and you had to stay in the middle of the waterway to avoid wasp nests.

Thankfully, we made it through this section unscathed and there were no wasps anywhere else on the trip.

After the narrows opened up into the Henderson Swamp, there was much more room to maneuver. The first day we traveled 19.3 miles to houseboats where we would be sleeping. The Henderson swamp had areas where the Cypress trees were logged over 100 years ago, and any trees that are left were considered the runts back then.

Our houseboat captain gave a fascinating overview on the alligators of the Bayous, and their role in the environment. At this point, we had seen enough alligator behavior to realize that they are more scared of us then we were of them, and would try to avoid us.

The next morning, we had an exciting airboat tour of the outlying areas of Henderson Swamp where cypress trees grew in groves. It truly is amazing that the Cypress trees can grow in over six feet of water. After all of the beautiful sights on the airboat tour, it would be back to traveling under our own power.

This day we would cover 10.3 miles; however, after paddling only about a mile from the houseboats, we had to portage our canoes over a levee. This portage was 900 feet long and over the 25-foot-tall levee, but with the extra weight of gear and canoes, it felt much longer. The late morning heat was near its peak adding to the challenge of this portage. After that, the paddle was nice and slow with a wide-open waterway, with plenty of shade from the heat.

That night, we slept on Rougarou Island in hammocks covered with mosquito-netting. The Rougarou was a creature similar to a werewolf in the legends of the Laurentian French communities – fortunately there were no modern versions present during our trip! We also had a blowgun contest with very basic materials – this was fun, but may not have provided us too much security if a Rougarou showed up.

Our next day of paddling was 14.4 miles and not too difficult, but the wildlife was probably the most diverse that we saw throughout our trip. We saw a wide variety of birds and plants in different areas, and quite a few alligators, the most on any day of our journey. Midday of this paddle, it began pouring with rain, and there was an interesting sight of the giant raindrops bouncing on the water as they hit it, but multiplied millions of times. This was the point we were really glad to have dry bags, so none of our gear got wet.

After the rain stopped, we still had to cross two lakes, which were strenuous, but we knew how close Island Outpost was, our final stop. Once we arrived, the Boy Scout crew that had arrived the previous day helped us get our canoes onto the dock. On Island Outpost, there were showers, and clean water was readily available. We would be sleeping in cabins for two nights, on bunks in rustic cabins, after enjoying our jambalaya dinner prepared for us. 

Catfish for dinner!

The next day at Island Outpost we had no paddling and enjoyed other relaxing activities including swimming, boating, and paddle boarding. There were fishing trips by boat, and setting out catfish jug lines. After later checking the jug lines to harvest our catch, we enjoyed a catfish fry that would be a side to gumbo for dinner with plentiful Cajun spice to notch up the heat.

The morning of the last day, we woke up before 5 a.m. to be able to see the sunrise at 6:13 a.m. on Sandy Cove from a great vantage point. We were in the water at about 5:30 a.m. and started immediately. We made it to the outlook point just in time, because within a minute of us arriving, the top of the sun had started to peek above the horizon. It was definitely worth waking up for, to see the sun climb up into the sky rapidly.

A beautiful early morning view of the bayou.

After eating breakfast on the water, we continued paddling, trying to get to the next scheduled portage early before it got too hot. We went in between ancient Cypress trees on the edge of Lake Fausse  Pointe. There were a few alligators there that were very close to us. It was fabulous here too in terms of both the view and the overall cleanliness of the area.

The second portage was easier than the first, except for the very end. The end of the second portage, behind the levee, was referred to as the “Swamp Stomp” – an area several hundred-feet long where there was thick mud and certain areas of waist-high water that we had to wade through pulling our canoes. Once we were through the Swamp Stomp, we came out onto a chilly river.

This part of our trek was the easiest, because there was a current that carried us almost the whole way to the end of our journey. We had gone swimming off the canoes from time to time on previous days of the trip, but with this current it was not necessary to paddle as much, and at this time it was much more refreshing and enjoyable to be in the water.

The conquerers of Swamp Base High Adventure 2017 stand with paddles in hand at the end of their successful journey.

At the end of our paddling adventure, we had completed 61.6 miles of canoeing the swamps and lakes of this amazing area over five days. We had a sense of accomplishment at completion, and all of us agreed if offered the chance to conquer the Swamp again, we would be there! 

Y’all come back now, won’t ya?!

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Old Lyme Land Trust Announces Annual Kayak Regatta, Sept. 10

The Old Lyme Land Trust hosts the 4th Annual Kayak Regatta, Sept. 10.

All kayakers and canoers are invited to join the 4th annual Kayak Regatta. The Regatta will launch at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 10, from the Lieutenant River boat launch, located on Rte. 156 near Ferry Rd.

The launch will start on the rising tide; boaters can take the opportunity to put ashore at the Morning Glory Café for lunch or to meet with friends, or continue up river to explore from the water the natural beauty and features of the Lieutenant River.

The river was once a thriving boat building center and is now a serene protected waterway surrounded by salt marsh and cliffs. The tour will pass several Old Lyme Land Trust preserves, Lohmann Buck Twining and the Roger Tory Peterson Refuge. On the eastern bank of the river the Regatta will pass the picturesque grounds of the Bee and Thistle Inn and the Florence Griswold Museum. During the high tide, a side trip up the Mill Brook River is possible. Beaver dams and fish ladders can be seen before reaching Rogers Lake.

The Regatta will be led by Fred Fenton, an experienced kayaker and a long time director of the Old Lyme Land Trust (OLLT). Fenton will point out special features of the area and answer questions about the preserves.

The return trip will start about 3 p.m. as the tide changes

The Regatta will be held rain or shine. No registration is needed and there is no charge for the Regatta. Donations to the OLLT will be gratefully accepted.

For more information, visit www.oldlymelandtrust.org or contact fredffenton@gmail.com. Send your e-mail if you would like to be notified of cancellation.

Personal flotation devices, i.e. life jackets are mandatory.

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Lyme Land Trust Celebrates 50 Glorious Years of Conserving Land


The Lyme Land Conservation Trust celebrated its 50th anniversary last Saturday with a barbecue picnic on the field next to the iconic Grassy Hill Church that the Land Trust saved several years from being turned into a housing development.


In keeping with the Land Trust’s tradition of focusing its energies on environmental preservation rather than social galas, the picnic was low-key and informal.


President John Pritchard’s remarks were brief, noting the Land Trust’s astounding success in helping to protect the rural character of Lyme, thanking the picnic volunteers, and reminding the picnickers that they are responsible for the Land Trust’s achievements.


He then turned the microphone back the Plywood Cowboy band, which provided lively music for the event.

And clearly a good time was had by all!

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Old Lyme’s Children’s Learning Center Creates a Delicious ‘Edible Garden’

The OLCLC Edible Garden is thriving.

The cold start to the month of June may have had many gardeners worried about their harvest. Thanks to the pro bono labor of Anu Koiv, the children of the Old Lyme Children’s Learning Center (OLCLC) have already been enjoying fruits and vegetables from their thriving edible garden.

Anu Koiv not only works pro bono on the edible garden, but also on the beds that surround the OLCLC.

“Not only do the kids get to learn about eating healthy foods, but they learn about sustainability and how to manage their own garden,” says Alison Zanardi, director of the OLCLC. It is not very often that preschoolers have the opportunity to interact with a garden and a myriad of different fruits and vegetables like this one. The kids can interact with the plants in the sensory garden, feeling and smelling different tantalizing plants, like mint, cacti and more.

Vegetables patiently waiting to be picked by the preschoolers.

Preschoolers are free to walk around the garden during their time outside and select whatever food that they choose from their luscious garden. Kale chips, fresh tomatoes, blueberries, and strawberries are often enjoyed as snacks.

More vegetables in the Edible Garden that are ‘ripe for the picking’ by the preschoolers.

Anu Koiv is the mastermind behind the garden, and the staff and students are all extremely appreciative of the work she has done.  Not only is she building a garden for the benefit of the preschooler’s education, but also to benefit the wildlife who will be inhabiting the garden. “We’re inviting nature back into the landscape of the courtyard. Each and every plant has ornamental and food value,” notes Koiv.

Pike’s Playground is named in honor of Connie Pike, founder of the OLCLC.  Children can interact with plants in the sensory garden.

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Volunteers Needed to Control Invasive Plant in Local Rivers, Reserve an Informational Talk at Your Club/Organization

Water chestnut is an invasive plant that is easy for volunteers to remove & keep under control. Join CRC for upcoming volunteer events to learn about & remove this invasive plant.

There is an emerging threat to the Connecticut River and the waters within its basin that any boater, paddler, angler or property manager can help control. European water chestnut (Trapa natans) is an aquatic invasive plant that spreads rapidly, covering bodies of water with dense foliage impeding recreational activities such as boating, fishing, and swimming.

The Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC), formerly Connecticut River Watershed Council, is hosting a variety of opportunities this summer for residents to learn more and help remove this threat.

Quick and thorough action must be taken to prevent this plant from taking over because water chestnut reproduces exponentially. “The good news is that this plant is easy to identify, it reproduces only by seed, and pulls up easily,” notes Alicea Charamut, River Steward for the Connecticut River Conservancy.

She continues, “It can be managed by trained volunteers. For small to moderate infestations, no chemicals or equipment are needed other than willing volunteers in canoes, kayaks, and shallow draft boats. This work offers an opportunity for those of us who love our rivers, lakes and ponds to give back to them in a fun and easy way.”

There are two opportunities to learn to identify and report the plants. CRC hosted an information session at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex on Tuesday, June 13, and will do so again at LL Bean at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor on Friday, June 19. Both events are at 6:30 p.m. There will be a brief presentation, live plants on display, and plenty of time for questions.

Charamut is also available to give talks to groups within the Connecticut River watershed, who want to bring this information to their organization or club.

Paddlers and boaters can also help CRC manage known infestations. Five hand-pulling events are already scheduled for the floating meadows of the Mattabesset River in Middletown and Keeney Cove in Glastonbury in June and July with more to be scheduled as new infestations are reported. The work is fairly easy, a little dirty and very rewarding. Supplies are provided. Those who wish to attend need only bring their boat and PFD.

In addition, CRC is coordinating a River Sweep of the Connecticut River, its coves and ponds to scout for this invasive plant. “Because the seeds from these plants can last for up to twelve years, knowing where these plants have been found is crucial. In order to effectively control the spread of these plants we must monitor locations where they have been found each year and have as many eyes on the water as possible.” Paddling and boating groups can adopt a section of the river to scout for plants on or around Saturday, June 24.

“It will take a community of those who care coming together to help control this plant,” says Charamut. The Connecticut River Conservancy joins many partners in the effort to control water chestnut in the Connecticut River watershed. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Lower Connecticut River Council of Governments, Jonah Center for Earth and Art, Connecticut River Museum, and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station are all active participants working to help control this aquatic invasive plant.

More groups are encouraged to join the effort. Much of the work in the lower Connecticut River Valley here in Connecticut is possible thanks to a generous grant from the Rockfall Foundation.

For more information about education and volunteer opportunities to help control European water chestnut, visit www.ctriver.org/get-involved or contact Alicea Charamut at acharamut@ctriver.org.

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Potapaug Presents ‘Bears in CT’ at Old Lyme Town Hall, June 1

Potapaug Audubon presents “Bears in Connecticut” on Thursday, June 1, at 7 p.m. at the Old Lyme Town Hall, 52 Lyme St, with guest speaker Paul Colburn, DEEP, Master Wildlife Conservationist.

This talk will focus on the natural history, habitat, diet, behavior, population and reproduction of bears, plus the current research efforts and practical recommendations for coexistence between the black bear and humans.

Black bear artifacts will be on display.

For more information, call 860-710-5811.

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CT Audubon RTPEC Offers Estuary Explorations Saturday Mornings

Osprey in flight. Photo by Brock Graham.

AREAWIDE — The Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center is offering a new program of Saturday morning field trips to natural areas along the lower Connecticut River starting May 6.

Estuary Explorations will be led by PhD ecologist Paul Spitzer, a protégé of internationally recognized naturalist and painter, Roger Tory Peterson. Each exploration will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the possibility of extending the field tripinto the afternoon, depending on the participants’ interest.

The fee for each field trip is $30 per person ($25 per student) and registration is required. To register, visit this link.

Estuary Explorations will give participants a chance to learn about the Lower Connecticut River Estuary’s ecosystems and wildlife as the year progresses from the peak bird migratory season of May, through high summer, and into the late fall.

Paul Spitzer. Photo courtesy of Paul Spitzer.

Spitzer has designed the programs to follow in the footsteps of one of the 20th century’s most famous naturalists, field guide author and illustrator Roger Tory Peterson, who spent his adult life painting in his studio in Old Lyme and examining the flora and fauna of the Connecticut River Estuary and the world.

Spitzer will showcase some of Peterson’s favorite natural sites and share his extensive knowledge of the ecology of the region. Spitzer plans to lead these explorations at a “Thoreauvian saunter,” moving slowly to appreciate many of the birds, plants, and insects that Peterson once enjoyed.

While Old Lyme tends to be recognized for its scenic views and historic artist colony and arts culture, it is also situated at an important ecological hub in New England — the meeting of the waters. In this species-rich estuary, the fresh water of the vast Connecticut River and Long Island Sound mix, resulting in a wealth of natural life.

Spitzer learned his natural history while growing up in the Connecticut River Valley. He is a graduate of Old Lyme High School and continued up the river to attend Wesleyan University. He later earned his PhD in ecological sciences from Cornell University.

More recently, he has studied the now substantial Connecticut River Estuary Osprey colony as a “biomonitor” of migratory menhaden abundance, the Osprey’s preferred food source. Spitzer advocates for sustainable management practices of this keystone fish for its ecosystem, economic, and societal functions.

Working alongside Spitzer will be Old Saybrook native, Jim Arrigoni. Arrigoni has worked as a fisheries biologist in Washington State and developed protocols to evaluate stream water quality in Hong Kong. Most recently, he has taught cultural and aquatic ecology classes at Goodwin College, and he is currently completing a PhD on the conservation value of restored wetlands.

Spitzer has studied Ospreys for 50 years, his research beginning here in the Connecticut River Estuary. By the 1970’s, the impact of DDT in the ecosystem whittled the local Osprey colony down to one active nest. Spitzer was instrumental in the recovery of this important keystone species to these waters.

“The Connecticut River Ospreys are our iconic story of revival from the brink,” said Spitzer. “These guided and educational field trips will open a world of discovery about nature’s profusion in this extraordinary bioregion.”

“Migrant and resident species of the estuary watershed are particularly exciting to observe in May. I will provide up-close and expansive views of the natural world from salt marshes to Yellow Warblers in particularly beautiful places.”

After meeting at the Old Lyme I-95 Park and Ride (Exit 70), participants will enjoy three hours of ecological exploration followed by a brown bag lunch and guided discussion in the field.  Spitzer is also willing to offer optional afternoon sessions gauged by the stamina and interest of the participants.

Beyond the four Saturdays in May, the field trips will occur monthly through November.

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Potapaug Sponsors Hike in Nehantic State Forest, May 7

Potapaug Audubon is sponsoring a “Hike at Nehantic State Forest” on Sunday, May 7, with leader Leader Fran Zygmont from Litchfield Hills Audubon Society. This is a follow up to his Bird Migration program at Old Lyme Town Hall.

Meet at commuter parking lot at Exit 70 off I-95 on Rte. 156 in Old Lyme between 7  and 7:15 a.m. to carpool. Groups leave promptly for Nehantic at 7:15 a.m. to start the walk at 7:30 a.m. 

Zygmont will demonstrate a few of his amazing bird song imitations.

The rain date for the  walk is May 13.

For more information, call 860-710-5811.

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Rockfall Foundation Announces 12 Grants for Environmental Projects, Recipients Include Lyme Land Conservation Trust

The Board of Directors and Grants Committee of the Rockfall Foundation are pleased to announce that twelve environmental programs throughout the Lower Connecticut River Valley received grants in the latest funding cycle. More than $28,000 was awarded to support environmental education and conservation efforts that will have a combined benefit for nearly 2,000 students and many more adults and families in the region.

“These grants, awarded through a competitive process, support the wonderful work being done in the area of environmental education and conservation throughout our region,” said Marilyn Ozols, President of the Foundation. “We are grateful that the generosity of our donors makes it possible for us to support so many worthwhile programs.”

Environmental education is a priority area for the Foundation and programs that serve and engage children and youth represent the several of those receiving grants. Public schools and non-profit organizations will provide hands-on environmental education programs in Middletown, Durham, Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook. Additionally, several conservation projects and public events will present residents throughout the Lower Connecticut River Valley with information on urban farming, removal of invasives, and tree identification, as well as provide volunteer opportunities.

Grantees include:

Indian Hill Cemetery Association – “A Celebration of the Trees of Indian Hill Cemetery” will encourage visitors to utilize Indian Hill Cemetery as a place where they can learn about trees, be inspired by trees, enjoy the view and walk quietly. Tree identification activities, school programs, and the addition of signs will support this effort. $1,000

Van Buren Moody Elementary School – “Moody School Courtyard Nature Enrichment Programs” will train teachers to use the school’s courtyard gardens for education enrichment, thereby increasing the amount of time students spend outside learning about the environment. The program will also involve students and families in maintaining and managing the gardens to create a sense of ownership and connection to the courtyards and the natural world. $1,030

Regional School District 13 Elementary Schools – “Taking the Next Generation Science Standards Outside” will encourage elementary students to engage in the Science and Engineering Practices emphasized in the Next Generation Science Standards, while exploring the nature trails near their schools and noting problems that could be investigated and addressed. $1,100

Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District – “Urban Farm-Based Education Programs at Forest City Farms: A Farm Days Pilot Project” will promote an ongoing urban agriculture initiative in Middletown focused on improving urban farming conservation practices, building community interest and engagement in farming, developing farming/gardening knowledge and skills, and helping address food insecurity. Hands-on activities will take place at Forest City Farms. $1,500

Middlesex Land Trust and Everyone Outside – “Middlesex Land Trust Preserves: Great Places to Spend Time Outside” will revive and foster an interest in nature by connecting children and families with their local environment through field trips and public trail walks, helping them gain an understanding and appreciation of nature in order to become future stewards of the environment. $1,500

Snow Elementary School – “Outdoor Explorations at Snow Elementary School” will provide students and teachers with hands-on science and nature programs, including teacher training, mentoring and curriculum development leading to greater interest in science and stewardship of the natural world. $1,900

Lyme Land Conservation Trust – “The Diana and Parker Lord Nature and Science Center” to support the planning and development of educationally-focused content that is directed to all ages and will engage school-age children, and to support a unique and interactive interpretive trail within the Banningwood Preserve. $2,000

Valley Shore YMCA – “Farm to Table Specialty Camp,” an innovative new program that will teach children the important life skills of gardening, harvesting produce for themselves and others, and environmental sustainability. $2,225

Macdonough Elementary School – “Macdonough School Takes the Classroom Outside” will provide hands-on science education for K through 5th grade students, including an understanding of the natural world and the local ecosystem, to enhance students’ connection with nature. $2,570

Connecticut River Watershed Council – “European Water Chestnut Strategy for the Connecticut River Watershed” will directly educate more than 250 individuals on how to identify, manage and report European Water Chestnuts; educate thousands of residents about the plant and its threat to our waterways; and involve volunteers in hand removal of documented infestations. $3,500

Connecticut Forest and Park – “Highlawn Forest Invasive Removal and Education Program,” part of a strategic Forest Management Plan, to use the property as a recreation and education asset through careful timbering and an invasive removal process. The program will be a model for environmental planning and will offer a unique opportunity for hands-on environmental education for landowners and municipalities. $4,000

SoundWaters – “Coastal Explorers: A Bridge for Sustainability for Watershed Exploration for Middle School Students” will provide students from Middlesex County with hands-on science education focused on their local estuarine habitats and watershed to encourage a deeper understanding of the natural world via a combination of study and stewardship activities. $6,000

Founded in 1935 by Middletown philanthropist Clarence S. Wadsworth, the Rockfall Foundation is named for the large waterfall in Wadsworth Falls State Park. In addition to its grants, the Foundation sponsors educational programs and owns and maintains the deKoven House Community Center. The Rockfall Foundation awards grants annually through a competitive process that is open to non-profit organizations and municipalities located in the Lower Connecticut River Valley. For additional information or to make a tax-deductible contribution, please visit www.rockfallfoundation.org  or call 860-347-0340.

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‘Discover Oswegatchie Hills’ in OL Town Hall Presentation Tomorrow by Suzanne Thompson, Greg Decker

Greg Decker, Friends of OHNP chief steward, points the way through Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve in East Lyme. Decker will be giving the virtual tour of OHNP, terrain, wildlife and plants.

Potapaug Audubon presents “Discover Oswegatchie Hills” on Thursday, April 6, at 7 p.m. at the Old Lyme Town Hall, 52 Lyme St. with guest speakers Greg Decker and Old Lyme resident Suzanne Thompson, who are both Friends of Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve.

Suzanne Thompson of Old Lyme hiking Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve in East Lyme.

This free program comprises a photo overview of the 457-acre Nature Preserve, which was opened in 2007 by the Town of East Lyme.

For more information, call 860-710-5811.

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Friends of Whalebone Cove Host Talk on “Future of the Connecticut River” in Hadlyme

A winter view of Whalebone Cove.

‘The Future of Connecticut River’ will be the topic of the featured speaker at the annual meeting of Friends of Whalebone Cove on Sunday, March 26, at 4 p.m. in Hadlyme.

Stephen Gephard, supervising fisheries biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Inland Fisheries Division in Old Lyme, will present a program in which he reviews the history of the Connecticut River since pre-colonial times and offers his predictions on how the River will be used in the 21st century.

Gephard is well known in conservation circles up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

In 2014, then President Barack Obama appointed him as commissioner of the Council of North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, an international body established by an intergovernmental convention in 1984 that seeks to restore and manage Atlantic salmon populations.

And last year the Northeastern Division of the American Fisheries Society (NED) presented him with the its NED President’s Award.

Throughout his 30+ year career with Connecticut DEEP, Gephard has advocated for the restoration of habitat of diadromous fish across the state, region, nation and world, and continues to work for the benefit of the species he manages.

Friends of Whalebone Cove was formed last year by area residents to help government and private conservation agencies protect the fragile eco-systems in Hadlyme’s Whalebone Cove, which is listed as one of North America’s important freshwater tidal marshes in international treaties that cite the Connecticut River estuary as a wetland complex of global importance.

A representative from the US Fish & Wildlife Service Silvio O Conte Refuge will also give a short presentation on the Conte Refuge’s new Comprehensive Conservation Plan. Much of Whalebone Cove and the surrounding upland is part of the Conte Refuge.

The Friends of Whalebone Cove annual meeting is open to the public, both members and non-members. It will be at Hadlyme Public Hall, One Day Hill Road, Lyme. Refreshments will be served.

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30 Plunge Into Frigid Sound to Help Save Plum Island

Plunging for Plovers: these brave souls charged into the freezing waters of Long Island Sound last Saturday to raise awareness of efforts to save Plum Island from sale and preserve the island’s outstanding flora and fauna. Photo by Judy Preston.

Saturday fundraiser brought together conservationists, students, elected officials

A long-planned “polar plunge”-style fundraiser at Old Saybrook Town Beach got a shot of drama from unexpectedly cold temperatures, strong winds, and high waves this weekend.

CFE/Save the Sound’s Chris Cryder, in seal costume, speaks at the press conference. Photo by Laura McMillan.

Students from Old Saybrook High School, area officials, and representatives of a regional environmental organization—some in costumes—packed into a heated school bus for a press conference Saturday morning before running into a frigid Long Island Sound to raise awareness and support for protecting Plum Island.

The “Plum Island Plunge for Plovers” has raised $3,700 for Connecticut Fund for the Environment and its bi-state program Save the Sound’s multi-year battle to save Plum Island from sale and private development. Donations are still coming in.

“I’ve met thousands of folks all around the Sound who want Plum Island preserved, but this is something else,” said Chris Cryder, special project coordinator for CFE/Save the Sound, decked out as one of the harbor seals that rest on Plum Island’s rocky shore. “To see dozens of people voluntarily turn out in weather like this to make a statement about the island’s importance is inspiring.”

Rosie Rothman, co-president of Old Saybrook High School’s Interact Club, speaks at the press conference prior to ‘The Plunge.’ Photo by Judy Preston.

Rosie Rothman, co-president of Old Saybrook High School’s Interact Club, explained that the plunge was a perfect fit for the Interact Club’s mission of community service and the Ecology Club’s mission of environmental protection.

“Afterwards, we couldn’t feel our toes for a while, but we still had fun,” she said. “With a windchill in the single digits, it was definitely a challenge, but our members still showed up. I think that speaks to our dedication to the cause. It is our hope that our legislators take decisive federal action to protect Plum Island from development that would be detrimental to the wildlife that depends on it, including 111 species of conservation concern.”

“I was very proud to see so many Old Saybrook High School students participate in the polar plunge, on a freezing March day, to support efforts to preserve Plum Island,” said Rep. Devin Carney (Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Westbrook). “Plum Island is an important natural resource for the Connecticut shoreline and Long Island Sound. By preserving it, these students, and many others, will be able to enjoy its natural beauty for many years to come.”

And they’re off! The plungers enter the bitterly cold water at Old Saybrook Town Beach. (Photo by Judy Preston)

Carl P. Fortuna, Jr., first selectman for the Town of Old Saybrook, joined the hardy souls jumping into the Sound. Addressing the assembled attendees, he reminded them of the region’s land conversation victory in saving The Preserve, and said, “The Town of Old Saybrook fully supports the conservation of Plum Island and its rightful place in the public domain upon the decommissioning of scientific activities. The importance of Plum Island as a flora and fauna host has been amply demonstrated. It is now time for our legislative and executive branches to swiftly put an end to any speculation that this resource will be privately developed. I applaud the bipartisan efforts to conserve Plum Island.”

These were some of the supporters, who braved the cold to cheer on the plungers. (Photo by Judy Preston.)

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy sent letters in support of the effort.

Plum Island, an 840-acre, federally-owned island in the eastern end of Long Island Sound, is home to threatened and endangered birds like the piping plover and roseate tern, as well as other rare species. Seventy Connecticut and New York organizations work together as the Preserve Plum Island Coalition, partnering with grassroots activists and champions in Congress to halt sale of the island. CFE/Save the Sound has also brought an action in federal court claiming that the government’s decision to sell the island violates numerous federal environmental laws.

Fundraising will remain open through the end of the month. Members of the public may donate to support CFE/Save the Sound’s work at www.bit.ly/plum-plunge.

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“Plum Island Plunge for Plovers” to be Held in Old Saybrook This Morning

Fundraiser and press conference will bring together conservationists, students, elected officials

Aerial view of Plum Island lighthouse. (From Preserve Plum Island website)

Students from Old Saybrook High School’s Ecology and Interact Clubs, and a regional environmental organization are joining forces this Saturday, March 11, to raise awareness and support for protecting rare bird habitat on Long Island Sound.

Connecticut Fund for the Environment (CFE) and its bi-state program Save the Sound will devote the proceeds of the “polar plunge”-style fundraiser towards the organization’s multi-year battle to save Plum Island from sale and private development.

The event takes place at 10 a.m. on Old Saybrook Town Beach at Great Hammock Rd. (Rte. 154), Old Saybrook.

A piping plover ready to plunge! Image from CFE website.

Plum Island, an 840-acre, federally-owned island in the eastern end of Long Island Sound, is home to threatened and endangered birds like the piping plover and roseate tern, as well as other rare species. Seventy Connecticut and New York organizations work together as the Preserve Plum Island Coalition, partnering with grassroots activists and champions in Congress to halt sale of the island. CFE/Save the Sound has also brought an action in federal court claiming that the government’s decision to sell the island violates numerous federal environmental laws.

A press conference featuring local, state, and likely federal elected officials will kick off the event at Old Saybrook Town Beach, followed by a dash into the frigid Long Island Sound.  Senator Richard Blumenthal (schedule permitting), State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd) and Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna are all expected to be present.

Prizes will be awarded for the most funds raised and “Best Costume.”

“Plum Island Plunge for Plovers” is open to the public. Members of the public are encouraged to register and set up their own fundraising pages at www.bit.ly/plum-plunge, or support the students’ efforts at this page.

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Visgilio of Old Lyme Wins Silver, Bronze Medals in Vermont Special Olympics

Evan Visgilio of Old Lyme stands on the podium proudly wearing the silver medal that he won in the Vermont Special Olympics.

Evan Visgilio of Old Lyme returned from the Vermont Special Olympic Winter Games held this past weekend (March 3-6) in Woodstock, Vt., with a fourth place ribbon, along with a Bronze and a Silver Medal.

Suicide Six located in Woodstock, Vt., hosted the Vermont Special Olympics Winter and Visgilio, who was a member of the Hermitage at Haystack Team, participated in his first ever Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super G events. By the end of the competition, Visgilio had won an impressive collection of awards taking fourth place in Slalom, and winning a Bronze Medal in the Giant Slalom and a Silver Medal in the Super G.

Evan, who is 13-years-old, lives in Old Lyme with his parents John and Wendy Visgilio, along with his siblings Brenna, Will and John. Evan attends Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School where he is in  seventh Grade.

Evan was born with Down Syndrome and has been skiing for seven years. This was Evan’s first year competing in the Vermont Special Olympics. He trains at The Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain in Wilmington, Vt., with his coaches Scott Serota, Corey Robinson and Kate Riley.

Many congratulations to our friend and neighbor, Evan, from all of us at LymeLine.com!

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