August 18, 2017

The Kate Welcomes Spring With Unique Performances, Exciting Partnerships

Spring is here at the Kate … and summer is just around the corner!

The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center is welcoming Spring in many ways.  As the weather gets warmer and the days longer, the Kate’s performances are intended to brighten your mood.

With a Doors Tribute Band on March 24, and Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical from March 31 to April 2, through to the simulcast National Theatre Live performance of Obsession featuring Jude Law on June 8,  the Kate hopes to make your Spring shine.  And there are some surprises in store when you find out who is coming for the CPTV series at the Kate in June.

The tent that resides over the patio area of the Kate will be up in early May, heralding in warmer days and soulful nights of great music and events.  Become a member today and come to an evening of networking with area friends and businesses at the Membership Reception on the Kate’s namesake, Katharine Hepburn’s birthday, May 12.

Then get ready for special events under the tent as the summer season approaches along with the Kate’s largest fundraiser, the Summer Gala, which is held in August and honors a special guest award recipient.

“This is going to be an amazing season filled with performers people know and love, as well as performers that will surprise and excite our audiences,” said Brett Elliott, Executive Director of the Kate, adding, “The Kate is coming into its own and we look forward to more people being a part of it all.”

For more information on tickets for any shows at the Kate, visit www.thekate.org or call the Kate Box Office at 860-510-0453.

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Stella Swoops in with Heavy Snow, High Winds … and then Rain?

First snow plow of the day … there surely will be many more.

Winter Storm Stella is here.

The Governor has declared a State of Emergency meaning a statewide travel ban is in effect. Lyme-Old Lyme Schools, Lyme and Old Lyme Town Halls and Libraries, the Lymes’ Senior Center and many businesses from the size of Pfizer, Inc. downwards are closed.  Events galore have been cancelled, including recycling and trash pick-up in Old Lyme. A parking ban is in effect on all town roads from 6 a.m. to midnight today.

To reach the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Old Lyme, call 860.598.0120.

The Respite Center at the Lymes’ Senior Center on Town Woods Road and/or the regional Emergency Shelter at the East Lyme High School will be opened if necessary. Information will be available through the EOC and on LymeLine.com, and also will be reported on the Town of Old Lyme’s website and Facebook/Twitter.

State and local officials urge residents to stay off the roads during the storm … and stay safe.

Latest weather reports, however, predict Southeastern Connecticut will not now experience the brunt of the storm with the snow turning first to sleet and then rain later this morning.

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Lyme-Old Lyme HS Achieves Second Highest AP Scores in Connecticut

Students hard at work in a Chinese class at Lyme-Old Lyme High School, where recently released results show the school achieved the second highest AP scores in the state.

The College Board released the Class of 2016 Advanced Placement (AP®) Cohort Data, Feb. 22, which showed that Lyme-Old Lyme Schools came in as the school system in Connecticut with the second highest overall performance. No other Middlesex or New London County school system achieved a ranking higher than 20th

Performance is calculated based on the number of students in the Class of 2016 cohort who participated in at least one AP exam at any time during high school and who scored a ‘3’ or higher on at least one of those exams. Neither students nor exams are counted more than once.

In response to this exceptional news, Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser stated, “To be ranked second in the entire state is an incredible achievement and further supports the notion that the Lyme-Old Lyme Schools provide an education which rivals or exceeds both public and private schools throughout the State of Connecticut. This is a credit to the students, staff, and communities of Lyme and Old Lyme to achieve at such a high level in what is a very competitive atmosphere.”

The national AP® report shows an increase in both the participation and passing rates for the high school graduating Class of 2016 showing that equity and excellence can go hand in hand. Neviaser commented, “There is a widespread belief in education that it is impossible to expand access while maintaining high performance. The AP Program tells a different story.”  

This too holds true in Lyme-Old Lyme as the school system ranked 5th in the state in terms of AP® participation. Participation is calculated based on the number students in the Class of 2016 cohort who participated in at least one AP exam at any time during high school. Neither students nor exams are counted more than once.

Lyme-Old Lyme Schools accept students from all communities throughout Connecticut. If you would like to become a part of this high performing school system, visit www.region18.org or contact Ian Neviaser, Superintendent of Schools, at neviaseri@region18.org or 860.434.7238 for more information.

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Connecticut Voters Take Fight Against Extreme Poverty to D.C.

Sen. Murphy addresses a group of ONE members on Capitol Hill.

Constituents Lobby Sen. Chris Murphy to Protect Funding for International Development

On Tuesday morning, Feb.28, Nutmeggers descended on Capitol Hill as part of the ONE Campaign to urge Sen. Chris Murphy to do everything possible to protect the international development funding in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget and promote girls’ education, essential to fighting extreme poverty.

Constituents asked their members of Congress to preserve funding at its current level—which is less than 1 percent of the budget—and to vigorously oppose any proposed cuts. Slashing funding could have a devastating impact on the fights against extreme poverty and deadly diseases, and jeopardizes Americans’ safety and job creation.

Sen. Murphy speaks with Kelly Smith and Sarah Feller about funding for international development.

ONE is a policy and advocacy organization of more than 7.5 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Not politically partisan, ONE was co-founded by U2 lead singer Bono to raise public awareness and press political leaders to combat AIDS and other preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty-fighting programs.

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Cub Scouts Explore Historic US Naval Ships During Overnight Trip to Battleship Cove

Cub Scout Pack 27 of Old Lyme gather for a photo on board a battleship at Battleship Cove, Mass.

Cub Scout Pack 27 of Old Lyme recently stepped back in time, walking the decks and sleeping in the cots where Navy sailors once lived while fighting for the United States during World War II. The Pack took an overnight trip on Jan. 28 to Battleship Cove, in Fall River, Mass., to explore the world’s largest collection of historic U.S. naval ships.

Boys in bunks: finding out what sleeping on board a battleship is like.

Bear Scout Alex Glaras, 8, described the sleeping quarters. He said,

“It was huge and had so many canvas beds that I couldn’t count them all. Each column was four bunks tall and I was on the third level. I had to climb the beds like a ladder.” Bear Scout Trevor Buydos, 8, said, “I really liked sleeping high up in the pipe berths with my friends and the ship’s jail was a lot of fun.”

After touring the battleship Massachusetts, destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., submarine Lionfish, PT Boats 617 and 796, and the Russian missile corvette Hiddensee, the Scouts, their parents, and adult leaders, Tom Ortoleva, Peter Turtoro, and Chris Buydos, spent the night on board the famous battleship, the USS Massachusetts.

Watching the sunset from on board the “Massachusetts.”

Glaras said, “There were four decommissioned World War II ships … They were all hugely awesome!” Battleship Cove’s Nautical Nights program included a knot tying class, storyteller, living history presenter, and historical motion picture.

Seeing first hand the power of the battleship guns.

Bear Scout Connor Vautrain, 8, said, “At first I was scared to sleep on a ship all night. But once I got there I realized it wouldn’t move. A funny part about it was that when we got there they told us to go wait by the helicopter. I thought the helicopter would take us onto the ship. But then we just walked there! On the ship we saw a movie about the history of the ship. It was a lucky ship because no on on it ever died. We did a fire drill too. We had to sleep on cots; actually they were really comfortable. Overall, it was a blast!”

Alex Glaras stands on the deck of the ‘Massachusetts.’

Battleship Cove serves as the Commonwealth’s official memorial for Massachusetts citizens of all military branches who lost their lives in World War II, and the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf conflicts, and most recently the Commonwealth’s victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

This Cub Scout was excited to explore the interior of a battleship.

Preserving five National Historic Landmark naval vessels, Battleship Cove also delivers educational programs that expose a national audience of 60,000 youths to a mission that promotes duty, honor and country. The trip enabled the Scouts to better understand and appreciate the sacrifices made by veterans of all military branches in all wars. “Battleship Cove was really awesome, and I hope to go back soon!” said Glaras.

Aerial view of Battleship Cove.

For over 42 years, Pack 27 of Old Lyme has seen hundreds of Old Lyme’s youth (Kindergarten through fifth grade) enjoy and climb the different ranks of Scouting into young adulthood.

The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout oath and law.  Pack meetings are held on the third Thursday each month. All are welcome.

For more information, contact Tom Ortoleva at ortoleva.house@gmail.com or Chris Buydos at cjbuydos@comcast.net.

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Town of Old Lyme Sends 82 Pages of Comments on High Speed Rail Proposal to FRA

This past Monday, Feb. 13, Bonnie Reemsnyder, Old Lyme First Selectwoman, sent comments to the NEC Future Policy Advisor, Rebecca Reyes-Alicea, opposing the Old Saybrook, CT to Kenyon, RI bypass. The comments include in-depth remarks about many areas of concern, including

  • Environmental Issues
  • Geologic Features
  • Noise and Vibration
  • Artistic Significance of Old Lyme
  • Old Lyme Historic District
  • Historic Structures
  • Economic Issues.

As the proposed bypass can cause irreparable harm to the economic, cultural and environmental resources of Old Lyme and the other towns along its route, a strategy team was formed that tapped experts on all of these concerns.  The team comprised:

  • Bonnie Reemsnyder, First Selectwoman, Town of Old Lyme
  • Bennett J. Bernblum, Resident and Attorney (Old Lyme Board of Finance)
  • Michael Brown, Resident and Attorney
  • Jack Collins, Resident and Attorney (Town Attorney)
  • Catherine Frank, Executive Assistant to the First Selectwoman
  • Susan Saltonstall Duncan, Resident & Consultant (Rain Making Oasis)
  • David Duncan, Resident and Architect
  • John Forbis, Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center
  • Sam Gold, Executive Director, Lower CT River Council of Governments
  • Russ Todd, Acoustical Scientist and Engineer, A∙ʹku∙stiks Consulting
  • Claudia Weicker, Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center

The document includes a lengthy list of references to acknowledge these experts.

Read the cover letter from the Old Lyme First Selectwoman at this link.

Read the 82-page supporting report at this link.  Regarding the report, Reemsnyder notes, “We believe that this document will be a guide for the FRA and NEC Future Team to assure that all areas of concern are fully addressed in Tier 2 of the process.”

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Local Lawmakers Urge State to Support ‘The Kate’ with Tourism Signage on Rte. 9 and I-95

Rep. Carney (left), The Kate’s Director of Development Dana Foster (center), and Paul Formica (right) at the Jan. 29 public hearing on the proposal to install signs for The Kate on local highways.

Local lawmakers are urging the state legislature to help support the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center (‘The Kate’) by passing legislation that would allow tourism signage for the center to be placed on Rte. 9 and I-95.

Sen. Paul Formica (R-20th), Sen. Art Linares (R-33rd) and Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) submitted testimony in favor of House Bill 5574 and spoke before the Transportation Committee to urge fellow lawmakers to support the local theater. ‘The Kate’ is a theater in the Town of Old Saybrook that provides entertainment for the region and is named for Connecticut Hall-of-Famer, multiple Academy Award winner, and former Old Saybrook resident Katharine Hepburn.

“We believe that ‘The Kate’ deserves to have signage along both I-95 and Rte. 9 because it will attract tourists to the theater and create an interest for those passing by the signs,” the lawmakers said in their written testimony, adding, “Similar theaters have signage along various highways throughout the state due to their importance and popularity and ‘The Kate’ is no different.”

They continued, “It is a cultural hub with entertainment that draws people from across the state and the country. It is an economic engine, not only for Old Saybrook, but for the region as a whole and helps nearby businesses like the many restaurants and shops in town. Signage along the highway will only improve the number of tourists to town and we believe it is in the state’s best interest to promote this important theater with the signage suggested.”

Sen. Formica and Dana Foster, Director of Development and External Relations at The Kate, testify before the Transportation Committee in favor of House Bill 5574 An Act Concerning Signs Indication the Location of the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center.

Sen. Formica testified in person with Dana Foster, Director of Development and External Relations, at ‘The Kate,’ on Jan. 31, before the Transportation Committee on which Rep. Carney is a ranking member.

Foster explained the importance of signage along the highways, saying, “Signage would help our growing audiences navigate the multiple exits to Old Saybrook and help to further attract additional tourists and others to our historical building, great exhibit, and incredible arts and programming.”

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Around 200 Attend Protest Rally Held in Mystic Against Proposed Saybrook-Kenyon Rail Bypass

Around 200 people turned out yesterday despite the dismal conditions to join a protest rally in Mystic against the Tier 1 proposed high speed rail bypass.

MYSTIC — Standing within the pathway of the Federal Railroad Administration’s proposed high speed bypass, more than 200 people gathered Saturday near the red caboose in Olde Mistick Village to speak out against the plan.

The bypass is part of a $130 billion project that is intended to increase capacity, reliability, and speed along the Northeast Corridor …  Click this link to read the full story by Catherine Hewitt and published today on thewesterlysun.com.

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Reemsnyder Speaks Against Proposed High Speed Rail Route at Hartford Hearing

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder testified Monday at a state Transportation Committee hearing on three motions prepared by State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) and State Sen. Paul Formica (R-20th) to oppose the Federal Rail Authority’s proposal to build a bypass through southeastern Connecticut that includes a tunnel under the Connecticut River from Old Saybrook to Old Lyme.

Read a full report of the hearing by Kimberly Drelich and published Feb. 6 on theday.com at this link. 

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Old Lyme Author Jen Petty Hilger Launches Her First Book, “Thisbe, Queen of Adventure”

This Saturday, Feb. 4, Lyme Public Library will be celebrating Take Your Child to the Library Day. Join the fun between 12 and 2 p.m. when local author and Old Lyme resident Jen Petty Hilger will be signing copies of her first published picture book, Thisbe, Queen of Adventure.

We spent a little time with Jen Petty Hilger to find out why she wrote her first book about chickens. She explained, “Last spring I decided I’d lived long enough without chickens. Always wanted them … not really great on Park Avenue in New York City, but now the time was right.”

She continued, “We took all six kids and picked out six chickens … Thisbe, Henrietta, Georgie, Molly, Charlotte and Europa. All girls.” adding that the brood comprised, “Two Buff Orpingtons. Two silver- laced Wyandottes and two Cuckoo Morans.”

Checking on the chicks.

Hilger says emphatically, “It was love at first sight. They were three-days-old and lived inside in a box for nine weeks, adding, “When they were old enough we built a beautiful coop but they still came in for visits and I started thinking about how fast they were growing up and how much fun they had roaming around.”


Then, just like that, she says,”One day the whole story of their sweet little childhoods popped into my head and I wrote Thisbe.”


“Who is Thisbe?” we asked, and Hilger patiently explained, “Thisbe is an egg who dreams of adventure. She is the Queen of Adventure. As she grows, her mama takes her on little adventures about the yard. She is delighted by her world. The flowers and bugs and other birds. She is awestruck by the wonders of her surroundings.”

Is this ‘the Queen of Adventure’?

What happened next?  Hilger says she started on the illustrations (see below) and then put together a dummy of her children’s story.”

And how did she come to be a published author?  “Well …” Hilger says with a broad smile, “After months of back and forth with the publishers, we had a mock-up … and then the book!”

To add a personal note here, Jen Petty Mann (as she was then) wrote book reviews for us for years.  She was an extraordinarily talented writer from that side of the book cover, if you’ll forgive the expression, so it comes as no surprise to us that she’s now gone inside and written her own book.  We just can’t wait to get our hands on a copy … and review it ourselves!

Many congratulations, Jen!

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Old Lyme Selectmen Announce LOLHS Life Skills Program Members as 2016 Citizens of the Year

Citizens of the Year 2016 (students, aides and teacher Leslie O’ Connor at right) gather for a photo in the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School auditorium with former Citizens of the Year Jeff Sturges (2011), Lynn Fairfield-Sonn (2014) and Mary Seidner (2015) (second, third and fourth from right respectively), Peter Cable (2013 – second from left) and the board of selectmen (Selectman Skip Sibley, Selectwoman MaryJo Nosal and First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, first, third and fourth from left respectively.)

Noting that the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen was doing “something just a little bit different,” this year in terms of the Citizen of the Year announcement, First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder introduced the 2016 recipients as not one person in the traditional manner, but rather a group of people.   She went on to name Lyme-Old Lyme High School’s (LOLHS) Life Skills & Transition Program Teachers, Aides & Students as the 2016 Citizen of the Year at the Old Lyme Annual Town Meeting held last night in the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School (LOLMS) auditorium where around 50 people had gathered.

Reemsnyder explained, “A wonderful thing happens regularly in town hall,” and then added, reading from the 2016 Citizen of the Year citation, “Members of our community may be unaware of the important role played in our community by the teachers, assistants/job coaches, and especially the students from Regional District 18’s Life Skills program.”

She continued, “It has been nearly 10 years since the Town first began working with student interns from Lyme-Old Lyme High School. The relationship has been considered a success for the students and has proven invaluable for the Town.”

Adding, “Historically, Regional District 18 contracted with outside agencies to provide vocational experiences and transition services to students with Individual Education Plans,” Reemsnyder noted, “The decision made a decade ago to bring vocational experiences “home” to Old Lyme meant significant financial savings to the district and created a unique opportunity for our community. The Town Hall internships alone represent over 3,000 work hours.”

Old Lyme resident and LOLHS Special Education teacher Leslie O’Connor was coordinator of the Life Skills program when the Town Hall internship program was developed. Pointing out that, “The program was considered a chance for our community to really be a community,” Reemsnyder commented, “And, because of the success of the Town Hall internships, many other organizations and businesses have also welcomed Life Skills interns: OLPGN’s Book Cellar, the Big Y, Lyme Academy College, the Nearly New Shop, Elements florist, Old Lyme Veterinary Clinic, Bee & Thistle Inn, Rivers End Bait &Tackle, and Gladeview among them. Local attorney Greg Carnese has offered to develop a job in his office for interns.”

Reemsnyder added, still reading from  the citation, “Students have worked alongside the Regional District’s maintenance staff as landscapers. In the Life Skills program, students work as the High School’s recycling technicians, and have run small businesses including making and selling gift tags, dog treats, and jars of tomato sauce and soups. They have also catered staff luncheons and meetings. According to Leslie, our community has supported them by buying every product offered.”

Reemsnyder cited one task that has stood out in terms of the award saying, “With the help of job coaches Elaine Niles, Gina Wohlke, and Elizabeth Watrous Stopa, Town Hall interns Taylor Saunders, Kelly Mastrianna, Leah Migliaccio, and Alexa Agostine took on the mammoth, ongoing task of converting paper records into electronic ones.”

A delighted Bilal Mahal receives his Citizen of the Year award from Selectwoman MaryJo Nosal

Bilal Malik was also given high praise by Reemsnyder for performing an ADA accessibility assessment of the Town Hall. Reemsnyder described this project as, “work that continues to guide us through necessary changes to the building.” 

Reemsnyder also acknowledged the exceptional role that her Executive Assistant Catherine Frank had played in both the establishment of the program in town hall and in its ongoing support and management.

In conclusion, Reemsnyder stated, “The students have gained vocational skills, practiced invaluable social and communication skills, and been able to create some impressive resumes,” while at the same time, “Through our work with the young interns, we have gained an appreciation for the dedication and caring of their teachers and job coaches, and a life-changing awareness of the limitless potential of our most exceptional citizens.”  

The students present were given flowers and a certificate each and along with their job coaches and teacher Leslie O’Connor, they were all given a standing ovation.

O’Connor graciously spoke on behalf of the students and the coaches thanking the board of selectmen for the award.  She also thanked all the businesses and organizations that have welcomed interns from the program into their places of work, adding with a smile that she would be happy to welcome any new businesses or organizations into the program immediately

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Old Saybrook ‘Sister March’ Draws Almost 1,000 on Saturday

Baby’s first march — we suspect not Grandma’s!

The march may only have been registered late last week, but almost 1,000 people still turned out Saturday morning in Old Saybrook to join the movement that inspired around three million people across the globe to publicly express their opinions on the rights of women and other minority groups, and in many ways on the new Trump presidency as a whole.

More than 500 people had gathered by 10 a.m. on the Old Saybrook Town Green unsure whether they were just going to simply stand in front of the Town Hall or whether they were actually going to march.

They came from towns all along the shoreline — Guilford, Clinton, Old Lyme, Lyme, East Lyme, and Old Saybrook were all mentioned — and they spanned in age from a few months to others well into their 80s and many wore what had become the signature pink “Pussy Hats.” Many people brought signs ranging from hand-written words painted on pieces of cardboard to an elaborately embroidered banner bearing the words “Not My President.”

Others like Alison Mitchell of Old Lyme fearlessly sat in her wheelchair strongly and stoically making her point.

Around 10:30 a.m., it became apparent that a march was beginning going north up Main St. on the east side towards Boston Post Rd. then crossing over and returning to the Green going south on the west side.  By this time the crowd had swelled by several hundred more and as the demonstrators marched, more and more people joined.

Women were definitely in the majority but there were plenty of men marching too.  There were some chants, “Love Trumps Hate” was a popular one, and songs,”We Shall Overcome” rang out at one point, and overall, it was a cheerful, friendly occasion.  When the clouds cleared and the sun finally broke through on the return leg, marcher Rosemary Barclay of Old Lyme said with a chuckle, “It’s certainly not going to rain on our parade!”

From left to right, some Old Lyme marchers share a smile.

But once wasn’t enough for these intrepid marchers.  Almost as soon as they found themselves back at ‘The Kate,’ they started re-tracing their steps and ultimately completed a second loop. The Old Saybrook Police did a wonderful job stopping the patient traffic so that the marchers could cross Main Street whenever necessary.

By the time of the second circuit, the line of marchers was so long that it snaked down one side of Main St., across the road and then up the other side.  Passengers were getting out of cars to join the march, horns were being sounded regularly — and loudly — in support of the marchers and only one lone pick-up truck with “Trump’ flags was spotted.

At the end of it all, the marchers happily gathered in front of the Town Hall and in communion with all the other marchers across the nation and the world, observed a meaningful moment of silence before peacefully dispersing.

More signs …

… and another …

… and another …

… and another …

David Brown with coffee and a sign …

A previous presidential campaign slogan refocused …

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FRA Extends Deadline for Comments on High Speed Rail Proposal

SECoast.org made the following announcement at 6:09 p.m. this evening: Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island has just issued a press release announcing that the Federal Railroad Administration has agreed to an extension of “at least several weeks.”  SECoast.org quotes Sen. Reed directly from his press release as follows,

” I am pleased the FRA is extending the deadline to help ensure that all voices are heard and all options are considered.  This must be an open, transparent process.  This extension will give citizens more time to offer input and it will give the FRA more time to carefully study the data and make informed decisions.  I am glad the FRA is not trying to rush the process, and I hope the incoming Trump Administration will honor that commitment,” said Reed, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing & Urban Development”

More information is available at here, at the Charlestown Citizens Alliance Webpage. 

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Application Deadline for Environmental Leadership Scholarship is Feb. 1

logoApplications are now being accepted for the Virginia R. Rollefson Environmental Leadership Scholarship, a $1,000 award to recognize a high school student who has demonstrated leadership and initiative in promoting conservation, preservation, restoration, or environmental education.

Students residing in Middlesex County, Lyme or Old Lyme are eligible to apply.

The scholarship is presented by the Rockfall Foundation and applications must be submitted by noon on Wednesday, Feb. 1. For a copy of the application or for more information, visit www.rockfallfoundation.org or call 860-347-0340.

The Rockfall Foundation supports environmental education, conservation programs and planning initiatives in the Lower Connecticut River Valley. Established in 1935, it is one of Connecticut’s oldest environmental organizations whose mission is to be a catalyst– bringing people together and supporting organizations to conserve and enhance the county’s natural environment. Rockfall awards grants each year to organizations, schools and municipalities, and sponsors educational programs and symposia.

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$16 Million Gift From Old Lyme Sisters Benefits Birds, Animals and Environment

Sisters Mary Janvrin (right), who had lived in Old Lyme prior to her death in Chester, Conn., and Natalie Janvrin Wiggins of Old Lyme, whose $16 million bequest to two Community Foundations will benefit birds, animals and the environment.

Janvrin sisters’ legacy leaves $8 million each to two community foundations.

Mary Janvrin and Natalie Janvrin Wiggins shared a life-long love of ornithology and nature that eventually turned into a tremendous legacy.

Natalie, 88, who lived in Old Lyme, passed away in May 2010.  Mary, 91, had also previously been a resident of Old Lyme but was living in Chester, Conn., at the time of her death on Sept. 29, 2016. Upon Mary’s passing, her trust set into motion the establishment of two funds that will make lasting contributions to bird and animal welfare, and the preservation of their natural environment.

The Mary Janvrin and Natalie Janvrin Wiggins Fund for Birds, Other Animals and Nature will bring $8 million each to the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut (CFECT) and the Community Foundation of Middlesex County (CFMC). For generations to come, these funds will amplify the wildlife and environmental conservation efforts supported by these grantmakers.

“I greatly enjoyed working with Mary Janvrin, and also with her sister, Natalie Janvrin Wiggins, who passed away in 2010,” reflected attorney Suzanne Kitchings of Kitchings & Potter. “I feel privileged to have helped Mary create this important plan, which will carry out the sisters’ wishes to benefit birds, animals and the environment in perpetuity.”

Janvrin’s gift is the second largest for CFECT. Its largest gift was a $10 million bequest from Peter Letz in 2014, also to benefit animal welfare and the environment. Preserving the environment and advancing animal welfare are two of CFECT’s four strategic focus areas.

“Mary Janvrin’s generous bequest will help us have greater impact on the well-being of our region,” explained Maryam Elahi, President and CEO of CFECT. “Because this new fund covers all of Eastern Connecticut, we will be able to forge partnerships and tackle critical projects throughout our region, as well as in collaboration with CFMC.  

“Mary and her sister Natalie cared deeply about preserving the species and spaces that make Connecticut a wonderful place to live,” shared Moira Martin of Essex Savings Bank’s Trust Department, which serves as the executor of the Janvrin estate. “We in the Trust Department are tremendously proud to have been given the opportunity to work with such generous and passionate clients as Mary and Natalie, whose gift will both stimulate new conservation efforts and energize existing conservation programs for the wildlife, lands and people in our region.”

“For professional advisors like Suzanne and Moira, serving the interests of their clients is at the heart of the matter. When those interests include a generous legacy like the Janvrin sisters’, what an honor and delight for community foundations to put that thoughtful vision into action,” concluded Elahi.

Editor’s Note: Serving 42 towns and comprised of 465 charitable funds, the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut (CFECT) puts philanthropy into action to address the needs, rights and interests of the region. CFECT stewards an endowment of more than $60 million and has awarded more than $39 million in grants and scholarships to area nonprofits and students since its founding in 1983. To learn more, visit cfect.org.

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High Speed Train Route Dominates Our 2016 Stories. LymeLine Opinion: Now It’s 2017, What Happens Next?

Rendering by Robin Breeding of the high-speed train in Old Lyme drawn/created to scale.

It’s a New Year, which brings an opportunity to review and reflect on the previous year, and to make plans for the new one. We have covered so many topics throughout 2016 that we decided to enlist the help of Google Analytics to determine which have generated the most interest among our readers.

Our ‘Top 20’ of “Most Viewed Stories” included those covering

But far and away the highest number of pageviews generated in 2016 came from stories related to the proposed high speed rail track. Seven of our ‘Top 20’ stories in 2016 were about one aspect or more of the Federal Rail Authority’s (FRA) high speed train proposal with our 2016 #1 story being Greg Stroud’s Op-Ed piece back in January, which, in our mind, really sparked the whole general awareness of the situation.  That single story generated almost 6,000 pageviews.

This widespread interest in the high speed train route culminated on Dec. 19, 2016 with the announcement by the FRA that, despite more than 1,000 letters of protest from residents of Old Lyme, their Preferred Route was, after all, through Old Lyme … but now in the form of a tunnel. The FRA has, however, also refused to eliminate the possibility of the aerial track that it originally proposed, which seems a likely fall-back position for the FRA since the organization, as far as we know, has done no — yes, that’s zero — research into the practicalities of digging a tunnel under the Connecticut River estuary.

The announcement of the Preferred Route on Dec. 16, 2016 brought with it a 30-day deadline for raising comments, but unlike the comment period that accompanied the initial draft proposal announced back in December 2015, the FRA has no obligation to respond to any of the comments raised.

We know that SECoast.org, the non-profit “organizing and educating the public to protect Southeastern Connecticut and the Lower Connecticut River Valley,” and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation have together filed for an extension of the 30-day Comment Period by an additional 60 days taking it from Jan. 31 to April 1.  The extension is critical to allow more people to contact the FRA to express their concerns about the route and for more detailed analysis of the proposal to take place.  It is patently clear from the timing of the announcement of the Preferred Route (nine days before Christmas) that the FRA is hoping only a very limited number of people will bother to file comments this time, especially since the FRA is not required to respond to them.  Then they (the FRA) can argue that Old Lyme is not only placated but probably supportive of the proposal.

We also know that our elected representatives US Sen. Richard Blumenthal, US Congressman Joe Courtney, State Sen. Paul Formica (R- 20th), and State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) have all been fully supportive of efforts to persuade the FRA to reconsider the Preferred Route and we are greatly appreciative of their actions.  Similarly, the first selectmen of Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and East Lyme along with some other local state senators and representatives have all publicly denounced the proposal and we much appreciate that too.

There has also recently been a considerable surge of interest and active concern expressed by organizations in Rhode Island.  These include The Nature Conservancy of Rhode Island and the Westerly (R.I) Land Trust.

But what has happened here in our own backyard in terms of specific actions to express concern to the FRA regarding the Preferred Route?  We are fully aware that a great deal is surely happening below the radar regarding train route negotiations and respect the need for that, but in the interests of our readers, we have some questions.

  • Have the boards of selectmen of Old Lyme, East Lyme and Old Saybrook also filed for a 60-day extension to the Comment Period and/or approved motions expressing their deep concerns about the proposed route?
  • Have the Connecticut branches of The Nature Conservancy and Audubon Society, the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center or the Connecticut Fund for the Environment and the Old Lyme Land Trust issued any sort of statement regarding the proposed route and/or requested an extension to the Comment Period?
  • And what about the Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce and the numerous art and other non-profit organizations in town — have they each written and requested an extension to the Comment Period?

We do know that a team has been appointed by the Old Lyme First Selectwoman to study the impact of the Preferred Alternative, but we do not know who its members are or the nature of their work. We sense a Town Meeting in Old Lyme might be helpful for residents to come together and hear from the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen (BOS) about the work currently being undertaken by the team and how the BOS intends to respond to the FRA Preferred Alternative.

We continue to be passionate supporters of high-speed rail but each one of us is currently watching as, to quote State Rep. Carney, “a dark cloud” hangs over our beautiful and irreplaceable environment, our property prices drop and our town population declines. Therefore our overarching hope for 2017 is that we all pull together to defeat the current route proposal by openly sharing information and acting as a cohesive, effective force against what Sen. Richard Blumenthal has so aptly described as a, “frankly half-baked, hare-brained notion.”

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Editorial by The Courant: CT Needs Alternative To Feds’ Shoreline Rail Route

The Hartford Courant published a strong and insightful editorial yesterday about the Federal Railroad Administration’s proposed high speed train route yesterday, which begins, “The Federal Railroad Administration needs to rethink its proposal to build new high-speed rail lines through parts of Connecticut, and local leaders should help federal officials come up with a better plan.”

Read the full editorial at this link: http://www.courant.com/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-rethink-shoreline-rail-plan-20161227-story.html

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Tips on How to Write to the FRA to Oppose the High Speed Railroad Route

We received a helpful piece from SECoast.org offering detailed advice to our readers on how to write a letter to the Federal Rail Authority (FRA) to voice opposition to the proposed high speed rail Kenyon to Old Saybrook bypass and request an extension of the FRA’s Comment period on the proposal from 30 to 60 days.

The Town of Old Lyme has also sent out an email asking residents to write to the FRA for the same reasons.

We’re glad to support all the efforts to get the word out to the maximum number of people and so we’re republishing the main points of SECoast’s email below:

It’s the holiday season, but there is a Jan. 31 deadline fast approaching to oppose the Kenyon to Old Saybrook bypass, and you want to know what you can do?

First, even if you submitted public comment earlier in the process, you should write again. You don’t have to live near the bypass, comment is available to all adults, so please share this post with your friends everywhere.

Now, just follow these simple steps:

1. Send an email to the Federal Railroad Administration. Here is the address: info@necfuture.com

2. In the Subject line include something like this: “Extend the Deadline & Drop the Kenyon to Old Saybrook Bypass” (you can cut and paste, but it never hurts to personalize these things)

3. Yes, a brilliant argument helps, but so does the sheer volume of comments. If you want a brilliant comment, that will come in January, but for now, don’t worry, keep it simple. Just cut and paste in this message:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to oppose the inclusion of the Kenyon to Old Saybrook Bypass in NEC Future planning. I am also writing to object to the limited notice, and opportunity to comment on the plan. I first learned about plans for a Kenyon to Old Saybrook Bypass on ADD DATE OF WHEN YOU LEARNED OF BYPASS HERE.

It is clear, that the Federal Railroad Administration has failed to demonstrate to the public a compelling need for a Kenyon to Old Saybrook Bypass. There is also mounting evidence that the Federal Railroad Administration failed to comply with either the spirit or the letter of the law, by selecting the Kenyon to Old Saybrook Bypass as part of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (F-EIS) prior to public comment, on or before, November 15, 2015.

To be clear, the Kenyon to Old Saybrook Bypass poses intolerable and unsustainable impacts to the dense historic and environmental resources which define both Southeastern Connecticut and Southwestern Rhode Island.

Given the importance of the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (P-EIS) for the future of the Northeast Corridor, a 60-day extension of the deadline for public comment from January 31, 2017 to April 1, 2017, is not only in the public interest, but has clear precedent. Indeed, a similar extension was granted to review much less extensive plans for the “All Aboard Florida” high speed rail planning initiative in Florida. The Federal Railroad Administration has enjoyed flexible deadlines throughout the planning process, surely, the public deserves an equivalent opportunity to provide informed and meaningful comment before this critical document is finalized.

Sincerely,

4. Now that you have cut-and-pasted, feel free to personalize it, just make sure you have added the date as instructed above. That date is important for the public record. Now sign and send. You can also mail your comment by post to:

NEC FUTURE
U.S. DOT Federal Railroad Administration
One Bowling Green, Suite 429
New York, NY 10004

Editor’s Note: Please share this post on all your social media accounts to spread the information far and wide. Thank you!

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Old Lyme Board of Selectman Discuss Possibility of Instigating Historic Survey of Town, But No Vote Taken to Move Forward

At a Special Meeting of the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen last Friday morning, the selectmen discussed the possibility of conducting a study of historic properties in the town, which had  recently been requested in a motion by the Old Lyme Historic District Commission (HDC). 

Gregory Stroud, Executive Director of  SECoast, had similarly urged that such a survey be undertaken in an op-ed published by LymeLine.com Nov. 6, 2016, noting that Old Lyme’s current survey is some 40 years old and therefore, “shamefully out of date.” He pointed out, “A historic survey matters not just for high-speed rail, but because it will inform every state and federal infrastructure project heading our way …”

The selectmen invited the HDC Chair Dr. John Pfeiffer to join their discussion and he explained why the HDC felt a survey was necessary, saying, “A survey needs to be done to find out what’s out there — we know what’s in the Historic District, but not outside,” adding, “Only when you know what’s out there can you plan.”

Pfeiffer commented, “I hope the Connecticut [State Historic] Preservation Office (SHPO) would come out and make a presentation about the survey terms,” adding, “I don’t know what they have in mind.”  He said that the HDC had endorsed the proposal to have a new survey conceptually, but “want to know more about it.”  Pfeiffer said, “I would want to get a better handle on what they would do,” while also noting that $30,000 was currently “available” from the state to fund the survey.

First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder welcomed the idea of SHPO coming to Old Lyme to give a presentation about how they would conduct the survey as happened when the Sound View proposal was under discussion.  She expressed concern at the area which had been mentioned as the survey size related to this proposal — roughly a one-mile-swath from north to south through the center of town. She commented, “I wonder at the breadth of the survey — that’s a lot.”  Pfeiffer agreed, “It’s probably going to be a long-drawn out process.”

Selectman Arthur “Skip” Sibley, who joined the discussion by phone, said, “I thought there was an existing survey that we’re updating … I thought it was just the Historic District.”  Pfeiffer explained, “In the 70s we produced a pretty good map … the survey would define what’s outside.  The first step is [to find out] what is out there.”

Sibley then asked, “Would it make sense to have a town hall committee to head this up?” noting that there is “A lot of passion and energy for this topic.”


Pfeiffer responded in the negative saying, “Let’s get the survey started before we have another committee,”  adding, “I’m at a loss to figure out how rigorous they (SHPO) want to be … I don’t know what they have in mind.”

Selectwoman MaryJo Nosal said she was about to ask Pfeiffer what had “… compelled the HDC to support this [the motion to request a survey.]  She then answered her own question saying, “I like the answer that it’s looking at what’s outside [the Historic District.]  Nosal questioned whether the survey should be “a regional effort,” to which Pfeiffer responded firmly, “Yes.”  Like Sibley, Nosal said she also believed the survey involved, “… just updating current maps,” noting, “I think it makes really good sense to look outside the town and make it a regional effort.”

Stroud, who was present at the meeting in the audience but not at the table during the discussion, spoke during public comment to clarify several points.  He stressed that the initial $30,000 from the state, “Doesn’t require a match [from the town] and therefore is not wasting any taxpayer money.” Moreover, a further $15,000 is available from the federal government and significantly, “SHPO has expressed an interest in the project.”  He emphasized that the funds are “currently” available and that therefore there is “some element of a ticking clock.”

Regarding the issue of the scope of the survey, Stroud noted that Daniel McKay of the Connecticut Trust had “arrived at this scope based on the comments of Rachel Reyes- Alicia” at the Aug. 31 meeting held in Old Lyme.

Following up on comments related to the purpose of and time to conduct the survey, Stroud confirmed, “The survey does not entail national registration.  It’s a survey to determine eligibility.”  He explained his understanding that the survey would take “months, not years” to complete and noted the scope of the survey could be adjusted by the town as desired.  He also commented that the “rigor” of the survey, of which Pfeiffer had spoken is different from “scope.”

After the meeting, Stroud told LymeLine.com, “I don’t think anyone with any serious understanding of these issues questions the need for an updated historic survey. I just hope that rather than waiting another three or six months to begin a survey, we start the process when it can still be fully-funded by state, federal and private grants, and while it still can help shape the decisions of the CT DOT and the Federal Railroad Administration.”

He continued, “Let’s keep this process as fast, streamlined and effective as possible. A simple historic survey with wide geographic boundaries. No national registration. No bells and whistles.”

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Op-Ed: Old Lyme Urgently Needs New Historic Survey; Current One Dates Back to 70s Leaving Town Vulnerable to High-Speed Rail and Other State, Federal Projects

11/06 UPDATE: We note that an item on tomorrow’s regular Historic District Commission agenda is “FRA Plan Update.”  The meeting is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. in the Old Lyme Town Hall.

Editor’s Note: The author of this op-ed, Gregory Stroud, is the Executive Director of  SECoast, the non-profit dedicated to organizing and educating the public to protect the Southeastern Connecticut and the Lower Connecticut River Valley.

Sometime, perhaps three or four years ago, when the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) first began plotting potential routes for a high-speed rail bypass across southeastern Connecticut, they would have consulted existing state and federal historic surveys to assess the impacts, and adjust the routes accordingly.

Surveys provide the government with a dispassionate, nuts-and-bolts, accounting and evaluation of a community’s worth. The government conducts all kinds of surveys, surveys of mineral resources, timber resources, and yes, even historic resources. And just as a town out in Iowa would be foolish to neglect its survey of farmland — lest the government decides to build an incinerator in Dubuque, or the Mississippi tops its banks in Keokuk — a small town of extraordinary historic worth, like Old Lyme, would be foolish to neglect its historic survey.

A historic survey matters not just for high-speed rail, but because it will inform every state and federal infrastructure project heading our way: the inevitable reworking of the existing rail corridor, the widening of I-95, the routing of new utilities, and the building of new cellphone towers. In fact, just two weeks ago the Connecticut Department of Transportation began revamping its 2004 study for I-95 through Old Lyme.

Over the next 25 years, Old Lyme faces a veritable multi-billion-dollar wave of infrastructure projects, forcing the state and federal government to make any number of difficult decisions. In simple terms, it’s a competition for limited routes and limited dollars. Unfortunately for Old Lyme, we entered this competition four or so years ago with a historic survey that was shamefully out of date. Think 40 years out of date — hip-huggers, bell-bottoms. Our baseline historic survey dates to the early 1970s. You can imagine, a lot has changed in terms of method and standards over the last four decades, leaving Old Lyme undervalued for state and federal planning.

We will never know whether an updated survey might have persuaded the FRA to draw its purple line elsewhere. There is no point in grousing about the past. But as every other town and region along the Northeast Corridor prepares for the competition, Old Lyme can’t wait around and hope for better.

So, what’s the cost? Nothing. Zero. Zip. The State Historic Preservation Office can fully fund the cost of a survey up to $30,000 — that should be plenty. And for whatever reason, if Old Lyme prefers all the bells and whistles, the town can apply for an additional $15,000 of federal funding. That would require a 50 percent match, but some or all of this could be covered by a grant from the Connecticut Trust.

I’m not whistling in the dark. Some time ago, I asked Daniel Mackay, the executive director of our statewide partner at the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, “on a scale of one to ten, how important is an up-to-date historic resource survey?” “An eleven,” he replied. And if you’ve ever met him, you’ll know that Mackay is not prone to hysteria or exaggeration. This past weekend, at a conference in New Haven, I polled half-a-dozen experts on the topic. Everyone from the State Historic Preservation Office to academics agreed, without hedging or hesitation, that an updated survey was “commonsense,” that it would be “crazy” not to do it. And not just the preservationists, in my conversations with lawyers, they similarly agree.

I first raised the issue with town government on February 1. Since that time, we have raised the issue over a dozen times in writing, in meetings, and phone calls. Luckily, there is a rolling deadline. It’s still not too late.

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