March 29, 2017

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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Farewell to Fiorelli: The Director Who Made The Library “The Heart and Soul of Old Lyme”

A smiling Mary Fiorelli (center) stands with her siblings.

A smiling Mary Fiorelli (center) stands with her siblings, Skip and Patricia.

It seemed as if almost the whole town had turned out Thursday, Sept. 29, to say farewell to Mary Fiorelli, who was retiring after almost 16 years as director of the Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library (OL-PGN) and another three before that as its reference librarian.

crowd

The large crowd, pictured in small part above, which had caused the parked cars outside not only to fill the library’s lot but also to span both sides of the length of Lyme Street, overflowed from the Reading Room at the back of the library into the main area of the library itself.  It was a sad but joyous occasion as the community said goodbye to its much beloved, happily adopted (Fiorelli lives in Mystic) member and wished her well in all her new retirement ventures.

In a typically short but genuine speech — Fiorelli is well-known for avoiding the spotlight whenever possible — she thanked the Old Lyme community, “for giving me the opportunity to do the job I love for almost 16 years.”  She confessed, “For me, the best part of being the director has been developing programs and exhibits. It allowed me to stay in touch with our patrons … I heard all about what they liked or were interested in, which gave me a way to gauge our successes and plan for future programs.”

John Forbis gives his good wishes to Mary at the event.

John Forbis gives his good wishes to Mary at the event.

And it was while planning these programs that Fiorelli found she, “wanted to explore my own need for a creative outlet, which led me to pick up a camera and take photography classes.” Standing in a room filled with an exhibition of photographs she had taken,  Fiorelli commented, “This photographic exhibit is my way to share with you my passion for the outdoors and the many hidden gems we have in our own state parks and preserves.”

From left to right, leslie massa, Chairman of the Friends of the library, Alan Poirier, Library Board of Trustees President and David Winer, past Board President share memories of Mary's tenure.

From left to right, Leslie Massa, Chairman of the Friends of the Library, Alan Poirier, Library Board of Trustees President and David Winer, past Board President share memories of Mary’s tenure.

In a somewhat longer speech, the chairman of the OL-PGN Board of Trustees Alan Poirier noted, “I’m not sure of the math, but I believe Mary is the 19th or 20th director of the library – and we are transferring this great legacy that goes back to the dedication in June 1898.” He said that at the 1898 ceremony, Daniel Gilman, President of the Johns Hopkins University, called the library, “a place for inspiration.”

Famous faces in the crowd: David Handler (back right) and Luanne Rice (extreme right), both Top 10 New York Times authors, joined the celebrations.

Famous faces in the crowd: David Handler (back right) and Luanne Rice (extreme right), both Top 10 New York Times-selling authors, joined the celebrations.

Poirier told the audience, “Mary has kept to that vision with all that she has done for us.  She has helped us deliver the experience we want patrons to have,” which was, “… to be the community’s vibrant hub for engagement, discovery and creativity,” and, “to inspire lifelong learning and discovery in a welcoming place with exceptional resources, programs and services.”  Poirier stressed the fact that Fiorelli had worked diligently to make the library “a welcoming place,” especially in her work setting up and curating art exhibits, thus, “helping to maintain that link to the artist, which goes back to the earliest days of the library.”

Mary Fiorelli stands with former OL-PGN staff member Stephanie Romano, who recently was appointed the Director of Chester Library.

Mary Fiorelli (right) stands with former OL-PGN staff member Stephanie Romano, who recently was appointed the Director of Chester Library.

He also noted that Fiorelli had increased participation in library programs by over 60 percent in recent years, broadened outreach to home-bound patrons and created new partnerships with local schools. Moreover, she kept the Trustees well-informed about operations and about new opportunities and, “… most importantly, she has built a huge reservoir of trust with the patrons.”

Everyone was there: Florence Griswold Museum Director Jeff Andersen chats with the Poiriers.

Everyone was there: Florence Griswold Museum Director Jeff Andersen chats with the Poiriers.

Fiorelli is a keen sailor and Poirier drew on a seafaring metaphor to sum up Fiorelli’s contribution to the library, saying, “calm in a storm” comes to mind when one thinks of her, and adding, “I can say that her calm and steady and knowledgeable approach has taken us very far, and I know these traits will continue to drive what she does from here on.  Mary has continued to make this a place for inspiration – and for that she is a friend forever to the staff, patrons and trustees.”

Former OL-PGN Board President Jack Collins (left) engages with library supporters.

Former OL-PGN Board President Jack Collins (left) engages with library supporters.

A former chairman of the board of trustees, David Winer, noted Fiorelli, who had joined the library in 1997 as its reference librarian, only applied for the director’s position “with great reticence and ambivalence.”  She was appointed Library Director in 2000 and Winer commented that, ironically, after so much persuasion to make her apply, her 16 years of service “now make her tenure one of the longest in the library’s history.”

Selectman Arthur 'Skip' Sibley (left) makes a point.

Selectman Arthur ‘Skip’ Sibley (left) makes a point.

Winer said, “It didn’t take her long to be the best there is … and she did everything from setting up exhibitions, tearing them down, even cleaning the toilets!”  He concluded, “She’s a true multi-tasker.”  He listed numerous accomplishments that Fiorelli had achieved which included increasing the endowment by over $1 million in three years and leading the library “into the high-tech age,” which he commented to laughter was quite a challenge in Old Lyme.

Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal and State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd) share a moment with a guest at the event.

Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal and State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd) share a moment with a guest at the event.

To more and louder laughter he added, “She also learned how to deal with the board of trustees — all 17 members — and became very skilled at exiting them out of her office!”

Friends and volunteers were all on hand to celebrate mary's 16-year tenure as OL-PGN Library Director. From left to right, Mary Jo Nosal, Doug Wilkinson, Julie O'Brien, Marisa Hartmann, Lucy Wilkinson and incoming OL-PGN Director Katie Heffnan.

Friends and volunteers were all on hand to celebrate Mary’s 16-year tenure as OL-PGN Library Director. From left to right, Mary Jo Nosal, Doug Wilkinson, Julie O’Brien, Marisa Hartmann, Lucy Wilkinson and incoming OL-PGN Director Katie Huffman.

Winer concluded, “Under your direction, the library became the heart and soul of Old Lyme and I want to thank you for all you’ve done for the library, for Old Lyme and wish you the best for your retirement … and God speed.”

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Groundbreaking Ceremony Celebrates Start of Long-Anticipated Sound View Improvement Project

From left to right, Sound View Improvement Committee members Bonnie Reemsnyder, Frank Pappalardo, Jim Lampos, and MaryJo Nosal dig a ceremonial shovel in the sand at the groundbreaking on Hartford Ave. held Oct. 3.

From left to right, Sound View Improvement Committee members Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, Sound View Commission Chairman and SVIC member Frank Pappalardo, SVIC members Angelo Faenza, Jim Lampos and Rob Haramut (from RiverCOG), and Old Lyme Selectmen Mary Jo Nosal and Skip Sibley dig a ceremonial shovel in the sand at the groundbreaking on Hartford Ave. held Oct. 3.

The sun shone brightly as town officials, Sound View Improvements Committee (SVIC) members, design and construction personnel and a handful of Sound View residents cheerfully gathered at the flagpole at the foot of Hartford Ave. for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction on the long-awaited project to upgrade the street.

Old Lyme residents originally approved $877,000 for the project back in July of this year but this past Tuesday (Sept. 27) increased the amount approved to $911,100 to allow for the bids having come in higher than expected. The improvements comprise the reinstatement of horizontal parking on Hartford Avenue, sidewalks expanded from 3 ft. to 6 ft., lighting, plantings, bike racks and the addition of curbs and bump-outs.

A view up Hartford Ave. looking north prior to the start of the project.

A view up Hartford Ave. looking north prior to the start of the project.

The town expects to receive 80 percent reimbursement on the current project and is still exploring ways to fund the reinstatement of a park (named Sound View Green) and upgraded restrooms, which were originally included in the plan but have both now been removed due to budget overruns.

Construction is scheduled to start Monday, Oct. 10.

Construction is scheduled to start Monday, Oct. 10.

Asked how she felt now that the start of construction is finally imminent, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, who also served on the SVIC, responded enthusiastically, “I’m delighted and can’t wait to see everything accomplished.  It’s going to be wonderful and also a great place to walk.”  She commented, “People have been talking about this since I became a Selectwoman in 2003,” adding, “For decades, we’ve talked about this [Sound View] being a ‘diamond in the rough.’ People are tired of talking about it – they want to see some action.”

The theme that the groundbreaking represented the culmination of years of work by many people was echoed repeatedly with Sound View Commission Chairman and SVIC member Frank Pappalardo saying, “It’s been a long time coming … it’s tremendous that we’re actually starting the project.”  He noted that the project represented, “A lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated people.”

From left to right,Ken Golden from B&W Paving and Landscaping, Sound View Commission Chairman and SVIC member Frank Pappalardo, Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal, Kurt Prochorena Principal and Civil Engineer from the engineering design firm The BSC Group, Stuart Greacen and Ed Steward from WMC-the project inspection firm.

The design and construction project personnel gathered for a photo, from left to right,Ken Golden from B&W Paving and Landscaping, Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal, Kurt Prochorena, Principal and Civil Engineer from the engineering design BSC Group, and Stuart Greacen and Ed Steward from WMC, the project inspection firm.

The project’s designer was the BSC Group of Glastonbury, Conn., and its principal Kurt Prochorena, a civil engineer, also noted the evolution of the project had taken a long time but pointed out, “It’s going to really improve the character of the area.”

Recalling that the eight-member SVIC had started meeting every two weeks back in 2014, SVIC Chairman and Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal said, “I am extremely gratified by all the efforts of the [SVIC] committee, the Sound View Commission, residents, town officials and the BSC Group, who have brought this project to fruition. It’s hopefully the start of other great things in this area.”

Sound View residents (from left to right) Frank and Patty Pappalardo, Shirley Annunziata and Joann Lishing are all smiles at the conclusion of the groundbreaking ceremony.

Sound View residents (from left to right) Frank and Patty Pappalardo, Shirley Annunziata and Joann Lishing are all smiles at the conclusion of the groundbreaking ceremony.

Sound View residents Shirley Annunziata and Joann Lishing, who have both lived in Sound View for many years, were on hand to enjoy the celebrations.  Annunziata mentioned that her family has owned in property in Sound View for some 95 years and was the first of Italian descent to buy in the area. Lishing repeated the much used phrase of the day, “This has been a long time coming,” before noting with a broad smile, “I’m so excited. It’s going to be beautiful!”

 

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Lyme-Old Lyme HS Alum’s Work Tracking Only Wild Jaguar in US Featured in Current ‘Smithsonian’ Magazine

Cover of the October issue of The Smithsonian magazine featuring Lyme-Old Lyme High School alumnus Chris Bugbee and his wife Aletris Neils in a story about tracking the only jaguar living wild in the US.

Cover of the October issue of The Smithsonian magazine featuring Lyme-Old Lyme High School alumnus Chris Bugbee and his wife Aletris Neils in a story about tracking the only jaguar living wild in the US.

Chris Bugbee, a member of the Lyme-Old Lyme High School Class of 1997, and his wife Aletris Neils are featured in a major news story published in the current (October) issue of The Smithsonian magazine and on Smithsonian.com at this link. The story by Richard Grant with photographs by Bill Hatcher is titled, “The Return of the Great American Jaguar,” with a sub-title, “The story of tracking a legendary feline named El Jefe through the Arizona mountains.”

Bugbee is the son of Old Lyme’s Parks and Recreation Director Don Bugbee and the Rev. Rebecca Crosby, Minister for Haitian Outreach at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme. Chris Bugbee obtained a Bachelor’s degree majoring in Biology at St. Lawrence University and a Master’s degree majoring in Interdisciplinary Ecology at the University of Florida.

The Smithsonian piece makes compelling reading and we urge you to take the time to read it.

We ran an article on Chris Bugbee and Neils on Feb. 4, 2016, which we are pleased to republish below.  It includes a link to a short piece of video showing the elusive jaguar, which is now also featured in The Smithsonian piece.

Lyme-Old Lyme HS Alum Chris Bugbee Captures Video of Only Known Wild Jaguar in US

Conservation CATalyst and the Center for Biological Diversity released new video today of the only known wild jaguar currently in the United States. Captured on remote sensor cameras in the Santa Rita Mountains just outside Tucson, the dramatic footage provides a glimpse of the secretive life of one of nature’s most majestic and charismatic creatures. This is the first ever publicly released video of the jaguar, and it comes at a critical point in this cat’s conservation.

El Jefe video

The camera project is part of ongoing efforts to monitor mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona for endangered jaguar and ocelot. Chris Bugbee, a graduate of Lyme-Old Lyme High School and now a biologist with Conservation CATalyst, has been collecting data on the Santa Rita jaguar for the past three years (formerly through the University of Arizona).

“Studying these elusive cats anywhere is extremely difficult, but following the only known individual in the U.S. is especially challenging,” said Bugbee. “We use our specially trained scat detection dog and spent three years tracking in rugged mountains, collecting data and refining camera sites; these videos represent the peak of our efforts.”

“These glimpses into his behavior offer the keys to unlocking the mysteries of these cryptic cats” said Aletris Neils, executive director of Conservation CATalyst. “We are able to determine he is an adult male jaguar, currently in prime condition. Every new piece of information is important for conserving northern jaguars and we look forward to building upon on these data so that we can collectively make better decisions on how to manage these fascinating and endangered cats.”

“Jaguars have always occurred in Arizona and yet we know so little about them in the northern portion of their range. Arizona should be poised to harbor and protect both jaguars and ocelots as they continue to disperse out from Sonora,” said Bugbee, who now lives in Tucson, Ariz.

Bugbee was featured in an article about the video of the jaguar by William Yardley titled, “He roams alone: El Jefe may be the last wild jaguar in the U.S.” and published in the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, Feb. 3.

“Just knowing that this amazing cat is right out there, just 25 miles from downtown Tucson, is a big thrill,” said Randy Serraglio, conservation advocate with the Center. “El Jefe has been living more or less in our backyard for more than three years now. It’s our job to make sure that his home is protected and he can get what he needs to survive.”

El Jefe, as he has come to be known in Tucson, has been photographed repeatedly by remote sensor cameras in the Santa Ritas over the past few years. He is the only verified jaguar in the United States since Macho B was euthanized as a result of capture-related injuries in March 2009. “Jaguars are solitary cats that only tolerate each other for reproduction,” said Neils.

But a huge conflict is brewing that threatens to destroy El Jefe’s home. A Canadian mining company is pushing to develop a massive open-pit copper mine right in the middle of the big cat’s territory. The mile-wide open pit and 800-foot-high piles of toxic mine waste would permanently destroy thousands of acres of occupied, federally protected jaguar habitat where this jaguar lives.

“Clearly, the Santa Rita Mountains are a vital part of this cat’s home range,” said Bugbee. “This jaguar has been photographed in every month of the year in these mountains — there are more than 100 detections of him in the Santa Ritas since 2013 — how could anyone argue the importance of these mountains?”

“The Rosemont Mine would destroy El Jefe’s home and severely hamstring recovery of jaguars in the United States,” said Serraglio. “At ground zero for the mine is the intersection of three major wildlife corridors that are essential for jaguars moving back into the U.S. to reclaim lost territory. The Santa Rita Mountains are critically important to jaguar recovery in this country, and they must be protected.”

In October the rare cat was named “El Jefe,” which means “the boss” in Spanish, after a vote by Tucson school kids and others. The Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity has been working for decades to save jaguars in the United States, with the hope that El Jefe will soon be joined by more jaguars that wander up from Mexico. In 2014 the Center secured more than 750,000 acres of federally protected critical habitat for U.S. jaguar recovery.

Jaguars — the third-largest cats in the world after tigers and lions — once lived throughout the American Southwest, with historical reports on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the mountains of Southern California and as far east as Louisiana. Jaguars disappeared from their U.S. range over the past 150 years, primarily due to habitat loss and historic government predator control programs intended to protect the livestock industry. The last verified female jaguar in the country was shot by a hunter in 1963 in Arizona’s Mogollon Rim.

This research builds upon a three-year project (2012- 2015) from the University of Arizona surveying jaguars and ocelots throughout southern Arizona and New Mexico.

Editor’s Notes: i) The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

ii) Conservation CATalyst is a Tucson-based nonprofit organization specializing in conducting scientific research on cats that are in conflict with people.

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Old Lyme Residents Approve Additional Funds for Sound View Project by 26 Votes; Joining Ledge Light Health District by Just Three Votes

Tonight Old Lyme voters approved additional funds for the  Sound View project by 102 to 74 votes. They also approved the town joining the Ledge Light Health District by just three votes, 82-79.

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Read This Well-Researched Op-Ed on the High Speed Rail Proposal from The Courant

This excellent op-ed titled, “Don’t Let Amtrak Tear Through Shoreline Villages,” was published today on the courant.com.  The author is Robert M. Thorson, who is a professor at the University of Connecticut’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

The op-ed begins:

“Late last month, more than 500 enraged citizens crammed into an auditorium in the sleepy hollow of Old Lyme to beat up on bureaucrats from Washington. Led by a gang of national and state senators, representatives, mayors, first selectmen and business leaders, they lambasted the Federal Railroad Administration for proposing a new high-speed rail corridor through southeastern Connecticut and western Rhode Island.

The topic was Amtrak‘s Acela Express …”

Click here to read the column in full.

 

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Press Pushes for Answers to FRA’s Apparent Decision Made Months Ago on ‘Preferred Alternative’ High Speed Rail Route

Since SECoast sent out their press release yesterday (published on LymeLine.com at this link,) which claimed the Federal Rail Authority (FRA) had already made a decision months ago regarding the high speed rail route through Connecticut, three major news sources have published articles reporting and expanding on the story, and also seeking a response from the FRA.

According to the articles, the FRA continues to maintain that no decision has yet been taken.

All three articles were published yesterday, Wednesday, Sept. 7.

The Connecticut Mirror’s article by Ana Radelat is titled, “Feds’ undisclosed ‘preferred route’ for rail lines sparks outrage“.

The Day’s article by Kimberly Drelich is titled, “Organizations say maps show FRA’s preferred routes“.

Politico’s article by Brianna Gurciullo and Lauren Gardner is titled, “Blumenthal questions FRA transparency“.

The map said to be showing the FRA’s ‘Preferred Alternative’, which was previously posted on the web site of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, has now been removed.  The map is shown below.

nec-preferred-route-map

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Documents Reveal FRA Chose High Speed Rail Routes Through CT in April: Advocates Call Last Week’s FRA Forum in Old Lyme a “Charade”

The following is the text of a press release we received from SECoast, a wholly independent special project of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation devoted to the issue of high speed rail along the Northeast Corridor in Connecticut:

‘Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) documents obtained by SECoast and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation reveal that the FRA finalized maps for new Amtrak high-speed rail routes through Connecticut as early as April 6, 2016 and that this information was known by CT state agencies no later than mid-July.

Maps included in the documentation show a “Preferred Alternative” which includes a “coastal bypass” through southeastern Connecticut. The bypass is now opposed by every municipality on the proposed route. The “Preferred Alternative” also confirms new high-speed rail routes through Fairfield County, Connecticut. The document includes a sign-off from the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) dated July 21, 2016. The document finalizes procedures for how the FRA will address historic resource impacts from future construction of high speed rail routes and related projects.

These dates contradict months of denials by both the FRA and Connecticut Department of Transportation (CONNDOT) that the route is not finalized, including assurances by NEC Future Project Manager Rebecca Reyes-Alicea at a long-sought August 31 public forum in Old Lyme. That meeting was attended by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Rep. Joe Courtney, state legislators, and local leaders, as well as a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 residents from throughout the region.

Dates and signatures on these documents show that the FRA circulated maps of their preferred high speed rail route to state and federal agencies no later than July 12, 2016. The FRA document is available at www.achp.gov/docs/nec-future-investment-program.pdf. That same week, both the FRA and CONNDOT issued official denials that internal Connecticut DOT emails, obtained by SECoast through the Freedom of Information Act, suggested a decision on the “Preferred Alternative” occurred as early as February 18, 2016 — just two days after the close of public comment.

Gregory Stroud, executive director of SECoast, a regional organization leading grassroots opposition to the planned bypass, described the denials and withholding of information by the FRA and Connecticut DOT as “cynical.” “If you look at these maps, it’s pretty obvious this is the same plan that Connecticut DOT Commissioner James Redeker described in email back on February 18th. That’s just two days after the FRA received well over a thousand public comments in opposition to the bypass. For Reyes-Alecia to come to Old Lyme and pretend that her agency values public input, suggests not just flawed planning, but bad faith.” Stroud pointed out that two Freedom of Information requests to the FRA, for detailed maps and planning documents on the bypass, remain outstanding. Those requests were filed on April 4, 2016.

“Connecticut is more impacted by routing of Amtrak’s next generation of high speed rail service than any other state between Washington and Boston,” observed Daniel Mackay, Executive Director of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. “Now that FRA’s preferred route for high speed rail is finally public, the first step the agency should take to rebuild public trust is to reopen the public comment period on the Tier 1 EIS. Our state’s residents deserve the opportunity to comment on the single final route proposed through Connecticut, and a final decision on routing should be delayed until meaningful public input has been entered into the record and answered.”

Mackay noted that none of the public’s questions submitted in advance of the FRA’s forum in Old Lyme last week will become part of the Tier 1 EIS public record. As such, the FRA is not required to provide answers to those questions, or acknowledge receipt of petitions totaling over 4000 names in opposition in southeastern Connecticut, unless the public comment period is re-opened.

If FRA does not reopen the public comment period, an “official” announcement of the “Preferred Alternative” is expected in September, with a final Record of Decision to be published later in the fall.”

SECoast is a wholly independent special project of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation devoted to the issue of high speed rail along the Northeast Corridor in Connecticut. Launched in 2016, this collaborative effort partners concerned local residents in Southeastern Connecticut and the Lower Connecticut River Valley with the state-wide resources and expertise of The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation preserves, protects and promotes the buildings, sites, structures and landscapes that contribute to the heritage and vitality of Connecticut communities.

Supporting documentation and a timeline received with the press release are provided below:

Selected quotes from the press detailing denials by the FRA and the Connecticut DOT:

July 1, 2016, The Day (New London, CT), Drelich, Kimberly. “Organization says emails show FRA wants bypass through Old Lyme.”

http://www.theday.com/article/20160701/NWS01/160709901

“The FRA said in response that it has not made a decision on its preferred alternative.”

State DOT Spokesman Judd Everhart confirmed that the DOT released the emails.

But he said the DOT still is awaiting a decision from the FRA on a “preferred alternative” for an upgrade of the corridor.

He noted that they are nowhere near choosing a final design for expansion in the corridor, never mind actually starting construction.

“FRA has not yet selected a vision, or even potential routes, for the Northeast Corridor,” Matthew Lehner, director of communications for the FRA, said in an emailed statement.

Dana Honor, a Murphy spokeswoman, said Thursday (June 30th) that “There has not yet been any official ruling on which plan the FRA will choose, but Sen. Murphy will continue urging all agencies involved to listen to the people of Old Lyme and come to a decision that benefits both Connecticut travelers and those who call the area home.”

July 14, 2106, The Hartford Courant, Stacom, Don. “Blumenthal Slams Idea Of Amtrak Bypass Through Old Lyme.“

http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-blumenthal-amtrak-0714-20160713-story.html

“Unfortunately, some of the ideas the FRA has proposed are frankly half-baked, harebrained notions that will never come to fruition — including rerouting Amtrak straight through the community of Old Lyme … and other shoreline communities where there is strong, understandable and well-merited opposition,” Blumenthal told (Amtrak Vice President Stephen Gardner) Gardner at a Senate subcommittee hearing this week. “

“Gardner replied … the FRA has said that any alarm about its long-term alternatives is needless, since it’s only in the early stages of study. The agency has said it isn’t close to designing detailed plans for any of the alternatives.”

August 17, 2016, POLITICO, Morning Transportation. “Old Lyme doesn’t want a new rail bridge.”

http://www.politico.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/08/check-another-one-off-obamas-truck-it-list-215927

[Quoting an FRA Aide in response]”What’s more, he said, the agency has already committed to local leaders that if the bypass makes it into the final blueprint…”

August 23, 2016, The Westerly Sun, (Westerly, RI) White, Brooke Constance. “Group seeks more info on bypass.”

http://www.thewesterlysun.com/news/richmondhopkinton/9254768-154/group-seeks-more-info-on-rail-bypass.html

“When asked to respond to questions about the proposed alternatives, a Federal Railroad Administration spokesperson said: “FRA has not yet selected a vision, or even potential routes, for the Northeast Corridor. We have met with many leaders and residents throughout the corridor, including in Connecticut, and have talked with them about their concerns. We are taking these opinions into account as we continue our work.”

August 31, 2016, CT Mirror, Constable, Kyle “Federal rail official: ‘No elevated track’ in Old Lyme; spokesman creates doubt, but later clarifies”

Federal rail official: ‘No elevated track’ in Old Lyme; spokesman creates doubt, but later clarifies

[Marc Willis, an FRA spokesman in retraction:]

“If the new segment is included in the final vision for the Northeast Corridor, FRA has committed to not have an aerial structure through the historic district of Old Lyme,” Willis said. “A tunnel is on the table.”

“The next step in the process – if we get there – is the Tier II review, which includes additional opportunities for input from leaders and citizens,” Willis added.’

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Hundreds Join Elected Officials to Oppose Possible Amtrak Railroad Bypass

The auditorium was packed for the meeting. Daniel Mackay photo

The auditorium was packed for Wednesday afternoon’s public session with the FRA. Daniel Mackay photo

A crowd of more than 500 area residents turned out Wednesday to join elected officials in opposing a possible Amtrak railroad bypass project that would run from Old Saybrook through southeastern Connecticut to Kenyon, R.I.

The auditorium at Lyme-Old Lyme High School was packed to capacity for a public session with representatives of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Also on hand were elected officials, including U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congressman Joe Courtney, state legislators, and chief elected officials for seven area cities and towns.

The concern is focused on an option that has emerged as part of a long-range plan to improve and expand passenger rail service along the Northeast Corridor from Washington D.C. to Boston, Mass. The option, called the Old Saybrook-Kenyon, R.I. Bypass, would require construction of a second rail line that would cross the Connecticut River and run north of the existing rail line and Interstate-95 through historic and environmentally sensitive areas of Old Lyme and other towns.

Representatives from the FRA along with elected state and local officials were on hand for the public session. Daniel Mackay photo

Representatives from the FRA along with elected state and local officials were on hand for the public session. Daniel Mackay photo

In the session that was held in response to pressure from elected representatives and the public after months of local controversy over the bypass option, two representatives of the FRA, Rebecca Reyes-Alicea and Anishi Castelli, explained the preliminary plans and review process before responding to questions and comments from the elected officials. The “roundtable” did not include questions or comments from the large audience.

Reyes-Alecea said the Northeast Corridor improvements would be completed over the coming decades, and would require congressional approval of funding and probably state funding contributions.

Though the FRA is expected to make some decisions on future project options by the end of the year, Reyes-Alecea said the review process is still in an “early stage.” She added the turnout for Wednesday’s session was the largest officials have seen for any of the public meetings held at locations throughout the 457-mile Washington-Boston corridor.

But the comments from federal, state, and local officials made it clear any decision to pursue the bypass plan, estimated to cost at least $68 billion, would face determined bipartisan resistance every step of the way.

Blumenthal said the bypass plan is “unfeasible, unworkable, and unnecessary,” adding, “I will fight as long and as hard as possible to block any route with an adverse impact on historic, cultural, and environmental values.” Courtney said the bypass plan seemed like something “from an alternate universe” and suggested there is a “long to-do list,” including bridge and grade crossing replacements, that must be completed before any consideration of a second rail line through the region.

State and local officials were equally firm in their opposition to the bypass plan. New London Mayor Michael Passero said previous railroad and urban renewal projects have hurt his city by claiming taxable property and isolating neighborhoods. Passero said there is no way to construct a second rail line through or around New London “without destroying our little city.”

State Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Saybrook, described the plan as “a dark cloud hovering over these towns.” Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons, a former second district congressman, and Waterford First Selectman David Stewart urged the federal agency to focus first on improvements to the existing rail line. “Why can’t we fix what we have,” Simmons said. Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna said all seven municipalities along the possible bypass route would “stand with Old Lyme” in resisting the plan.

Reyes-Alecea said any recommendation filed later this year would set the stage for a Tier 2” analysis process and report that would include more specific plans and cost estimates for improvement projects. She said it could take years before any construction begins, even on the specific improvement to the existing line that are encouraged by the local elected leaders.

Asked after the meeting for his reaction, Gregory Stroud, Executive Director of SECoast – the non-profit constructively opposing the proposed bpass – said, “There is no doubt, that every member of the press, Senator Blumenthal and Representative Courtney came away impressed. A huge crowd. A great coming together of all the towns in southeastern Connecticut. A bipartisan, unified delegation, with one curious exception. Where is Governor Malloy?”

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Opinion: Old Lyme Residents Can Stand Proud After Packing HS Auditorium at Wednesday’s FRA Meeting

Yesterday we published an Opinion piece titled, “Let Your Presence Make a Difference (Since Your Voice Can’t be Heard) — Go to the FRA Meeting at 4:30pm This Afternoon!”  Well, my goodness, you did — in droves!  To have more than 500 — we’ll say that again, five hundred — people show up at a meeting scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on the first day of school in our little town is nothing short of amazing. Moreover, it demonstrates beyond any shadow of a doubt our deep love for and pride in our town and community.

Our sincere thanks to all the town and political leaders who spoke in support of our town, to those who have worked ceaselessly behind the scenes in an incredible effort to find out the facts and focus attention in the right places, to every member of the public who attended the meeting and the hundreds, nay, thousands, more who were unable to attend due to reasons beyond their control, but were there in spirit.  That latter group included the publishers of LymeLine.com — but we had a reporter there and look forward to publishing his article this evening.

It sounds like we did not receive all the answers we were seeking from the FRA yesterday, and the future is still uncertain — but today we can surely stand with our heads held high.

 

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Letter to the Editor: New Trains Not New Tracks

An Open Letter to the Members of the FRA:

I support high speed rail service. This country needs to find the most efficient transportation system possible to make us the most sustainable country on earth. The world is urbanizing at a rapid rate which makes mass transit a critical part of the solution. That means making both local and long distant rail so attractive that people drive and fly much less. This lowers our carbon footprint, increases our productivity and makes our lives easier. When you travel to China you realize we are living 50 years in the past!

I have reviewed the Northeast Corridor EIS and specifically the FRA preferred Alternate 1 and would like to make a counter proposal. I recommend a two part plan that provides a near term solution for improved local and regional Northeast Corridor Rail Service (STEP ONE) and long term solution for dramatically reduced high speed rail travel (STEP TWO).

STEP ONE : NEW TRAINS NOT NEW TRACKS!

Use existing tracks with new trains for improved high speed rail and better commuter rail. This part of the plan is quite simple. To save 30 minutes off the current Acela travel time from NYC to Boston we can spend $65 billion on a major new rail project from Old Saybrook, CT to Kenyon RI, OR we can spend less than $20 billion on completely new high speed trains running from DC to NYC to Boston. We can spend $20 billion or $65 billion to save 30 minutes of time. It seems like an easy decision. Buy new trains for $19.2 billion.

In fact with all new trains we can save a total of 70 minutes from DC to Boston, up to 40 minutes on DC to NYC and 30 minutes from NYC to Boston. By spending $65 billion we also bypass lots of rail dependent towns and destroy numerous historic towns along the way. For $20 billion we make NO changes to the landscape, we just get lighter more fuel efficient trains that are designed to run at higher speeds on curvy tracks. We adopt the same type of trains used in Europe and Asia but precluded for almost a century in the US based on a 1920’s Federal Law. When the Acela’s were built we took efficient lighter weight trains from Europe and overbuilt them which made them too fat and heavy to bank on the curves. And they use more energy to move all that weight.

For more information on the recommended new trains read this article from 2013 titled, “High Speed ‘Trains of the Future’ May Finally be Coming to the Northeast“and recent articles in the NY Times from this past Sunday.

comparison_of_costs_Twining

 

STEP TWO : BUILD A REAL HIGH SPEED TRAIN TO SAVE 90 MINS!

Build a really fast route as the crow flies through NY-CT-MA to allow even the Maglev trains like in Shanghai. This would take a decade and cost a lot but long term it would reduce massive carbon emissions from air travel and car travel. This would be an investment in our future. This is the approach that France took to build the TGV.

We would now have a real high speed line and a very fast intercity rail line along the shoreline.

Please consider my recommended plan.

Sincerely,

Alex Twining,
Old Lyme

Editor’s Notes: i) Alex Twining is President & CEO of [ t ] TwiningProperties of New York, NY, and Cambridge, Mass. www.twiningproperties.com.

ii) This letter has been submitted to the FRA in reference to the public meeting being held Aug. 31, in the Lyme-Old Lyme High School auditorium.

 

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CT Port Authority Chair Tells Lower CT River Local Officials, “We’re All on One Team”

Enjoying a boat ride on the Connecticut River but still deep in discussion are (from left to right) Chester First Selectwoman Lauren Gister, Old Lyme First Selectwoman and and Connecticut Port Authority (CPA) Board Member Bonnie Reemsnyder, Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman, CPA Chairman Scott Bates and Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald, Jr.

Enjoying a boat ride on the Connecticut River, but still finding time for discussions, are (from left to right) Chester First Selectwoman Lauren Gister, Old Lyme First Selectwoman and Connecticut Port Authority (CPA) board member Bonnie Reemsnyder, Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman, CPA Chairman Scott Bates and Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald, Jr.

There was an overarching message both throughout the Connecticut Port Authority’s (CPA) meeting in Old Lyme’s Town Hall Thursday afternoon and during a subsequent boat ride on the MV ‘Victoria’ for members and local officials on the Connecticut River.  It was, in the words of CPA Chairman Scott Bates, that, “We’re absolutely committed to river communities.”

Scott Bates, CPA Chairman, receives input regarding the town's needs from Norm Needleman, Essex First Selectman.

Scott Bates, CPA Chairman, receives input regarding the town’s needs from Norm Needleman, Essex First Selectman.

In addition, while sailing from Essex down to Old Saybrook and then back up to Hamburg Cove on a perfect afternoon, Bates stressed, “Part of our mission is protecting these beautiful waters … and the quality of life we have here while preserving access to the river.”

View of the Connecticut River from the "Victoria."

View of the Connecticut River from the “Victoria.”

Bates noted that to have “five local officials (Chester First Selectwoman Lauren Gister, Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald Jr., Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman and Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, all of whom were on board, and Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna, who was unable to join the trip) “involved” was a really positive sign in terms of  “building a coalition.”  This, Bates explained, was key to the development of a strategic plan for the CPA—something the Authority has been charged with preparing with a deadline of Jan. 1, 2017.

Gathered for a photo are (from left to right) CPA board member John Johnson, Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman, CPA Chairman Scott Bates and Old Lyme First Selectwoman and CPA board member Bonnie Reemsnyder.

Gathered for a photo are (from left to right) CPA board member John Johnson, Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman, CPA Chairman Scott Bates and Old Lyme First Selectwoman and CPA board member Bonnie Reemsnyder.

The  CPA is a relatively new quasi-public agency created in 2014 with board appointments made in 2016.  Bates said the agency was responsible for 35 coastal communities and with this trip, he would now personally have visited 28 of them. Since the CPA has not created a strategic plan previously, Bates said he is determined, “to include everyone,” in the process, adding that he regards part of the Authority’s mission to be “getting small town and big cities together.” and, in turn, “to make great things happen for our state.”

Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald, Jr. (left) chats with RiverCOG Executive Director Sam Gold aboard the 'Victoria.'

Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald, Jr. (left) chats with RiverCOG Executive Director Sam Gold aboard the ‘Victoria.’

Apart from Bates and the four local First Selectmen and Selectwomen, also on board were Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments (RiverCOG) Executive Director Sam Gold, River COG Deputy Director and Principal Planner J.H. Torrance Downes, CPA Board of Directors member John Johnson and Joe Salvatore from the CPA.  Reemsnyder is also a board member of the CPA.

Connecticut Port Authority staff member Joe Salvatore points out a river feature to Reemsnyder and Johnson.

Connecticut Port Authority staff member Joe Salvatore points out a river feature to Reemsnyder, Bates and Johnson.

At the earlier meeting in Old Lyme, Downes had given a presentation to CPA members to introduce them to the Lower Connecticut River during which he had described the geography of the estuary, noting it had, “very little industry and very little commercial development.”  He described it as a “really prime area for bird migration” and highlighted numerous points of scenic beauty.

J.H. Torrance Downe, Deputy Director of River COG, takes in the view of the Connecticut River.

J.H. Torrance Downes, Deputy Director of River COG, takes in the view of the Connecticut River.

Bates noted one of the CPA’s responsibilities is to pursue state and federal funds for dredging and, while sailing under the Baldwin Bridge towards the Connecticut River’s mouth where several tributaries join the main river, Reemsnyder commented that Old Lyme had been a beneficiary of a $1.6 million state grant for dredging two of those tributaries — the Black Hall and Four Mile Rivers.  She noted that it had been a successful exercise thanks in part to Salvatore, who had, “held our hand through the whole project.”

John Johnson, CPA board member (right) checks in with the captain of the 'Victoria.'

John Johnson, CPA board member (right) checks in with the captain of the ‘Victoria.’ Joe Salvatore stands at rear.

Johnson, whose life and business career according to the CPA website, have “a common underlying element: the coastal waters,” also confirmed the benefits of a dredging program, saying, “There is a need for depth of water — both elements, marine and maritime, need depth of water.”  Still on the dredging issue, Bates said he had met separately with Old Saybrook First Selectman Fortuna and told him that he could have “whatever he needs to keep the mouth of the Connecticut River open.”

John Johnson (left) and Bonnie Reemsnyder (right), both CPA board members, chat with the CPA Chairman Scott bates.

John Johnson (left) and Bonnie Reemsnyder (right), both CPA board members, chat with the CPA Chairman Scott bates.

Reemsnyder took a minute to commend Bates for his leadership of the CPA, saying, “Scott has given focus to coastal communities,”  while Johnson added, “We are blessed with our new chairman.”

The quiet, untouched beauty of Hamburg Cove.

The quiet, untouched beauty of Hamburg Cove.

Glancing around at the numerous boats docked both in marinas and on the river itself,  Reemsnyder remarked, “Add up the money in these boats … [they represent] lots of economic drivers.”  On the same theme, Bates noted that the state is marketing its ports for the first time using “national expertise” in some cases with the aim of moving “more people and goods in and out of Connecticut.”  He added, “We have some great assets [in terms of ports in the state] but we could do more.”

Eyes on the Cove -- guests on the 'Victoria' gaze at the view across the calm waters of Hamburg Cove.

Eyes on the Cove — guests on the ‘Victoria’ gaze at the view across the calm waters of Hamburg Cove.

As the “Victoria’ pulled gently back into dock at Essex Yacht Club, Bates summarized the benefits of the boat trip saying that by spending time with these local leaders, he had been able to “see their waterfronts, assess their needs,“ and gain an “appreciation of the vitality of the Lower Connecticut River basin,” emphasizing one more time, “This is really about pulling together as a state … we’re all on one team.”

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Op-Ed: Support Sound View’s Historic District Designation With its Numerous Benefits; Ignore Inaccuracies Being Circulated

The author of this op-ed submits that there is strong evidence that Sound View is one of the oldest public beaches in the country. The image above shows the beach circa 1920.

The author of this op-ed, Michaelle Pearson, states that there is strong evidence that Sound View is the oldest public beach in the country. The image above shows the beach circa 1920.

COMMENTS ON THIS ARTICLE ARE NOW CLOSED: Sound View residents have been receiving letters from Heidi DiNino-Fields of Hartford Avenue urging them to register their opposition to the Sound View Historic District designation. These letters are filled with incorrect information, designed to confuse and frighten residents into opposition. Among the more blatant lies are that owners would not be able to paint or maintain their property; that it would negatively affect insurance, taxes and marketability; that it would impede upgrading to FEMA standards, and that the property “will essentially be frozen in as-is condition.” Each of these is completely false.

The National Historic Register is simply an Honorary designation to recognize neighborhoods that have a unique character and history. There are absolutely no restrictions on owners’ ability to renovate or develop their properties. This designation is different from the Town Historic District, on Lyme Street, which is overseen by the Historic District Commission, and has nothing to do with Sound View, or this type of designation.

Having a property within the Sound View Historic District actually conveys many benefits on owners, including better rates on insurance, better marketability, and assistance with waivers to FEMA requirements, building and zoning. The designation’s purpose is to make it easier for owners to renovate and develop their properties, if that is their choice. If an owner wants to renovate their property in a non-historic manner, or not at all, that is their choice. There is no government entity that can or will tell them what they can or can’t do.

IF an owner chooses to renovate in a historic manner, they become eligible for grant programs and tax abatements up to $30,000. If the owner wants the tax credit, that particular work will be subject to review, but only to ensure that the money is going toward a historic renovation. If an owner doesn’t take the cash, they can do whatever they like. No review or oversight whatsoever. Historic District designation has no impact on property taxes.

Sound View’s rich history has been obscured for too long by its rowdy reputation from the 1950s-1990s. As an intact pre-1938 beach community, Sound View is a unique and rare coastal resource. It was developed in the early 1890s, and there is very good evidence that it is the nation’s oldest public beach. Many of the cottages have been passed down for generations within the same families, and are maintained with pride to this day. The Historic District designation honors this tradition, and will help to preserve the neighborhood and public beach for future generations. This is a valuable opportunity for our town. Let’s not let one uninformed naysayer scare people into opting out of this positive opportunity.

For the true story, actual facts, and some very interesting historic details, I urge concerned residents to read the official application which will be posted on the Old Lyme Town website early next week at http://www.oldlyme-ct.gov/Pages/OldLymeCT_projects/currentprojects

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Informational Meeting Held on Sound View Nomination to National Register of Historic Places

Sound View, circa 1920.

Sound View, circa 1920.

The National Register of Historic Places nomination of Sound View Historic District informational meeting is scheduled forMonday, Aug. 15, at 6 p.m. at the Shoreline Community Center, 39 Hartford Ave., in Old Lyme. The State Historic Preservation Office has sent letters to all property owners included in the Sound View area inviting them to the meeting. The meeting will describe the process and what the “National Register of Historic Places” designation means. The meeting is open to the public and there will be time for questions.

Listing on the National Register of Historic Places is an honorary designation intended to recognize and celebrate places of historic significance. It provides a method for understanding why specific properties are important and how these historic places contribute to our cultural identity.

While the National Register program is honorary in nature, it is a useful planning tool. This recognition promotes appreciation for and stewardship of historic properties. National Register listed and eligible properties are given substantial consideration in local, state, and federal planning efforts. Listing also provides access to historic preservation funding incentives, such as the Historic Homes Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program.

The Sound View Historic District in Old Lyme is significant as an early 20th century beach resort for the newly established middle-class and for its associations with a diverse immigrant community. As Connecticut’s transportation network improved and recreational opportunities increased for a larger percent of the population, several beachside neighborhoods emerged along our coastline.

These places have distinct historic character and rich community heritage. They are identifiable within Connecticut’s scenic landscape. Development of Sound View began in 1892 and attracted families from Hartford, Springfield, New York, and surrounding areas.

Beginning in January of this year, the Sound View Commission has been working with the State Historic Preservation Office providing information and historical data for the nomination.

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Blumenthal Discusses Proposed High Speed Rail Route with Community Leaders

Read a report of Friday’s meeting by Kimberly Drelich and published 8/13 on theday.com at this link.

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Medal of Honor Car Unveiled at Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson in Anticipation of New Tribute Center

The Medal of Honor Recipient Recognition ’56 Ford Thunderbird will be the Centerpiece of an Interactive Exhibit and Heroes Tribute Coming to the Dealership during the 2016 Holiday Season and Beyond

The Medal of Honor Recipient Recognition ’56 Ford Thunderbird will be the Centerpiece of an Interactive Exhibit and Heroes Tribute Coming to the Dealership during the 2016 Holiday Season and Beyond

On Sunday, Aug. 14, at 1 p.m. the public is invited to witness the unveiling of a one-of-a-kind Medal of Honor Recipient Recognition 1956 Ford Thunderbird at Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson.  The Medal of Honor car is an artistic tribute to our country’s military heroes who have received the Medal of Honor, which is the highest award that can be bestowed on a member of the United States Armed Services.

Renowned artist Mickey Harris, who is recognized as a pioneer of free hand airbrushing and whose art works hang in the Pentagon, painted the car in 2012.  On Sept.18, 2013, the Medal of Honor car traveled to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society Convention in Gettysburg, Pa., where 30 surviving Medal of Honor recipients signed it.

When dealership owner Mike Schwartz saw the car at the prestigious Barrett Jackson auction at Mohegan Sun this June, he was inspired to purchase it as a gift to the local military community.

“I knew the car belonged at home, in our area which has such a long, deep and rich military history,” said Schwartz. “The patriotism and realism that was created on the ‘56 T-Bird is impossible to describe. Those who see the car get emotional, from chills to tears of joy. This work of art is something we are proud to share with our customers and in tribute to our country,” Schwartz added.

The amazing artwork on the 1965 Ford Thunderbird

The amazing artwork on the 1956 Ford Thunderbird

The Medal of Honor car will be the centerpiece of a new interactive Tribute Center at Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson dealership and new destination.  The venue is housed in the historic Coca-Cola® bottling plant that operated in New London from the 1930’s until its transformation to a Harley-Davidson® dealership like no other in 2014.

Blending the history of two iconic brands with the region’s storied military history, the Tribute Center will feature a collection of period pieces illustrating and interweaving the fight for freedom that has occurred over the last century, while highlighting Americans’ love for the road.

To help celebrate the unveiling of the Medal of Honor Car, Wounded Warriors Family Support Foundation (WWFS) will make a stop at Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson on Sunday, Aug. 14, from 1 to 3 p.m. as part of their 7th annual High Five Tour 2016.

During the four-month tour, a 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 will travel more than 26,000 miles, criss-crossing the United States and visiting more than 100 cities in 48 states.  The public is invited to sign the 2016 Ford Shelby with a message of support to our country’s veterans and their families. Through the High Five Tour 2016, the WWFS’s goal is to raise $1,000,000 to provide veteran programs to wounded veterans and their families.

Leading up to the Medal of Honor car unveiling, all branches of the U.S. military will be honored as part of Military Appreciation Weekend at Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson which will include complimentary refreshments and entertainment on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 12 to 14, from 12 to 3 pm. The sneak peak of the 1956 Thunderbird will take place on Sunday at 1.30 p.m.

Representatives from each branch of the U.S. Military will be present, as well as the Three Rivers Young Marines unit located in Norwich, Conn.  This will be a special one-time chance to see the Medal of Honor car as the Tribute Center is being prepared for a Holiday 2016 opening.

Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson is located at 951 Bank Street in New London, CT right off of Interstate I-95 in New London CT.   The dealership opened in March 2014 in 55,000 SF within the former Coca-Cola® bottling plant.

Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson is one of the most decorated Harley-Davidson Dealerships in the nation. It recently received The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut honored Mike’s Famous with its Military Community Support Award for its work throughout the community involving dozens of military-related activities.

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FRA Releases Comment Summary Report as Precursor to Announcement of Preferred High-Speed Rail Route

NECFUTURE_logoToday NEC FUTURE released a Comment Summary Report, which summarizes the public comments received after the NEC FUTURE Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was released in November 2015.  The report can be read on the NEC FUTURE website at www.necfuture.com, along with the full set of submissions received. It describes the main themes expressed in the comments and how the Federal Rail Authority (FRA) is using this feedback to identify a Preferred Alternative.

The FRA has committed to announce the Preferred Alternative this year.

The EIS was part of the FRA’s comprehensive plan for improvements to the Northeast Corridor (NEC) rail line from Washington, D.C., to Boston, Mass. It identified one of the alternatives under consideration — Alternative 1 — as a route that included the Old Saybrook to Kenyon, R.I. bypass that cuts right through the heart of Old Lyme.

During the public comment period, the FRA heard from over 3,200 individuals, agencies, and organizations. Significantly, more than 1,800 of these comments came from the state of Connecticut. These comments have been instrumental in the FRA’s process to identify a Preferred Alternative for evaluation in the Tier 1 Final EIS.

Federal Rail Authority Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg said today, “The input we’ve received from the public throughout this process has been, and continues to be, absolutely critical. Thousands of individuals, as well elected leaders and other stakeholders representing millions more, have attended public hearings, submitted comments, and voiced their opinions and preferences about their priorities and preferences for the NEC.”

She continued, “The NEC is critical infrastructure for more than a dozen states, tens of millions of people, and is the lifeblood of the economy for the area. We are grateful for the public’s interest in this process and in the corridor itself, and look forward to continuing to work closely with the public and their representatives as this process continues.”

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Old Lyme Seeks to Increase the Town’s Rate of Recycling

recycle_logoCurbside recycling by Old Lyme residents has become very routine.  However, there is some evidence that many recyclables end up in the blue trash bin rather than the green recycling bin. So, to reduce those missed opportunities, the Town has appointed a Solid Waste and Recycling Committee, which will investigate and identify ways to improve recycling in Old Lyme.

We plan to publish – with LymeLine.com‘s assistance – several informational articles that lay out best practices. This first piece provides an overview of our current curbside program.

Why we recycle

First, it’s the law! Connecticut implemented a mandatory recycling law in 1991; the law applies to all Old Lyme residents, every business in town. and all public and private agencies and institutions (e.g., schools); and applies, regardless of whether you rent or own, or whether you live in single or multi-family residences.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, it just makes good sense. A typical household produces nearly five pounds of solid waste each and every day. Only about a pound of that gets recycled. So, that’s about ¾ ton of trash per household per year that ends up burned or buried. Connecticut must dispose of almost 2.5 million tons of trash every year.

Clearly, the more that we recycle, the less that trash and garbage ends up in our landfills and incineration plants. Recycling enables recovery and re-use of potentially valuable materials – turning what would otherwise be treated as waste into valuable resources.

Single Stream Recycling

OL_green_binIn 2011, Old Lyme implemented single stream recycling to streamline recycling for residents and, since then, all recyclables can be placed, unsorted, in the green recycling bin. Many of you probably remember the old 14-gallon blue recycling boxes which required separation of glass, paper, metal, & cardboard. Residents can now recycle more at each pickup.

What should we recycle?

We must recycle: all paper, cardboard; paperboard (e.g., cereal boxes & egg cartons); glass; aluminum food cans and foil; juice and milk cartons; non-deposit plastic soda bottles and cans; detergent bottles; empty aerosol cans; and all plastic labeled #1 to #7. There are more details at: http://oldlymesanitation.com/.

What should not be placed in your green bin?

Do not put any trash; plastic grocery bags; needles or syringes; Styrofoam; shipping peanuts; or food waste in your green bin. Never throw grass clippings or yard waste in the trash.

Recycling rules

  1. Flatten your cardboard before placing it in the bin.
  2. All recycled containers (cans, bottles, jars, etc.) must be empty and rinsed clean (You do not need to remove the labels).
  3. You should redeem your deposit bottles and cans at your supermarket rather than placing them in the bin.
  4. Recyclables should be placed dry and loose directly in the green bin (do not put them in plastic bags).
  5. Greasy pizza boxes are not recyclable.
  6. The plastic container code (the number inside the chasing arrows symbol) identifies recyclable plastics #1 to #7.

What do I do with all these plastic super market bags? – Just say “paper”?

Plastic bags should never be put in your green recycling bin because they can jam equipment at the facilities that prepare recyclables to be marketed.  Many Connecticut supermarkets have collection receptacles for plastic bags at the store and they will then be recycled. Really, the simplest solution is to just bring reusable bags with you when you go shopping. Most of us have a back seat full of those reusable bags.

How successful have our recycling programs been?
earth_surrounded_by_recycling_logoConnecticut has a goal of reducing, reusing and recycling 58 percent of our municipal solid waste by the year 2024.  The State’s goal incorporates everything included in Old Lyme’s recycling program. Our current rate is in the range of 25 – 32 percent. The State of Connecticut rate is currently below 30 percent.

This article outlines Old Lyme’s current recycling program. Subsequent articles will cover areas that fall outside the curbside program (e.g., bulky items like mattresses and furniture; appliances and electronics; unused prescriptions; and paint and hazardous waste). We’ll discuss the economic costs and benefits of recycling, and review what currently happens to your trash and recycling after it leaves your bin; and provide suggestions for better recycling practice, which will bring Old Lyme closer to Connecticut’s goal.

Old Lyme’s Solid Waste & Recycling Committee meets monthly. If you have questions or comments, contact: alete1@sbcglobal.net or TDGotowka@aol.com. The recycling section of the Town’s website is also a good source of information.

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