Groton Open Space Association Preserves Natural Treasures
22 Apr 2020
Picture yourself walking on a path through a forested area on a warm day with dappled sun peeking through the trees and a soft rustling of wind as you deeply inhale the fresh scents of nature. Are you reminded of a favorite local trail and smiling right now? That special place may have been preserved by the foresight and hard work of dedicated neighbors.
Groton Open Space Association began in 1967 as the Save the Haley Farm Committee to protect a special coastal property from housing development. Sidney Van Zandt and Charles and Priscilla Pratt accepted the challenge to raise the Town’s $50,000 portion of the funds to secure the land for public use. Efforts to educate the public stimulated enthusiasm and success as the initial 200 acre farm on Palmer Cove was officially designated Haley Farm State Park in 1970. It would be another 32 years before an adjacent 50-acre parcel would be added but opportunities to secure additional properties presented themselves almost immediately.
Bluff Point State Park and Coastal Preserve was designated a State Park in 1974 after the CT State Legislature asked the re-named Groton Open Space Association to determine “the highest and best use” of the magnificent land. Per the GOSA website, “Bluff Point’s 800 acres came under intense development pressure because it was the last remaining significant portion of undeveloped shoreline in Connecticut. A pedestrian bridge joins Bluff Point to Haley Farm State Park and is contiguous to GOSA’s The Merritt Family Forest and other town-owned land. Combined, over 1,160 acres of habitat area are available for wildlife and watershed protection.” For nature-lovers, this means hiking, bird watching, and photography along with kayaking and even shell fishing. GOSA helped create a 5-6 mile X-Town walk on public trails beginning at the Poquonnock River and ending at Beebe Cove.
Have you hiked at any of the great GOSA locations? They include Beebe Cove Vista, 75 acre Merritt Family Forest, 63 acre Sheep Farm South, 91 acre Candlewood Ridge, 305 acre Avery Farm, and 201 acre Candlewood Hill Wildlife Management Area. GOSA experts helped protect drinking water at Great Brook Preserve and prevented the building of a new Wal-Mart Supercenter on Gold Star Highway which would have created storm runoff detrimental to drinking water.
In between circumventing the earth three times by sailboat with her husband to visit 56 countries, Sidney VanSandt co-sponsored the first Earth Day celebration in Groton and worked alongside an increasing number of talented, hard-working individuals who, like her, battled for the preservation of Groton’s undeveloped land. Sidney is GOSA’s current Vice President working with President Joan Smith to oversee land management, hundreds of volunteers, education, and events. GOSA’s goals focus on conservation, protection, advocacy, and connection.
One current goal is to raise money to purchase an additional 105 acres of land to add to the current Sheep Farm property, connecting a north-south section of green belt.
Discover outdoor recreation close to home with descriptions and maps of the preserved properties, view nature photos, volunteer to help, or donate at GOSAonline.org. Donations are tax-deductible. Or support painlessly by shopping through Amazon Smile and select “Groton Open Spaces.” You’ll feel great about preserving natural land for hiking, clean air for breathing and clean water for drinking. Immerse yourself in restorative and peaceful sights, scents, and sounds away from the din of modern life. Now that they’re secure for future generations, some of the best experiences in life continue to be free. Thanks, GOSA members!
About the Author - Elizabeth Saede is a local author of Lobster Summer. She can be reached by email at Sunshine06378[at]gmail.com.