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July 13, 2023

Critical Funding for an Important Coastal Property in Old Saybrook

Ayers Point field
Judy Preston, Ayers Point
Looking southeast across the Ayers Point new acquisition toward Hyde Creek marsh; the Connecticut River main stem is just beyond the wooded hillside.

On June 13th, 2023, the Old Saybrook Land Trust gathered with members, friends and supporters to celebrate their latest land acquisition: an eleven-acre parcel containing the headwaters of Hyde Creek, surrounded by open field and brackish tidal marsh that is part of the Hyde Creek tidal wetlands complex that borders the main stem of the Connecticut River.

After a few glitches, over five years of effort, and the generosity of many — including the Gateway Commission, this remarkable parcel is now in conservation ownership, to be protected in perpetuity as a natural resource preserve.

In addition to the Gateway Commission’s $60,000 matching funds, additional funders helped the Land Trust meet their financial goal, including The CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA); CT Audubon and the Army Corp of Engineers, through the CT wetlands mitigation funds (ILF); and the Middlesex Community Foundation. Neighbors and Land Trust members also stepped up to the plate, providing matching funds for the Gateway Commission donation, which included a generous private leadership donation from a local resident.

Oversized-check being presented to the land trust.

John Ogren and Anna Termine, co-presidents of OSLT, and Suzanne Thompson, Gateway Chair.

This property, located at the corner of Essex Road and Ayers Point Road, encompasses natural resources of significant ecological value. Of note, it is one of few parcels statewide that can accommodate marsh migration in the face of rising sea levels. As tidal marshes experience elevated sea levels, the opportunity for them to migrate further upland to replace inundated habitat is significantly compromised by development. This is especially important for imperiled marsh species such as the saltmarsh sparrow, a species of extremely high conservation concern because of the decline of its marsh nesting habitat.

The entire Hyde Creek wetlands is prime breeding habitat for a number of resident and migratory birds, and includes a major roosting site for migrating black birds (up to 10,000 individuals).

The Land Trust envisions seeking additional funds to generate a phased management plan for this parcel to include invasive species control, most notably within the tidal marsh on site to enhance wildlife habitat, and explore the potential to manage the existing mown area as natural coastal grassland, an important and declining natural community.

Without the generosity and support of the Gateway Commission, this acquisition might not have happened. It is an example of how the Commission is advancing the goal to protect “The unique scenic, ecological, scientific and historic value” of the estuary region, and “prevent deterioration of the natural and traditional river scene.”

For more information or to join the Old Saybrook Land Trust: http://www.oslt.org/

 

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