Home > News > Key Dates to Recognize During the Connecticut River Gateway Commission’s 50th Anniversary

February 14, 2023

Key Dates to Recognize During the Connecticut River Gateway Commission’s 50th Anniversary

Commission 50 Anniversary
Tom Gezo

In Connecticut, the first signs of organized opposition to the idea of the National Park came from the town of Lyme where fear was expressed that the park “…will result in a trail of empty beer cans, litter, and other trash.” A town-wide referendum settled the debate in April 1971 by a vote of 415 against and 158 for.

A May 1970 boat trip from Old Saybrook to East Haddam with Senator Abraham Ribicoff and former National Park Service Director George Hertzog revealed to the public the revised concept of a full-scale park facility including access roads, reception centers, campsites, and picnic grounds.

On May 2, 1973, the Republican-controlled Connecticut General Assembly passed a historic piece of land use legislation entitled, “An Act Concerning the Preservation of the Lower Connecticut River” to establish the CT River Gateway Commission. Public Act 349 was signed by the Governor on May 9.

State Senator Peter Cashman’s Plan for the Gateway Conservation Zone was revealed. One by one, four towns gave their consent. Old Saybrook was the fifth town to vote. As the date for its annual town meeting neared in May 1974, the outlook was doubtful. By coincidence, a bombshell dropped: one day the press carried the announcement of a potential oil refinery for Long Island Sound — to be located in the Saybrook area. William Moore takes no credit for this timing, but it served to swing Old Saybrook into the “aye” column and the Gateway Commission came into being.

June 25, 2021 The Gateway standards are revised for the first time, with public hearings held throughout the region.

July 1968 The Department of Interior, Bureau of Outdoor Recreation released its findings and recommendations in a report entitled “New England Heritage.” It called for the establishment of a 56,700-acre national park to cost $57 million and to serve, it said, “as the nucleus of a revitalized conservation and recreation program for the entire river valley.”

July 17, 1974 The Gateway Commission becomes operational and holds its first meeting with all 8 towns

August of 1972 the Gateway Committee issued its alternative report ($23 million plan) to the federal proposal. Over 6,000 copies were distributed locally.

August 23, 2018 Second revision of the Gateway Standards, incorporating protections for vegetated buffers

September, 1965, Senator Ribicoff conducted the then Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Lee Udall, on an inspection tour by boat on the lower River. Secretary Udall commented afterwards: “We have a chance here to do a model job of conservation.” The following year, Congress authorized the secretary to study “the feasibility of establishing all or parts of the Connecticut River Valley from its source to its mouth…. as a … National Recreation Area.”

As a prelude to the establishment of a National Recreation area… Congress authorized the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a 2-year feasibility study. From a dead start in October 1966 investigations were to take place, formal hearings held, and detailed plans for four states generated by mid-1968….

December 2, 1963 U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare held a milestone conference in Harford. The lead-off witness was Senator Abraham A. Ribicoff. “Stretches of this once proud river,” the senator said in 1963, “now bear as its official classification: ‘Suitable for transportation of industrial wastes without nuisance and for power, navigation and certain industrial uses.’”


Additional News

presenters at conference

Protecting and Restoring Riparian Areas – Rivers’ Natural Protection

The Gateway Commission joined with the UConn Center for Land Use Education and the Rivers Alliance of CT to present a workshop on riparian (streamside)…

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A person holding a waterchestnut plant within the river

Aquatic Invasive Species Grant Program Accepting Proposals

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is now accepting proposals for the State’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Grant Program. The program makes…

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A World Without Dark Skies How Light Pollution Is Impacting Humans and Ecosystems What You Can Do

Join Misha Semenov-Leiva, local architect and a member of the Connecticut River Gateway Commission, and Alan Sheiness, of the Lyme Land Trust, for a presentation…

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