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What Activities Should Be Permitted In Darrow Pond's Open Space?

While the Darrow Pond Open Space Committee focuses on the conservation of 200 acres, local residents worry that the town of East Lyme may develop the remaining 100 acres.

 

What kind of recreational activities should people be able to enjoy at Darrow Pond? That was ostensibly the topic of discussion at last night's public hearing held by the Darrow Pond Open Space Committee.

Residents who attended the hearing, however, had little to say about the pros and cons of allowing kayaking and a whole lot to say about what they feared the town had in mind for the other 100 acres. 

First, though, to the matter at hand. Committee members were given 21 months to come up with a plan for the use and conservation of 200 acres of the 300-acre property bought by the town of East Lyme to be used as open space. 

The Committee, which will make its final presentation to the East Lyme Board of Selectmen on March 20, has come up with the following proposals for permanent easement recommendations.  

Permitted Activities

  • Hiking, walking, snowshoeing
  • Biking and mountain biking on trails installed and managed by the town.
  • Cross country skiing and running
  • Birding
  • Hunting (for resource management only, as recommended by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection).
  • Dogs walking (on leash)
  • Horseback riding
  • Fishing
  • Ice skating and ice fishing
  • Habitat maintenance (i.e. logging to maintain the forest)
  • Educational activities
  • Limited camping (i.e. boy/girl scouts by request)

Prohibited Activities/Uses

  • Garden plots/agriculture
  • Use of motorized watercraft
  • Use of motorized vehicles (except for official town vehicles)
  • Building construction
  • Commercial activities
  • Paved Paths
  • Subdivisions
  • Dog Parks
  • Open fires
  • Recreational fields (soccer/lacrosse/bocce courts/paintball, etc.)
  • Official picnic areas (with tables/grills)
  • Swimming
  • Kayaking/canoeing (The commission was nearly evenly split on that issue but the nays had it because of concerns about invasive species that might be introduced to the pond by unclean water vehicles.)
  • Docks
  • Tobacco and alcohol consumption on the property

The Public Hearing—Areas of Concern

The public hearing was intended to give the public the opportunity to weigh-in on these recommendations. Instead, the people who spoke were mostly local residents whose deeds include an easement that prohibits public access to Darrow Pond. 

They don't welcome a sudden influx of people to an area that was, until the town bought it, private property. Many said they feared that Darrow Pond might be negatively affected by increased use.

The bigger concern, however, was not what the Committee has in mind for the 200 acres of open space, but what the town has in mind for the other 100 acres that make up the 300 acre property.  

The Background

Voters approved the $4.23 million bond needed to purchase the 301-acre property to preserve it as open space in September 2011. The deal to buy the land from Webster Bank for below market value was a joint venture by the town and the nonprofit Trust for Public Land.

Previous owners had planned to develop the land but failed for one reason or another, although there is still evidence of where the land was once cleared to make way for what one developer had hoped would be an 18-hole golf course and large housing development. 

The town's decision to buy the land was motivated, in part, by a desire to protect East Lyme's water resources with a view to developing wells or locating a water tank in the area. So far, the town has discussed the possibility of building a water tower, a ball field, a field house, or a picnic area on the site.  

Darrow Pond residents, however, say they worry that the town may, at some point, decide to develop the 100-acres that comprises its share of the property, or sell it to a developer.

"When we voted for the town to buy the property, we were told the rest of the property would be for conservation. Now it seems to be changing," said John Strafaci, who lives on Darrows Ridge. "I hope they weren't lying to us."

East Lyme's attorney said the town has always been clear that, although the overall goal in purchasing the property was to increase the town's open space, the 100 acres that the town oversees would not have the same tight restrictions as the other 200 acres, because the town may need to use the land for future expansion.

There's already an ongoing legal dispute between residents and the town over the existing easement. At last night's meeting, Darrow Pond Open Space Committee Chairman Jack Hogan said that there's a good chance that there will be additional litigation before the dust settles.

Joseph J. Mingo February 26, 2013 at 12:46 PM
What is wrong with farming?, A dog park,Picnic areas. The lack of handycap access to the park is of great concern .You can bet Law suites will abound from the lack of access from wheel chair bound people.Just a Question Who new of this puplic hearing..Controled burning is a joke .Farmers did this years ago for the purpose of farming because it is a cause of air polutionit was stoped. open burning ia a criminal by state law.. Shoud we ban water fowl from using the pound after all the bring in invasive species.
Barbara J February 26, 2013 at 01:33 PM
If a 600+ unit development was built, as planned before the purchase by the town & land trust, what would the Darrow Pond residents say than? I don't recall them at the meetings to stop that development ? Many of us did, so why can't kayaks/boats, dog bark & other uses be allowed for the public on the 220 acres ? One Hundred acres were for a different use & I agree with the town attorney stating that area can still have it's own usage.
Josh Haderski February 26, 2013 at 06:16 PM
I am glad to see the town so concerned with invasive species, when Gorton pond, Powers lake, and Pattagansett lake are already consumed by invasive Plant life and shellfish. What is the likelyhood that an invasive plant is going to be transfered on the bottom of of a plastic kayak? We're not talking about motors with props or boat trailers, this is unreasonable.
Albert Burchsted February 26, 2013 at 09:39 PM
Joe, it is well known that water fowl and other birds bring in invasive species. I identified the Asiatic clam on Staten Island shortly before I began spending all my summers in Niantic. This clam lives in fresh and slightly brackish waters, and is now widely distributed in Staten Island ponds (though not all) where there are no outside water craft allowed in these waters. The only probable sources of this clam would be either someone emptying aquarium water into the ponds (unlikely for so many ponds) or bird transport. The Galapagos Islands are populated with many plant and insect species that (before the advent of humans) could only have arrived on the feet and plumage of birds - particularly after storms. Canoeing and kayaking are activities with a low probability of impact. This would be especially so if the town were to establish a defined launch site with a display that educates boaters about the risks of transferring invasive organisms and providing a washing station downhill from the pond so that runoff did not flow into the water. To ban all boating in the hope that invasives can be prevented may only extend the time until the invaders find their way into a new water system, but education of users is far more effective.

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