As I watched the sun rise over New Haven Harbor, my thoughts became consumed by the events of the previous week. What a roller coaster ride of emotions to experience in just a few short days – the initial disgust when I first heard the news, the desperate hope felt when signing the petition, and the wonderful relief in knowing we had made a difference. And as I now looked out over Long Wharf Nature Preserve, illuminated by sun’s first rays of the day, I became so grateful that the community took a stand to protect this beautiful place.
Tucked away on the shores of Long Wharf, this 24-acre preserve is a mixture of tidal wetlands, marshes and beaches, offering a diverse coastal habitat. Supported by the New Haven Land Trust and the Garden Club of New Haven, Long Wharf Nature Preserve offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the importance of seaside ecosystems. It is even used as an outdoor classroom for the New Haven school system. Although the nearby highway remains in earshot, this park provides visitors a peaceful and beautiful place to enjoy nature, a quality which has always been respected … until recently.
Early last week, the CT Department of Transportation announced its proposal to seize land from the preserve in order to build a safer off-ramp for I-95. This project would bring the highway (and all it’s traffic) right next to the remaining land of the preserve, and would have damaging effects on this habitat. Though highway safety is a valid concern, the proposal shocked the community and left residents pleading for a better solution.
Although the DOT has the legal right to take this land, the concept of a “preserve” is to protect the environment and its resources. In fact, the New Haven Land Trust describes Long Wharf Nature Preserve as “an urban seashore rescued from commerce and reclaimed for nature.” With this idea embedded in the hearts of the residents, the community combined efforts and took action. Petitions, letters and phone calls flooded the DOT and state representatives. The strong opposition from the community could not be ignored, and it became clear that New Haven was prepared to go to great lengths to save its preserve.
At the press conference held at Long Wharf this past Saturday, it was announced that the DOT has decided to hold off on this particular project. Instead, the city, state, DOT and community would work together to determine other possible options of dealing with this situation. This is a huge success for all of New Haven, and the above “Photo of the Week” is dedicated to the efforts of the New Haven Land Trust and all who supported this cause. Chris Randall, Executive Director of the New Haven Land Trust, summed it up best – with a smile ear to ear, “We did it!”
Long Wharf Nature Preserve
New Haven Land Trust
“DOT Long Wharf ramp plan to include more public input, DeStefano says”
New Haven Register
“DOT to New Haven: We Heard You”
New Haven Independent