BURLINGTON — As Environmental Learning Centers of CT celebrates its 50th Anniversary, members are embarking on a capital campaign, “Blazing New Trails.” This name signifies ELCCT’s goals; the hundreds of thousands of children and adults educated about the importance of nature and theenvironment, the hundreds of acres of wildlife habitat protected, and the reputation gained, through hard work and the support of our community, as one of Connecticut’s premier environmental conservation and education organizations, according to a statemen.
The Blazing New Trails Campaign has a goal of $2 million: $1 million for Indian Rock Nature Preserve, and $1 million for the Harry C. Barnes Memorial Nature Center, members said.
The projects for Indian Rock Nature Preserve include restoring the preserve’s centerpiece- Indian Lake, completing the deck overlooking Indian Lake, installing solar panels and other energy-saving building improvements, and the creation of a three-season covered program space, or Education Pavilion, to meet the demand to host large groups, according to the statement. The projects for the Harry C. Barnes Memorial Nature Center include creating an accessible trail on the original parcel, installing a nature play area in conjunction with the new trail and the Center’s educational programs, installing solar panels and other energy-saving building improvements, and saving an adjacent 63.9 acres, “Pigeon Hill”, from mining and development.
According to members of ELCCT, “Pigeon Hill” consists of 63.9 acres of land in Bristol and Burlington, adjacent to the Harry C. Barnes Memorial Nature Center. “Part of the property is being leased to a horse boarding operation, according to the statement. “The rest of the property is open space and serves to enhance the land currently owned by ELCCT. The land gets its name from reports that Passenger Pigeons, now extinct, once roosted in large numbers on the glacial esker that is located on both the existing nature center property as well as the Pigeon Hill property. The esker was formed by sediment brought in by a river under the glacier that remained when the glacier melted centuries ago, leaving a tall meandering ridge; a local landmark. The owners have informed us of their intentions to mine the glacial esker for sand and gravel followed by the construction of 161 housing units.
“Though ELCCT is not inherently against sand and gravel extraction or development, in this case, this proposed plan would have a devastating effect on the neighborhood, would wipe out a geologically significant landform, degrade the quality of a pristine trout stream that bisects the property, and impair ELCCT’s ability to provide the education and conservation it has become known for,” according to the statement. “The alternative to this plan would be to protect the entire assemblage as open space and manage the habitats as an extension of the nature center property.
“As a result, ELCCT has worked with the landowners, Barnes Nature Center neighbors, the State of Connecticut, the Town of Burlington, Burlington Land Trust, the City of Bristol, and many other partners, with the goal of purchasing the Pigeon Hill property as open space for the benefit of wildlife and the people of our surrounding communities.”
Members say that the City of Bristol and ELCCT are working together on this project and have secured a limited-time agreement with the landowners to purchase the property. The goal is that the property will be protected as open space.
The City of Bristol will purchase the Bristol parcels and ELCCT will purchase the Burlington parcel, according to the statement. ELCCT will work with the city to help with the management of the entire assemblage including the restoration of portions that were already mined, the extension of nature center trails into the property, establishment of a diversity of wildlife habitats, and the development of research and educational opportunities for community members, school children and universities. The State of Connecticut has agreed that this plan is consistent with the State’s conservation and open space goals and has awarded ELCCT and the City of Bristol a grant of $850,800 towards this project; the second highest award of all applicants, according to the statement.
As per agreement, each entity needs to purchase their respective parcels or no parcels will be sold. The city of Bristol is committed to purchasing the Bristol parcels through city funding and its share of grant funds. ELCCT has $150,000 left to raise by Sept. 30: $125,000 to complete the purchase and $25,000 to start the restoration.
For information, go to elcct.org/savepigeonhill