Morris Covers Split On Greenway Idea

Allan Appel PhotoCommuters will bike along the shoreline to New Haven from as far away as Madison. Boy Scouts and other kids will have new access to nature.

A rare salt marsh sparrow will be scared away. Rowdy beer-drinking adults will fall off the boardwalks late at night, with no cops around to help.

Those two starkly different visions emerged Wednesday night about the idea of putting in a new biking and walking trail on the East Shore.

Thirty people gathered at the Nathan Hale School for the first public information meeting for a proposed half-mile trail from Lighthouse Point Park’s butterfly garden through the salt marsh and nature preserve and culminating at the bridge on South End Road spanning Morris Creek by the East Haven City line.

The spur would be New Haven’s portion of a proposed Shoreline Greenway Trail, 25 miles of continuous pathway for non-motorized travel along the shoreline. The aim is to link Hammonasset with Lighthouse Point Park, the way the Farmington Canal Trail connects New Haven with Cheshire.

Planners have been trying to make this project happen for ten years. So far some small sections near Hammonasset Beach State Park and in East Haven are complete.

The proposed trail would pass from the butterfly garden, over a small dam, by an osprey platform along Morris Creek. From there, it would follow a raised berm and then through a long boardwalk over the delicate salt march that lands on narrow Cart Road. Then it would loop to its terminus up by the South End Road bridge, where the “hand off” occurs to the East Haven section.

Almost all the land belongs either to the New Haven Land Trust or to the city. Total estimated cost: $795,000.

The committee moving this project along has consisted of Morris Cove Alderman Sal DeCola and John Cox, a Morris Cover and member of the Shoreline Greenway Trail advisory board. Not a dollar has yet been raised to build it. That can’t happen until a viable plan has been agreed on, said Cox.

Last year the city spent $7,000 to hire the Stantec consulting firm, which has been working on sections of the trail for the other towns, to take a first shot at a feasible route and to solicit the public’s opinion and ideas.

Bad For The Osprey?

Morris Covers weren’t shy about expressing theirs, evenly split between pro and con.

“My mother gave that [land] to the [New Haven] Land Trust three years ago, with the understanding nothing be built,” said Susan Neal, who lives on South End Road. That “nothing” includes the trail and the boardwalks that will traverse the marsh.

“You gonna get people walking there one-two in the morning? It’s [already] a big party all night long at the bridge on South End Road,” she said.

Her neighbor Tracy Fiorillo, whose house also faces the bridge, agreed. “Alcohol, diapers, condoms, we clean up all the time,” when people use Lighthouse Point Park. “If someone gets rowdy and falls off your boardwalk on our property, who’s responsible?” she asked.

Parks department Director Bob Levine, who had convened the gathering, replied, “The more good stuff [good behavior] that goes on, the less bad stuff.”

That didn’t mollify Charles Cheslock, who lives on Cart Road, where the proposed over-the-marsh boardwalk lands and the balance of the trail moves along on the narrow rustic lane out to South End Road.

He was so upset that when he got wind of the proposal a month ago, that he hired attorney Keith R. Ainsworth and together they formed The Salt Marsh Conservancy. Ainsworth termed the group a voluntary association whose aim is to raise serious concerns about the plan every step of the way.

Those concerns include the fate of the salt marsh sparrow, a not-so-rare bird that he claimed might not survive the changes, and not so rare young humans who might disturb the night and endanger the neighborhood.

Cheslock brought with him photographs of sections of the trail in East Haven. It had large boulders that were defaced by graffiti. Brandishing color photographs of the defaced rocks, he said, “I’ve been in business in the inner city. I know the Hill, Newhallville. Are these [tags] gang related?” he asked.

Barbara Brown, chairwoman of the East Haven section of the greenway, reassured Cheslock the graffiti will be removed and a robust police presence is involved in supervising the trail.

In a slew of other concerns, Cheslock added: the dangerously swift current in Morris Creek could sweep away visiting kids. The extreme narrowness of Cart Road, with new parkers lured by the trail, will make it impossible for emergency vehicles to arrive. Most of all the osprey, and their nests, have to be moved if the trail as proposed comes to pass.

“[That prospect] puts tears in my eyes. I watched two baby osprey take their first meal,” he recalled.

Good For The Boy Scouts

Ned Taylor supported the plan for its beauty and increased access, especially its value for kids. He lives on Townsend Avenue and has supervised Boy Scouts constructing sections of the trail in East Haven.

He responded to Cheslock and the others concerned with safety, graffiti, sparrows, and garbage: “If you do it right, it works. You get new birds. I put Scouts out there. It can be done. [Regarding bad behaviors] Make a pest of yourself with the police.”

Cox characterized the meeting as “a good dialogue. People expressed their views and we’ll work with them. We’ll do the best possible job of accommodating them.”

Attorney Ainsworth vowed that he and Cheslock will be “at every future meeting and permitting opportunity.”


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posted by: DingDong on November 15, 2012  10:34am

Sounds like a great idea.  Hope it goes forward.

posted by: Environmental Advocate on November 15, 2012  10:40am

Sad to say that these well-meaning, but misguided folks have decided to run a trail and boardwalks THROUGH the salt marshes of the Morris Creek Preserve. The irony is that they want people to access the marsh so they can appreciate it, but at the same time they will damage the marsh and scare off globally-threatened bird species like the salt marsh sparrow.
The moral of this story? Even environmentalists can shoot themselves in the foot.

posted by: anonymous on November 15, 2012  12:02pm

1) Even though property values would triple either way, it would be best to route the walking and cyclig routes along existing streets. The streets can be slowed and reconfigured to promote this, for example through the use of raised crosswalks.

2) Where is this region’s sense of priorities? DeLauro and DeStefano give money to the wealthiest. The $795000 would be better spent improving bus shelter access, cycling, and walking in the center parts of New Haven, where most children live and most employees work. Spending it on the wealthiest part of town where people already have adequate recreational opportunities is simply inequitable.

posted by: PH on November 15, 2012  2:33pm

I’m with DingDong, this is a great idea.  Surely there is a way to pass through the salt marsh in a way that does not kill off the birds.  Somehow state and national parks manage to build boardwalks and paths through such environs all the time.  Giving people access to more of the city’s natural bounty is a great idea, and linking the city to the rest of the Shoreline greenway would be fantastic.  Go Greenway!

posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on November 15, 2012  4:36pm

I was at the meeting there is plenty of time to plan this to keep everyone happy, the idea is a good one and should move forward.
The only opposition is from the literal Not-In-My-Backyarders, who don’t have the foresight to see that their property values will appreciate.
The process has to go thru extensive CT DEEP permitting that will keep any sensitive species protected.
This is a great, well thought out
project being planned with volunteer work -THANK YOU JOHN COX!

posted by: Environmental Advocate on November 15, 2012  5:28pm

It will never make it through DEEP permitting. And besides, relying on DEEP to protect resources is like relying on the oil companies to protect water resources.

The irony of the SGT crowd making fun of not-in-my-back-yarders has a hypocritical air to it.

posted by: SaveOurCity on November 15, 2012  6:18pm

This trail would be a great asset to the city and the region.  Let’s hope that the environmental extremists are outnumbered so we can move forward.
Many state and national parks build walkways, bridges…etc that allow for public access without disrupting wildlife.  Let’s hope we’re smart enough to learn.

posted by: J.R. Logan on November 15, 2012  7:06pm

I am board chair of the New Haven Land Trust and as such share a responsibility with the board of directors to protect the natural value of the land. From our experience in New Haven we know that an important part of protecting and maintaining land in an urban environment is building a community of people committed to the long term protection and maintenance of that land. For this reason a trail holds the potential to not only provide a valuable educational platform but to be a way to build the commitment of people to the value of preservation. As a volunteer I was one of many who helped raise the osprey nest and take joy in seeing them in the habitat they require. I believe that it is possible to design a project to make the goals of protecting the environment and allowing public appreciation of our natural places compatible. I agree that a project like this must not be taken lightly, it must be done with great care. This plan is far from finished. I look forward to working with the community, engineers, naturalists and volunteers to more fully understand the possibilities and challenges.

posted by: mike143 on November 16, 2012  11:09am

Let nature be, I grew up on Meadowview st and know the wet lands pretty good, leave it be, it takes many many years to rebuild itself, At one time that land was a dump for Morris Cove people and the broken glass is still there, now we have Osprey which I never saw as a child. If the so called nature walk is built the trash will return and the tide will carry it all over the area. It sound like a good idea but it will not work out the way it was planed, People are slobs and it will only hurt nature. If you need to see nature get a Water Co. pass and walk their many miles of trails.

posted by: Dave13 on November 16, 2012  11:36am

Ahhhh- Morris Cove.  I remember the hearings for the boundless playground on Woodward Avenue when the neighbors were worried that gangs of handicapped kids from “other areas” would disrupt the peace and quiet of the neighborhood at all hours of the day and night

posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on November 16, 2012  2:06pm

Env. Adv.
-“relying on DEEP to protect resources is like relying on the oil companies to protect water resources.”
Really? you are equating the DEEP to Oil Companies? -Please.

Why would people be slobs in the cove but not on h2o co. property?

posted by: TheMadcap on November 16, 2012  2:13pm

Well it’s very close proximity, and no one is allowed on these trails at night normally, so if you hear people actually being rowdy, I don’t know, call the cops instead of just complaining? As they said, these people are already out there, it’s not like the trail itself is going to draw new people. And C’mon you live in Morris Cove, half these drunk people are probably kids from the neighborhood itself. With the finishing of the Canal Trail down to Long Wharf, if this is built, all you need is a mile or so of bike lanes to Light House, and you have a continuous recreation trail from upper Cheshire all the way through to Madison, there is no reason not to build this, alter the path a little bit of need be.

posted by: mike143 on November 16, 2012  8:16pm

How tall will it be? will it be an eyesore , we just had an 11 foot storm surge and that land was under water. will it be another Fort Hale fishing pier?

posted by: vista on November 17, 2012  8:36pm

It’s all well and good to say this is a GREAT idea, but, you are tampering with a pristine marshland. We can’t keep encroaching on natural habitats, isn’t this how we get endangered species?  Also people, it is literally in their backyards, so close that if you fall off the boardwalk, you are on private property.  AND NO, I don’t live there. You are delusional if you think people will keep this area clean.  They go crabbing on the bridge and also picnic and wade in the water and leave a mess.  I don’t see any volunteers cleaning up, just those not in my backyards people picking up the all the trash left behind. Why not leave the land alone!

posted by: Pura Vida on November 18, 2012  2:26pm

The number one thing to remember here is this is tidal water and the marsh is exposed to the elements. Unlike most of the other parts of the completed trail which is sheltered by trees and elevation, this section of the trail would run through an open marsh in a tidal zone and evacuation area. The high tide covers the marsh twice daily and the Perigean tide which completely overflows the marsh and results in an entire lake from Stoddard Road to Meadowbrook at least 4 times per year (Spring & Fall). The overall water line has risen over 2 feet in less than 5 years and it is predicted that Lighthouse Beach will be eroded and gone within the next 10 years, the ocean knocking right at the doors of our beloved carousel. While the thought of a boardwalk sounds lovely, it would be irresponsible; it needs to be routed slightly more inland and out of the tidal flood zone. Tidal changes in ocean level(s) create stream-like movements of water in and out of creeks, narrow inlets, and tidal rivers which produce dangerously strong currents. That consideration is exaggerated by the high winds that channel through the creek and marsh especially during storms and severe weather. The “compacted rock dust” that is used for the top layer of screening with be blown away and into the marsh when it is dry from sun exposure and hit with high winds. This is an open marsh and ecosystem that is regularly disturbed by natural elements and weather; we cannot add to its destruction or carelessly build on unsafe terrain. The concept is good, but the plan is awful. I encourage everyone to go see the marsh currents during an outgoing high tide or better yet, a storm surge. Please reconsider on behalf of our safety and our environment. We are responsible citizens with the sense and resources to re-figure a safer and less invasive alternative that would provide access to the Morris Cove community.