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April 22, 1970 and Groton’s First Earth Day

“The Groton Public Library Historical Room houses the Groton Collection—primarily books of historical and genealogical interest to the community, along with a small collection of manuscript and archival materials relating to Groton.”

The new state of the art Historical Room at Groton Public Library, housing the James L. Streeter Collection, contains fascinating historical materials and is well worth the visit! Our own Sidney Van Zandt has spent an incredible amount of time organizing and updating all the history of the activities GOSA has been involved with since it began as the “Save The Haley Farm” committee in 1967. Below is Sidney’s account of how the first Earth Day was celebrated here in Groton!

The first Earth day held in Groton was produced by the newly formed Environmental Education Committee (EEC), and the Groton Open Space Association (GOSA). It was headed by David McKain, a professor at Avery Point, and Sidney F. Van Zandt, President of GOSA.

            The celebration was held on April 22, 1970 at the University of Connecticut, Avery Point. Boat trips to Pine Island began at 9 AM ferried by Edward P. Jones of Mystic. Robert Dewire, assistant director of the Thames Science Center, conducted nature walks.

            There was a “row in” down the Thames River, Birch Plain Creek, Baker’s Cove, down the Poquonnock River, down Palmer Cove around Bluff Point Coastal Reserve, to Avery Point.

            Afternoon workshops were conducted on air, water, noise pollution, land use, zoning, environmental law, pesticides and population growth. Other events were at Mitchell College about “the little man’s contribution to pollution”. Also covered were litter, problems of DDT, water and air pollution, as well as use of natural resources.

            A tree planting ceremony at Patchaug by Connecticut College students was held to protest the proposed National Jetport Industrial City. In Stonington residents were asked to participate in a trash pick-up. Various newly formed conservation clubs in Jr. High Schools held “bike-ins”

            Anti-pollution forces took aim at the proposed Jetport by signing petitions (in an area now called “The quiet Corner” now that the opposition has won their battle.)

            Earth Day was a great success drawing more than 800 persons to the 11 workshops.

            After Earth Day students from schools all over the region became activists by forming “Ecology Clubs”, courses were given at local schools and colleges, recycling was begun by the Fitch Sr. High Conservation Group by collecting bottles across the street at the Town Annex.

Earth Day #2 1971, was again held at Avery Point with all-day activities, with many Lectures followed by weekly activities.

The EEC continued with many activities, over the next 5 years.

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