2022 Annual Appeal

Annual Appeal 

In 2021, GOSA got things done with your help! Your volunteer efforts and donations enabled GOSA to manage and maintain 5 existing properties and acquire 2 new ones:
• Sheep Farm South — 104-acres contiguous to the 63-acre Sheep Farm. This expansive property features Fort Hill Brook, which flows to Mumford Cove and Long Island Sound, geologic interest in Fort Hill ledge and glacial rock formations, a string of highly productive vernal pools, wildlife habitats, an oak hickory hardwood forest, Colonial and Native American historic sites, and scenic recreational trails.
• Walt’s Walls and Woods — 5.7-acres in the heart of Groton’s downtown area. This small gem of a property serves an important function in protecting wetlands, a stream, and Baker Cove from storm water runoff, and extends two existing town-owned open spaces. Meandering trails wind through a small forest, outlined by exquisite stonewalls and colorful hillside gardens for public enjoyment. Given the continued challenges we have faced this year, the silver lining is that we have sustained an increase in the number of visitors to our properties. We are deeply grateful to all of you who have supported GOSA’s work through these challenging times. Our efforts this year include:
• Twice weekly Stewardship work parties to mow grassy areas, maintain trails, construct bog bridges and post storm clean-up activities
• Collaboration with Mystic Garden Club to purchase and install native plants at our pollinator gardens
• Dip netting excursions to GOSA properties for Groton Parks and Rec summer camps staffed by GOSA volunteers
• Earth Day event at Haley Farm for invasive plant removal and clean-up activities, and additional Earth Month activities including roadside clean-ups along 3-4 miles of GOSA properties
• Hikes including Senior Hike sponsored by Groton Senior Center, and an archeological hike

The GOSA community continues to be our most valuable asset! Your 2022 membership and support from donations provide sound fiscal support, help sustain open spaces in our community, and assures successful protection of our waterways and open spaces. We hope you consider supporting GOSA in your yearly giving.

With gratitude from all of us,
GOSA Board of Directors

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Notice of Annual Meeting

Notice of Annual Meeting 
Thursday, October 21, 2021
7:00 PM, doors open at 6:30 PM
Latham Chester Store
108 Main Street, Noank

The Board of Directors for the Groton Open Space Association, Inc., cordially invites members to participate in the 2021 Annual Meeting either in-person or via Zoom* on Thursday, October 21 at 7:00PM.

*If you want to attend via Zoom, request the link by emailing [email protected]

Meeting Details:
Officer Reports and Elections
No Guest Speaker
No Refreshments or Snacks
Masks are Required



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A Hidden Gem in the Center of Groton Added to GOSA’s Family of Properties

The purchase of Walt’s Walls & Woods on July 30th, a 5.7 acre parcel located at 0 Drozdyk Drive, was facilitated by a generous donation from an anonymous longtime member and supporter  of GOSA. Walter Watrous built the signature stone walls and gardens over many years featuring spring-blooming weeping charry trees, rhododendrons, azaleas, creeping phlox, heathers and purple coneflowers. This property serves to protect Baker Cove watershed, a waterway impaired by bacterial contamination, and is surrounded by town-owned open space on two sides and protected wetlands on three sides. Boundary markers, signage, and trails to come hopefully making this stunning property a place of rest and respite for those living and working in the area. We hope you come to appreciate and love the beauty this property has to offer and enjoy it as much as we do!

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Story about Alice

“Alice is 11. We have known her parents since before she was born.  She and her Mom came over this afternoon, July 27, 2021. Her mom, Lisa, handed me a large heavy bag of coins ($48) collected by Alice’s Jr youth group. A friend walking by heard me read this letter and clapped with nodding head as well. What a delight!!” – Sidney

The JFEC is the Jewish Federation of Eastern Ct. Junior Youth Group made up of about 10 children between the ages of 10 to 14. They usually meet once a month for outside activities, but during COVID19 it was weekly by Zoom. Their last fun gathering was at the home of their leader who said “Alice asked everyone to make a donation for GOSA”.

Unfortunately Alice and her parents are relocating to Santa Cruz, California, leaving the first week of August.

Read Alice’s Letter


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Walt’s Walls and Woods

Groton Open Space Association is pleased to announce the acquisition of Walt’s Walls and Woods, a 5.7-acre parcel located in the heart of downtown Groton, Connecticut, on July 30, 2021. Number 141 Drozdyk Drive on Google Maps will get you close. Park on the wide shoulder, or choose to arrive on foot, an easy walk from nearby shopping malls and apartments. GOSA plans to place a picnic table near the top of the ledge, and to restore a wooded path in the uplands at the back of the property.

Although the property is small, it will serve an important function protecting wetlands and a stream from storm water runoff. It will protect Baker Cove, an impaired waterway downstream, from new development impacts. The property extends existing protected open space by connecting to the Town-owned Ledges and Boulder Heights properties. Walt’s Walls and Woods provides a small forest, wetlands, exquisite stonewalls and gardens to a neighborhood green space for the residents and visitors of downtown Groton. Wetlands surround the property on three sides, and Town-owned open spaces cover two sides. A spectacular steep ravine, part of an ancient rift valley, is located nearby, separating the Ledges and Boulder Heights properties.

Walter Watrous spent many years constructing the exquisite stonewalls in front of the cliffside ledge, using a drystone technique, backfilling with crushed stone and providing room for the roots of the weeping cherry trees. Colorful creeping phlox, heathers, azaleas, rhododendrons and purple coneflowers extend the blooming season.

We hope you will enjoy this little green open space to rest and relax. The public is welcome to visit every day from sunrise to sunset.

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GOSA Acquires 104-Acre Sheep Farm South

Congratulations to all our members and donors!

Groton Open Space Association, Inc., is pleased to announce the acquisition of the 104-acre Sheep Farm South property in Groton, Connecticut, on April 21, 2021.
The acquisition was funded in part by a Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), Open Space Watershed Program grant, and by contributions from individuals, organizations and foundations. Many thanks to all the GOSA donors who made this possible!
The property abuts GOSA’s 63-acre Sheep Farm and will provide a key connection in Groton’s north-south greenbelt. The property is open to the public dusk to dawn for non-motorized recreation activity.
Currently, there is a through trail connecting the Sheep Farm to Sheep Farm South. There is parking at the Sheep Farm on Hazelnut Hill Road or along Flanders Road near the intersection of Flanders Road and Route 1.
Our stewardship team will be working on a land management and trail plan.
For more information email us at [email protected].


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President’s Annual Report 2020

December 14, 2020

2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. The world has been hit hard by a global pandemic, economic recession, and political turmoil. The good news is that GOSA, as a land trust, has been able to meet the increased demand for convenient and safe places for public outdoor recreation. GOSA welcomed a record number of visitors, new members and volunteers this year. Thankfully, our natural areas and open spaces have remained available to the public for exercise, mental health, fresh air, and a chance to meet outdoors.

GOSA’s large properties and long trails provide almost unlimited space for social distancing, hours-long adventures, and escape from the stresses of isolation, news and social media. Rock outcrops, brooks and ravines appear especially beautiful in winter, enhanced by reduced foliage and snow and ice patterns. Dress warmly, go outdoors, and look for overwintering birds, animal tracks, nesting cavities, patterns of bark and other signs of life. You might be lucky enough to spot a pileated woodpecker, kestrel, owl pellet or the shredded bark of a bobcat-scratched tree.

Although the pandemic has restricted our indoor and large group activities, we have been able to stay in business by using technology to convene our annual and board meetings online. While we missed the camaraderie of gathering with friends at our spring gala, Trails Day and First Day hikes, stream-dipping and other educational events, we know that this pandemic, too, shall pass, and we will meet again.

In the meantime, our volunteers have been active supporters of GOSA, while effectively socially distancing. This year, they led small group tours for garden, botanic, birding, chamber of commerce and senior organizations.  They hosted a safe endurance and fun run with lively DJ music and special hand-made awards. They provided the governance needed to maintain GOSA’s corporate, 501©3, and state charitable organizational status. They generated financial reports, 990 IRS reports, donor correspondence, and essential and enduring-value corporate records. They maintained social media platforms, generated printed materials. Remember, all this work has been performed without paid professional staff.

Stewardship volunteers have donated thousands of hours this year to maintaining trails, fields, forests, shrubby areas, pollinator gardens and thickets. Organized work parties have averaged 12-15 volunteers per week, plus small groups have performed boundary marking, trail blazing, and construction of bog bridges, signs, bluebird and kestrel nesting boxes.

GOSA volunteers have also collaborated with and shared expertise with local organizations: Mystic and North Stonington Garden Clubs sponsored our pollinator gardens; New England Mountain Biking Association of South Eastern Connecticut sponsored a bog bridge at the Merritt Family Forest. Tri-Town-Trail Association requested a GOSA botany and stewardship consultation for its northern trail section. The Connecticut Botanic Society held a mini-bio blitz at the Avery Farm powerline corridor. The Mudheads sailing club has displayed a festive buoy holiday tree along Elm street at Beebe Cove Vista.

GOSA does not have professional staff to help us raise the millions of dollars needed to save land. We have come close to raising the $1,000,000 needed to acquire the 104-acre Sheep Farm South property, and we plan to close in early 2021. Our annual appeal will help us cross the finish line to save this beautiful property.

Thank-you to all our members, donors and volunteers for your support. Together, we will continue to preserve special places in our beautiful little corner of Connecticut.

Joan Smith
Groton Open Space Association, Inc

Photo Credits: Rick Kollmeyer, Bill Pratt, Joan Smith

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Bill Kroll Remembrance, August 23, 2020

December 14, 2010 at the Sheep Farm closing: Joan Smith, GOSA President, Bill Kroll, GOSA attorney, Michael Tansley, Groton Lenders attorney, Sidney Van Zandt, GOSA Vice President, Sue Sutherland, GOSA Treasurer

We at GOSA are sad to report the passing of Bill Kroll, GOSA’s dedicated and beloved attorney, in August of 2020. He was the son of Charlie Kroll, a former GOSA board member, whose last words to him were to “take care of those people.” He did, and we are very grateful.  Bill was smart, tough, strategic, thorough, tenacious and kind, a good person to have your side. Bill loved to drive, and never let a long commute from Georgia in later years stop him. Bill told us that he maintained his Connecticut license so he could continue his GOSA practice.

Although a tough lawyer, Bill and his wife Donna were softies in the personal realm.  They could not resist rescuing abused and neglected pets. They adopted a large household menagerie, and transported other pets long distances to new homes.

Bill helped GOSA defend our contract to purchase what is now the Merritt Family Forest against a lawsuit filed on April 15, 2003, by Ravenswood, a competing developer. A lis pendens was placed on the property, preventing any sale, until the suit could be resolved. The case took five years to work its way through superior court and the appeals court in Hartford. Bill led us successfully through a jury trial, pro bono, at superior court, and then arranged the referral to a young Beth Leamon to represent GOSA in appellate court. In January, 2008, the court ultimately decided in favor of GOSA, and with great relief and fanfare, GOSA returned to raising funds and closed on the property in December 2008.

Bill continued his loyal service to GOSA for twelve more years. He drove long distances from his new homes in Salem and in Georgia, thriving with the commute in his prized cars. He always took on GOSA’s contracts and closings for a minimal fee, and never charged for phone calls, emails and simple legal reviews.

Bill was a fighter for GOSA’s legal rights, and against his own health challenges. He dedicated his seeming nine lives to GOSA, vintage cars, animal welfare and family. He was an important member of the GOSA community, who will be sorely missed.

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To our GOSA Members and Friends,

Now is the best time to enjoy the outdoors on GOSA trails and the perfect way to celebrate Earth Day! GOSA properties and trails are free to visit and open to the public from dawn to dusk. We have been seeing many old friends and meeting new ones out on the trails. We are so happy that you’re visiting!

Today, we could really use your help:

Tonight would have been our Earth Day Fundraiser for the acquisition of the Sheep Farm South. For the past year, GOSA has been raising funds for the purchase of this 104-acre property. We are very appreciative of everyone who has donated towards this acquisition and for the grants we have received; however, we still have a long way to go. By March 2021 GOSA needs to raise an additional $250,000 to complete our purchase and sale agreement.

Even though tonight’s major fundraiser was canceled, we hope that you will help us with our mission and donate towards the Sheep Farm South property acquisition. Every dollar counts! (https://www.gosaonline.org/donate/)

The purchase of Sheep Farm south is instrumental in the green belt GOSA is trying to form. It will adjoin our original Sheep Farm Property and form 167-acres of trails, connecting to The Merritt Family Forest, Haley Farm and Bluff Point. If you haven’t visited these properties, be sure to check out the “Take a Hike” page on our website, to learn about all the GOSA trails and plan your next outing.

We hope you have been able to take advantage of all the open space our region offers, especially in times like these, and that you will join us in our efforts to raise funds for the purchase of this property.

GOSA Board of Directors

TO DONATE: https://www.gosaonline.org/donate/

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EARTH DAY came 50 years ago on April 22, 1970 by Sidney Van Zandt

The first Earth Day held in Groton was produced by a newly formed organization called the Environmental Education Committee (EEC) It was headed by the late David McKain, an English professor at University of CT, Avery Point, and Sidney F. Van Zandt, President of the Groton Open Space Association (GOSA). The group was formed to put on Earth Day as well as to educate about the problems of pollution and be a “watchdog” in support of a quality environment in this area. The members consisted of everyone who cared, as well as the local Conservation Groups made up of students of local schools from Elementary to Jr. High and Fitch High schools as well as near-by colleges.  The group was formed to put on Earth Day activities at the University of CT, Avery Point. and they continued promoting the environment action and opposing inappropriate development that continued on for over 50 years.

That sunny warm day there was a “row-in and paddle” down the Thames River, Birch Plain Creek, Baker Cove, the Poquonnock River, Palmer Cove, and the Mystic River, around Bluff Point to Avery Point. Boat trips were given to go to Pine Island for instructive talks by Robert Dewire of the then Thames Science Center.

Afternoon workshops and panel discussions 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 by Connecticut College students was held at Patchaug State Forest to protest the location there of the proposed “Jetport Industrial City”. Over 4,500 signatures against the Jetport were collected during those events.

Earth Day was a great success drawing more than 500 persons for the morning and afternoon events. Earth Day #2 the next year, on April 22, 1971, was held again at Avery Point with all day activities.

The (EEC) met weekly and they produced an “Environmental Guide” to help provide solutions for composting, biodegradable soap, where to purchase beverage in returnable bottles, landfill hours, bus schedules, etc. They coordinated non-credit courses, Ecology Clubs, courses at local schools and colleges.

A group of K-6 teachers put together an ”Ecology Curriculum”, which was a teaching guide for each class. Each section had a theme. K-2 was total overview; 3 was Forest, 4= Field, 5= marsh, and 6= Pond.  These books were presented to each teacher in K-6, in 7 local school systems that included Montville and Waterford. Each teacher received the chapter for their grade; each school library received the full book.

The students began the first recycling in the Town of Groton by placing three barrels across from Fitch High School at Public Works. They had one each for clear, green, and brown glass. also at Jr. High Schools, and numerous local stores.  People from town began filling the barrels; more were needed. The glass needed to be broken up to be delivered to Dayville for recycling. They then added containers for metal as well as paper.  It was so successful that the town had to take it over.

After Earth Day 2, a food coop was formed for organic and bulk products.  In Mystic “The Good Bread Bakery” began offering options to “spongy foam bread”, and “The Mischievous Carrot” was a vegetarian restaurant. Efforts were made to promote protection of the wetlands (sometimes then called “wastelands”), with efforts locally and up with the legislature in Hartford.

However, there were many other issues going on before April 22 1970. In 1963 the land known as the Haley Farm came up for sale, and the developer wanted to build duplex housing there for the Coast Guard so as to move them farther from the noise that would be at Avery Point where they were located, as the FAA was planning to expand our local airport to handle overflow flights from New York’s Kennedy Airport. After much objection from local residents, the Zoning application was overturned and a new organization was formed called “The Groton Open Space Association” (GOSA) to “Save the Haley Farm”. As both the Town Planning and The Regional Planning felt that its best use was “housing”, we then turned to the State who said that if we would raise $50,000 (the Town’s portion of an Open Space Grant) they would buy it as it abutted the 250 acres that they had purchased at Bluff Point in 1963.

In May of 1968 a major fund raising event called “Three Hundred years on the Haley Farm” was held at Fitch High School with the spring meeting of the CT Forest & Park Association, (the state-wide organization that voted to act as an umbrella organization to help us with fundraising). The gathering included State officials and residents. Local students lead tours. Following that event, fund raising began all over town with church suppers, car washes. Then Fitch teacher, Johnny Kelly, along with one of his former students, Amby Burfoot, both former Boston Marathon winners, proposed a Rock Concert to be held at the largest facility in town, the City Municipal Building and Mayor Sharp had difficulty with saying yes. (This was four months after the huge “Woodstock Concert”.) But finally he did. That really hit the news in all the local papers and allowed us to go over the top at our March 1, 1970 deadline of $50,000 (in today’s dollars over $350,000). Earth Day was one month later. Life Magazine in their July 4, 1970 issue (and again in early August) had a story called “Battles Won” that featured eight successful battles from all across the country, and Haley Farm was one of them.

However there were many other issues going on at the same time. **

Threats to Bluff Point:

*  The town developed a new sewer program including north to the sub base. The effluent was dumped directly into Mumford Cove. The DEEP told the town that all shellfishing would be banned forever from Ram Island to the Thames River. After 8 days of hearings, the town was ordered in 1975 to send the outfall via city streets to the Thames which had strong currents to disburse the effluent. (The town did nothing till 1985 when residents of Mumford Cove took them to court.)

*  The State proposed the Martin-Fine Plan that called for filling in the marshes behind the beach for a 5,000-car parking lot plus Coney Island-type facilities for the 3,000 feet of very narrow beach.

*  Grandiose plans were promoted for an East-West highway along Rt. 1 from Long Hill across to Fort Hill and perhaps to Mystic; a 4-lane highway from Rt. 395 to 95 down 117, through Fort Hill Homes, over the RR, down to the point to meet NY planner, Robert Moses’ bridge from LI.**

*  An application for a 400-boat marina on the Poquonnock River including a gas station was OK’d by the town, but was strongly opposed at the many hearings.

*  The Federal Energy Administration (FEA) had a plan for a strategic reserve for underground oil reserve requiring removal of 650,000 cubic yards of rock from the ridge for 3 underground oil chambers as well as a dockage for barges was turned down by local environmental organizations and the (DEP) Department of Environmental Protection.

*  Housing for about 400 homes in the southeastern section was proposed that would have required the town to purchase additional land and construction for schools.

*  Industrial development of the northern upper acres was Ok’d by the town, later purchased by the state and is now used for parking.

*  There was a proposed shipping- terminal-container- port proposal to cut through Bushy Point to deliver barges up Birch Plain Creek to meet train or plane.

*  Proposal for Helicopter Emergency landing area.

*  Expansion of the Airport threatening to close off Pine Island Bay to most boat traffic.

1972: Legislature formed the “Bluff Point Advisory Council” (BPAC) to come up with a plan for the “highest and best use” of the peninsula. There were 21 representatives from elected officials, the sciences, and environmental community. Co-Chair were Omar Allvord and Sidney F. Van Zandt.

January 1974: Republican Governor Thomas Meskill condemns Bluff Point, the last undeveloped piece of Connecticut shoreline to be saved for “Open Space”. (nearly 800 acres)

May 1975: The Legislature passes the Bluff Point Coastal Reserve Bill, signed by Democratic Governor Ella Grasso, June 19, 1975.

1984: Another proposition was made by Groton officials to use BP as a Town Beach. Commissioner Stanley Pac comments: “Unalterably opposed”, “Keep Bluff Point as it is”; “This is Open Space”, “without the dune grass, the entire sandy peninsula will disappear”!

2002: Upper 57 acres of the Haley Farm were purchased by Republican Governor John Rowland using “Recreation and Natural Resources Funds” (32 years after the lower property was saved.)

2002: The two parks were tied together by a bridge 115 feet long and 9 feet wide during Amtrak’s 5-year railway electrification project joining Haley Farm and Bluff Point, over 1,000 acres of coastal land saved and protected forever.**

Since then GOSA has been purchasing land for open space – (for maps go to gosaonline.org and click on “properties).  There have also been Earth Day gatherings, many at Avery Point where Environmental organizations have displayed tables and maps showing what was going on, what projects needed action. Except for this year because of the corona virus. However, every year one could look to the east at the wild peninsula called Bluff Point and beyond is Haley Farm that we all have visited, helped with the stewardship, over the years can say, “We have Made a Difference”. What a great celebration.                     *          *          *          *

Extra resources:
**The Day, April 10, 1976, “Groton Grapevine” by Jim Irvine
** The Day, April 2, 2017: “Groton Open Space Association marks 50 years of Conservation” by Steve Fagin.
** The Day 9.14.99:  Amtrak footbridge to link state parks in Groton:

The History Room in the Groton Library has about a dozen large scrapbooks telling the tale of all these events. (Put together by Sidney F. Van Zandt)

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