Seth and Joanna Wakeman
By Sidney Van Zandt
I grieve Seth and Joanna’s passing, but I want to share with you the amazing efforts Seth made in 1967 through 1982.
Seth was one of the early activists of the Environmental movement. He was one of the founders of the Groton Open Space Association (GOSA) that was formed in December 1967 to help “Save the Haley Farm”. I, Sidney F. Van Zandt, was President, Seth was Vice-President. The Haley Farm was threatened with a 250 duplex housing development, which would have included filling in the marshes and purchasing additional land for schools. We had to raise over $350,000 in today’s dollars in less than 3 years which was the Town’s portion of State and Federal Open Space grants. This only included the lower 200 acres. The upper 50 + acres were not purchased by the State until 2002, 32 years later, after much development pressure.
During those 15 years our organization focused on proposing more environmental planning by opposing development at Bluff Point of the Morton Fine Plan that included a 5,000 car parking lot, the change of zone that would have allowed the development of a 400 boat marina on the Poquonnock River, the proposal to turn our local airport into a jetport between Kennedy and Logan as well as a Jetport Industrial City up in Pachaug State Park.
Our fundraising for the Haley Farm went door-to-door, even included a Rock Concert. We went over the top a week before our March 1970 deadline.
We helped form the first local Land Trust called the Mashantucket Land Trust in 1968 (now renamed to Avalonia Land Conservancy.). We worked with our town and State Commissions to deal with local air and water pollution, and promoted wetlands regulations. We were active in helping to protect Pequot Woods as a Greenbelt to the West of Allyn Street. We voted in favor of perpetuating rights of way to the water, opposed filling in the Mystic River for bulkheads, and watched where placement for sewer pump stations were planned as well as promoting the sewer outfall location to the Thames River to protect water quality in Mumford Cove, and protection of the shellfish industry.
Both of us left the board in 1982 because of out of State activities. Seth made a strong part of the team that has made an incredible difference to the Environment in our town – in our State. We all hope that you will take a hike on the Haley Farm, breath the clear air, soak in the pastoral beauty. I would love to lead you if you would like.