It happened while I was researching a two-part newspaper piece on preservation in Easton, Connecticut.
A writer’s process
As a journalist, I have explored many, many topics. Every now and then something happens and things just click for me, I feel touched by the subject matter. This was one of those times.
It started out innocently and routinely. I wanted to really understand the topic and the two properties in these stories – Trout Brook Valley and South Park Avenue. And it seemed they were connected by a fish called the brook trout.
I decided that the way for me to write the best stories possible was to form my own connection to these special fish, swimming the waterways in Easton for tens of thousands of years.
Trout Brook Valley has already been preserved but the 29.6 acre South Park Avenue is currently under threat of development, which puts the future of the brook trout swimming there in jeopardy. See, one of the things I learned is how hard it would be to protect the fish if the property gets developed.
What’s good for fish is good for people
The section of the Mill River connected to the property known as South Park Avenue is one of only 10 Class 1 wild trout management areas remaining in Connecticut.
Its conditions are precisely what this native fish needs to reproduce.
The fact that something designed by nature to support life could be a rarity alarmed me.
Cold water – which brook trout need – feeds into the river from deep down in the adjacent Easton Reservoir. The water remains cold enough for the trout even through the hottest summers.
The brook trout lay their eggs in gravel sized just right and oxygenated by the free flowing currents of the river.
Were development to begin, it will be very difficult to prevent the demise of all this. The beauty and wonder of what nature has given us in this space will change. Disturbing the ground causes debris to flow into the river, thwarting oxygenation of the eggs. Run-off from the asphalt would heat up the water.
The selectmen say that the river will be protected but once the property – currently owned by Easton and undeveloped other than a few structures – is turned over the town loses control.
The selectmen say they want to sell the property for money to help the town. I believe they think it is best. But, whoever buys the land can break any agreement to protect the river and I wonder if there will be the money (from taxpayers) – or inclination – to defend the river.
The brook trout at home
Their habitat in the Mill River, while robust, is also a particularly vulnerable one.
For the stories, I talked to James Prosek – an Easton artist and writer who has made a career out of his love of fish, first sparked on the Mill River – and Tim Barry, supervising fisheries biologist at Connecticut DEEP Western HQ.
Their passion must have been contagious because I found myself wanting to learn as much as I could. And the more I discovered, the more invested I became.
I began to find it hard to understand that anyone could fail to see how special the South Park Avenue property is really.
It’s not that I became anti-development in general. I became an advocate for this particular property.
I cannot tell you what exactly sparked my interest. Maybe the fact that the fish have been there for tens of thousands of years. Maybe because I find fish fascinating and the thought of them peacefully existing on that river for so long made me want to protect them. And maybe because it’s such a clean resource amazingly close to places like Bridgeport, Conn. and New York City.
It just seems remarkable to me.
Where’s the rhyme, where’s the reason?
Area conservationists are imploring the three man board to retain ownership and keep it undeveloped.
I would love to see it become a conservation education center. There is already a house on the property that could be used.
What struck me the hardest about all of this perhaps is how far-reaching the effects can encompass.
To say that what happens in a living waterway such as the Mill River will stay within the boundaries of the town doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. So much of nature – which we all need to survive – could be at stake. Water is fluid. Anything that happens on that river could potentially effect people many miles away.
What right do we have to destroy these fish and the land that embraces their home?
I have been reaching out to people looking for possibilities to preserve South Park Avenue.
Send an email to preservation @ southparkavenue.com (no spaces) with ideas, comments or for more information.
Here’s the two-part Preserving Easton story links: