Simsbury Post Commentary October 20,
Reader urges public to think with their heads, vote with their hearst
regarding EWS property
I applaud anyone who is seeking the facts with regard to the proposed
purchase of the 424-acre Ethel Walker Property. $11.1 million dollars
for a piece of real estate in the western part of Town is an investment
neither the town nor her citizens should take lightly. However, a
recent letter to the editor made some misleading points while
advocating for NOT preserving this beautiful piece of land. I would
like to try and shed some additional light on the issues raised.
First, I would like to address the claim that purchasing the Village
Water Company would have been a better way to protect the quality of
our drinking water. While purchasing the Village Water Company would
have given the town control over the water distribution system, it
would NOT give the town control over the quality of the water supply.
The only way to protect the quality of the town’s drinking water is to
acquire the land within the aquifer recharge area and prevent land uses
that pose a threat to the water supply. Simsbury has a one-time
opportunity to acquire the land and watershed that recharge the Town’s
primary water source, supplying 73% of the town’s drinking water.
Mandating that homes built on this recharge area be hooked up to town
sewers would not be the “golden ticket” some of the Town Boards would
like you to believe. First of all, there is no sewer hook-up available
within the primary recharge area. Second, a United States Geological
Survey Report, paid for by the Town in 1991, makes it crystal clear
that any residential construction within the recharge area will be
detrimental to the groundwater, primarily because of our love affair
with green lawns and the chemicals required to keep them that way. Make
no mistake; this proposed acquisition is the only way for us to take
control of the quality of our town’s drinking water.
Second, there is the question of whether development will actually ever
occur on this property. If the citizen’s of Simsbury vote no on
November 7th, there is not doubt The Ethel Walker School will develop
the property west of Bushy Hill. For anyone who believes this is not
the case I invite you to walk the land and see all the soil testing
that has taken place. The school has invested a significant amount in
planning for a residential development on the property, including
preliminary design of wastewater treatment systems. They would not have
made this investment if they did not plan to follow through on it.
Whether or not this first round of development includes the eastern
slope of Bushy Hill, we cannot expect the school to be around forever
and eventually this important scenic vista will face the same threat.
While our land use boards would have some control over how development
along Bushy Hill Road occurs, houses would inevitably go on the
hillside permanently altering the character of the vista we so enjoy. I
urge the town to take the long-term view. This acquisition would ensure
permanent protection of Bushy Hill, and allow us to exercise control
over the future character of our community.
Third, there is the question of whether or not this property is truly
“pristine”. I was also at the Board of Finance meeting and was
surprised to hear that buried within the property is a 4000-gallon fuel
oil tank abandoned more than 40 years ago. However, I also heard Ms.
Spear of The Trust for Public Land state that the “owner”, which is the
Ethel Walker School, would address this issue prior to the closure of
the property’s purchase. I would imagine, knowing and understanding
State of CT clean up guidelines, this would entail complete removal of
the underground system. I also know that the abandoned fuel oil tank is
not located within the aquifer recharge area and so even if there were
any contamination associated with it, this would be unlikely to impact
the aquifer. The word “pristine” is still a valid description of the
underground water supply, as it is rate GAA by the Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP). In industry standards it is above
current drinking water quality guidelines or given the slang term
“pristine”. With my experience in heavy and highway construction, I
only see groundwater classifications as high as GB/GA. This connotation
is given to groundwaters that have been contaminated due to residential
or industrial presence. The duel designation is to signify the goal of
DEP to elevate it back to drinking water standards. GA is great; GAA on
the other hand, is outstanding!
Finally, with regard to the acquisition of the development rights for
Tulmeadow and Rosedale Farms, I want to remind all citizens’ that our
Simsbury Land Trust headed these projects up. Let us give credit where
credit is due. Our Town leaders held only a minor, supporting role in
these purchases. While the Land Trust supports the effort to preserve
the Ethel Walker Woods, they have left the leading role to the Trust
for Public Land and the Town of Simsbury so that they can continue to
put their limited resources toward their own long term land acquisition
plan. The Town cannot expect the Land Trust, which is funded by private
donations and run by citizen volunteers, to make every important land
acquisition in town. The protection of Ethel Walker Woods has been a
stated priority of the town for years! This time, it is up to us to
take the lead.
Let’s research the data, think with our heads, and vote with our hearts
on Question #2, November 7th. Better yet, just recognize these lands
and woods for what they really are…a once in a lifetime opportunity
that our descendant will thank us for!
Mary K. Baier, P.E.