The Stuff Legends Are Made Of

From the December 24, 2005 Hartford Courant.

School Shouldn’t Develop Property

Ethel Walker School, a prestigious all-girls school, is planning to develop hundreds of acres of pristine open space in Simsbury with 122 suburban castles. This is being done to correct shortages in the school’s endowment. For a private educational institution to attempt to resolve a short-term cash-flow problem by massive and irreversible development of greenfields is reprehensible.

Housing developments like this do not come down in Connecticut; they usually multiply. The proposed development would entail not only 122 large-scale homes, but most likely more than 500 people, at least 300 automobiles and acres of compacted lawns and the accompanying chemical treatments. The effect of this development on the fragile Stratton Brook watershed, home to a state park and vibrant populations of native brook trout (among numerous other species) would be devastating and permanent.

Recent studies show that human impact (lawns, pavement, homes and so forth) of this size leads to extirpation of wild brook trout, the state’s only native trout and an emerging indicator of a steady deterioration in the state’s rivers and streams.

The school plans to develop the land over a period of several years to capitalize on rising home prices; coldly treating the delicate landscape like a financial annuity or asset. This brings to mind an oft-repeated quotation of President Theodore Roosevelt: “The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired in value.” Natural assets such as the Stratton Brook watershed should be protected and preserved for future students, town residents and wildlife alike, and not manipulated and sold in a financial marketplace.

Schools should serve as models for their impressionable students, demonstrating careful environmental stewardship at both a local and global level. A school, whose board and alumni ranks includes the who’s who of corporate America, clearly has numerous other options to increase its endowment. It should not take out its past fundraising failures on the wild brook trout, white-tailed deer or the countless other species that rely on this unique watershed for survival.

Kirt Mayland
Eastern Water Project
Trout Unlimited

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