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2014 - Issue 1

2013: The Year In Review

At the end of each year we see reviews and top ten lists for almost everything - from arts to sports to politics to local events. They are a reminder of the key things that happened over the course of 12 months and they increase our understanding and appreciation of the area.

This newsletter is a listing of 12 things that happened of interest or were important to the Tankerhoosen Valley in 2013. It may help you appreciate all that takes place here and the treasure we have. It may also help you see the Valley as a single entity with entries from Tolland in the east end of the valley to Talcottville in the west end.

Some events take place annually such as the Memorial Day Parade. Limiting this list to 12 some had to be omitted, such as the annual spring Canoe Race and December Arctic Plunge. There is much more that goes on in the Valley on a regular basis throughout the year that also isn't included - hiking, biking, educational talks, picnics and swimming at Valley Falls.

Last year was quieter than 2012 with no fall storms, no new properties preserved and no new trails created. However, two biennial events took place highlighting the beauty of the area - the Vernon Garden Club's 2013 Garden Tour and the Friends of Valley Falls' Artists Day At The Farm.

Entries are arranged not in order of importance, but roughly as they occurred by month. All in all it was a good year for the Tankerhoosen Valley, but most years are if we just get outside and enjoy what nature offers.

Jon Roe   

» Go to The Tankerhoosen website.

1- Letendre Honored by Town Council (February)

Photo Credit: Andre Garant

On February 5 MAYOR GEORGE APEL, with Vernon Parks and Recreation director BRUCE DINNIE presented the Outstanding Service Award to ANN LETENDRE for her years of volunteer service to the town. Following are some of her achievements and contributions that were listed:

Hockanum River Linear Park (HRLP) Committee for 43 years, since its inception in 1970. Appointed chairman of the Town of Vernon HRLP Committee in 1988. (Vernon had received $1.05 million of state funds in 1988 to plan and develop a river park and trail system along the Hockanum River. The HRLP Committee was given the responsibility to carry out these plans).

Through the Friends of HRLP, wrote and received 7 grants from the State of CT DEEP Recreational Trails Program to develop the Hockanum River Linear Park trails. Total funding received was $222,000 since 1997.

Member of Friends of Valley Falls Board of Directors since 1995. Through the Friends of Valley Falls, wrote and received six Recreational Trail grants (total $84,000) for trails at Valley Falls Park. In 2000, put together a funding plan to purchase and preserve Valley Falls Farm. Led the fund raising campaign, and wrote and received two grants, successfully raising the $335,000 needed to purchase the farm.

Since 1997, she has written and managed 24 grant projects for the Hockanum River Linear Park, Valley Falls Park and Farm, and Tankerhoosen watershed protection. Total funds awarded for the 24 projects was $773,000. Matching and in-kind requirements for the projects totaled $297,000, for a total value of $1.1 million for the Town of Vernon trails and parks, open space and water quality.

And not part of the award, but again demonstrating her commitment to Vernon, Ann was elected to the Town Council in November.

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2- Winter Storm Charlotte (February)

Other than tucking in at home for a few days and staying off the roads we escaped pretty lightly from our February 8 blizzard, known in Connecticut as Charlotte and nationally as Nemo. Lots of snow to remove, but few power outages as the storms of 2011 and 2012 had already taken down vulnerable trees and limbs.

One business in the Tankerhoosen Valley that was hurt by the record snowfall was the Star Hill Family Athletic Center. The white dome, visible from I-84, collapsed. The dome was the size of a football field and is used by area sports teams for indoor soccer, flag football and lacrosse practice during the cold months. The before and after photos show the size.

The cleaning and rebuilding process went rapidly and the dome was soon again open for sports.

» Read Tolland Patch article.

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3- LID Regulations Approved (April)

On April 18 the Vernon Planning & Zoning Commission approved Vernon Planning Department applications requiring consideration of Low Impact Development (LID) techniques as described in Vernon's LID Stormwater Quality Manual. It applies to site design for both commercial and subdivision applications. The LID Stormwater Quality Manual was adopted earlier at the PZC's February 21 meeting.

LID is an innovative approach to stormwater management. It applies the basic principle modeled after nature: manage rainfall where it lands. LID's goal is to mimic a site's pre-development hydrology by using design techniques that infiltrate, filter, store, evaporate, and detain runoff close to its source.

A fourteen member Steering Committee, comprised of members of Vernon land use commissions, town planning & engineering staff, the development community, and interested citizens (The Tankerhoosen), worked with Fuss and O'Neill, Inc. over two years on developing the regulations.

This final step was the culmination of the two year study which included a through review by a PZC subcommittee. Special thanks to ANN LETENDRE who obtained the funding for the study and coordinated the Steering Committee. Adopting LID guidelines is one more step in protecting and preserving the Tankerhoosen.

» Learn more about Low Impact Development.

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4- VGV Annual Meeting & Program (May)

The outdoor season kicks off each year when DON BELLINGHAM and the Vernon Greenways Volunteers hold their annual program. This year the program took place on May 1. Don reviewed the accomplishments of 2012 and outlined plans for 2013.

The featured speaker was JASON NEWTON, who has been researching the Old Connecticut Path, the route Thomas Hooker and other early settlers took from Cambridge, MA to Hartford in 1635. Newton believes the path passes through Tolland and Vernon. See Old CT Path website.

The contributions that the Vernon Greenways Volunteers make to the town are significant. They plant and maintain the gardens you see wherever the Rail Trail crosses a roadway, maintain trails working with the Parks and Recreation Department. They also organize the Emerald Ash Borer survey each summer.

» Visit the Vernon Greenways Volunteers website to learn all that they do in one season.

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5- Talcottville (May-June)

Talcottville is a small town unto itself, unique and self contained in many ways. And it anchors the west end of the Tankerhoosen Valley. A number of interesting happenings took place there this year and most were in the month of May and June.

100th Church Anniversary - On Sunday, May 5 the Talcottville Congregational Church celebrated the 100th Anniversary of its church building. The original Talcottville Congregational Church was destroyed by fire in 1906. It was rebuilt over the next few years and the first service was held there on May 9, 1913. This rededication marked the 100th anniversary of that first service.

Memorial Day Parade - Each Memorial Day the town of Vernon has two parades. The primary parade is held in Rockville on Monday, but on Sunday, May 26 one of the state's shortest parades takes place in Talcottville as it does each year. Marchers begin at the Congregational Church and proceed to the Civil War monument in the cemetery where ceremonies are held. The parade was led by the Colonel John Chester Fife and Drum Corp. We also welcomed the Elks Color Guard, American Legion Bugler JONATHAN WORLEY, and ABRAHAM LINCOLN! This year the parade included MAYOR GEORGE APEL and council members as well as the fire and police departments, scout groups and veterans.

John Talcott, Jr. Passes - It was on May 27, Memorial Day, that 105 year old John Talcott, Jr. left this world. He was the last of the Talcott line to operate the mill and although he moved to Plymouth, MA kept a strong connection to Talcottville and his heritage. He attended many of the Memorial Day parades still fitting in his World War II uniform. Interestingly his photo in uniform was published in the May issue of National Geographic magazine in an article on living beyond 100. Read his obituary.

Outdoor Concert - On Friday, June 21 the Talcottville Congregational Church hosted its first outdoor concert in many years. On a delightful solstice evening the Windham Concert Band performed the concert in the church parking lot. This is a 70 piece concert band with a repertoire of marches, overtures, folk songs, and show tunes. And they finally found a good use for the trolley station reproduction - it was used as a free ice cream stand.

Talcott Mill Restoration Delayed - In March GOVERNOR MALLOY announced the state was investing up to $4.4 million in the Talcott Mill project. An article in the Journal Inquirer in July anticipated that work would start in September on transforming the decaying mill into apartments as a contractor had been hired. But, alas, it didn't work out and the project has been delayed at least until spring.

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6- Strong Family Farm Wins Award (June)

2013 was a big year for the Strong Family Farm as they organized, incorporated and applied for non profit status. On February 6 the 135 year-old farm was added to the State Register of Historic Places. This designation allowed them to apply for and receive a grant to maintain the barn. The barn was selected for the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation's Barns Survey Project, which awarded the grant in July. In June NANCY STRONG received, on behalf of the farm, one of only three 'Barn Saver' awards honoring barn owners who have worked to restore or repair their historic barns and who are finding creative ways of keeping those barns in productive use.

A Board of Directors was formed in May with former mayor ELLEN MARMER as the first president. Throughout the year there have been many activities including an Animals on the Farm Day in May, a Work Day in September, and a Harvest Festival in October. At year's end they published, as a fund raiser, a 2014 calendar with drawings by Center Road School Fourth Graders.

» Visit the Strong Family Farm website.
» Historic Barns of Connecticut's Strong Farm description.
» Watch video on the Strong Family Farm, its barn and the grant received.

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7- Vernon Depot Park Dedicated (June)

On June 21 the town of Vernon formally dedicated the Vernon Depot Park on Church Street with a ribbon cutting by MAYOR APEL. The ceremony was a tribute to the railroaders who researched the area and provided information for signs as well as for BRUCE DINNIE and the Park and Recreation Department, who improved the area and turned it into a park. Church Street is the most popular location for leaving a car and accessing the Rail Trail.

In the photo left to right are SCOTT LENT, who helped research the depot and created the Vernon Depot website; MAYOR APEL; BRUCE DINNIE; and DON SIERAKOWSKI, who is also a railroader and has given a number of talks on the history of the Vernon Depot area.

To honor the event Dinnie gave participants a one inch piece of track as a souvenir. Vernon Depot is an outdoor museum with many interpretive signs and photos describing the area.

» Visit Vernon Depot website.

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8- Vernon Garden Club Tour (July)

The Vernon Garden Club held its biennial garden tour on Saturday, July 13. 'Garden Reflections, 2013' was a tour of eight local private gardens. It was a wonderful chance to see what local gardeners are doing with their spaces, using the same plants you may have in your own garden.

Not the best of garden days, there was light rain in the morning, but the weather improved as the day went on. This year three of the gardens were in the Tankerhoosen Valley on Echo Drive, Dockeral Road and Sutton Drive.

In addition the base of operations for the day was the Tolland County Agricultural Center on Route 30, which is, perhaps, the most underappreciated gem in the Valley. On the day of the tour they test soil samples and you could purchase perennials at their plant sale, speak to Master Gardeners, learn more about the Extension Service or Master Gardener Program, and view a display of herbs.

» See more photos in our Facebook Album.
» Learn more about the Vernon Garden Club.

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Photo Credit: House Republicans

9- Rep. Ackert Visits (August)

Most of the Tankerhoosen Valley in Vernon is in the district of REP. TIMOTHY ACKERT (R) from Coventry. It's a sprawling district from Andover to Vernon with a bit of Tolland included. Rep. Ackert expressed an interest in learning more about Open Space in the Vernon section of his district so on August 6 we met with him at the Belding Wildlife Management Area pavilion on Bread and Milk Road.

At the briefing were ANN LETENDRE from Vernon's Open Space Task Force, JANE SEYMOUR from the Belding WMA, TOM OUELLETTE from Vernon's Conservation Commission, DON BELLINGHAM from the Vernon Greenways Volunteers and JON ROE from Tankerhoosen.info.

Ann Letendre briefed Rep. Ackert on the open space history of the Tankerhoosen River and Valley, conservation efforts, studies and grants, preservation and acquisitions, as well as the environmental importance of the area and the issues we still face.

After the briefing Rep. Ackert joined us for a walk into the Belding WMA led by Jane Seymour. He seemed to have a strong interest in our open spaces having been involved with similar issues and problems in his home town.

» Read Vernon Patch article.

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Photo Credit: Andre Garant

10- Artists Day At The Farm (August)

The Friends of Valley Falls held their fourth biennial plein air 'Artists’ Day at the Farm' painting event at Valley Falls Farm on Sunday, August 25. For the 130 visitors it was an opportunity to stroll around the scenic hillsides, visit with Connecticut plein air artists as they painted, listen to the guitar/mandolin duo Handler & Levesque and join an historic tour of the Farm. The artists’ work was also available for sale in the red barn.

The event was also an example of how the varied organizations in town support each other. The Strong Family Farm participated in the displays, the Vernon Arts Commission provided the music and Vernon Parks & Rec Department staff helped prepare the facility. In addition the Vernon Garden Club cares for the historic herb garden and the grounds gardener is on the Tolland County Agriculture Center board.

» See photographer Andre Garant's photo gallery of the event.

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11- Keeping The River Healthy (August - September)

Photo Credit: Don Bellingham

Keeping the Tankerhoosen healthy requires vigilance and with funds always limited that means it depends on volunteers. There were three initiatives involving volunteers again this year.

On August 24 the Vernon Conservation Commission conducted an Invasive Aquatic Plant Survey organized by TOM OUELLETTE. This is an annual survey and this year they inspected segments of the Tankerhoosen River. Volunteers are trained on what to look for and how to collect samples. On this survey volunteers assess sections of the Tankerhoosen we don't usually see, learn about invasive species and help protect the waterways.

On Saturday, September 7 three Vernon Greenways Volunteers teams surveyed 5 miles of the Rail-Trail for Asian Longhorned Beetles and Emerald Ash Borers, which are getting closer to Vernon as they expand across Connecticut. Fortunately they found none again this year. The state also uses purple 'Barney Boxes' to check for beetles.

On September 28 the Vernon Conservation Commission sponsored the annual Streambed Biological Survey in which volunteers assess the health of the Tankerhoosen River by trapping and counting organisms that live in stream bottoms. The organisms are sensitive to pollution and act as an early warning for upstream problems. Five teams surveyed key spots along the river. Learn more about the Streambed Survey.

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Photo Credit: Cynthia Barlow

12- Talcott Ravine Loop Hike (October)

On a gorgeous fall day the Northern Connecticut Land Trust and The Tankerhoosen sponsored a Geology/Archeology/Nature Hike. UConn Geologist GARY ROBBINS joined SUSAN BARLOW and JON ROE for a 2.5 mile hike through Talcottville, the Northern Connecticut Land Trusts's Talcott Ravine and back along the Hop River Rail Trail. The ravine includes the remnants of Peter Dobson's mills and the Rail Trail crosses the dividing point of the Eastern Highlands and the Connecticut River Valley.

Historical and archeological information was provided on the former mills, railroad, antique bridge, mill pond, mansions, and the 20-acre nature area which contains the gorge. Gary Robbins discussed the geologic history, effect of the glaciers and the variety of rocks in the gorge and railroad cuts.

Susan posted the hike on the Hartford Area Hiking MeetUp which drew 80 people, mostly from outside Vernon. As one of the MeetUp organizers even she was surprised by the positive feedback. Here's one example: "Wonderful walk. Thank you to all who helped educate me on the history, geology as well as Native American information. This was truly a fabulous hike. I grew up not far from this area and never knew the area was so full of history. I am looking forward to many more future hikes with this group."

» See more photos in our Facebook Album.

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News Items

Between issues of this newsletter stay current with news and updates on our News and Facebook Pages. Also as events are scheduled for the coming season we'll add them to our Activities Page as well as post them on Facebook.

And to be notified of some of the events taking place in the area join the Vernon Volunteers' Collaborative's MeetUp group.

Some stories you may have missed: East Coast Greenway Connection, Gunther Farm Purchased, Scouts Catalog Cemeteries.

» Go to News Stories.
» Go to Activities.
» Go to Tankerhoosen Facebook Page.
» Go to MeetUp Group.

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