News about or affecting the Tankerhoosen Valley. Where available links are provided to source publications for full story. Click photos for larger size.
Smart Growth For Vernon also has articles relating to activity in Vernon dating back to 2005. Their articles relate primarily to development issues. Go to Vernon News.
Talcottville Mill State Funding Approved
|Sharon Chapels 2013 painting|
Mayor Daniel Champagne announced on Thursday (April 30, 2015) that the historic Talcottville Mill redevelopment project received formal approval from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority. This means that the long delayed project, to be called The Old Talcott Mill, will likely begin this summer. Once started construction will take over a year.
"The 142 -year-old mill is a 7.6 acre site and is set to contain 83 residential units on about 100,000 square feet of space when the project is completed. The owner of the site, ALFRED PEDEMONTI, has retained Cutter Enterprises, a Vernon general contractor, with construction expected to begin this summer," said Mayor Champagne.
The $18 million dollar historic preservation project has received multiple sources of funding, " said Champagne. " This includes State and Federal Historic Tax credits, a local tax abatement, Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) Gap Financing and CHFA financing. Without a successful combination of each of these funding provisions, the project could not reach its full potential."
Pedemonti said at the Planning and Zoning Commission hearing in 2012 that his plan calls for about 83 studio and one bedroom apartments with perhaps a small convenience store for residents in the boiler house. Recent additions will be removed bringing the structure back to the original building. The water tower and windows will be saved. The plan is to bring back the original building, circa 1880, and will include the return of the clock and, hopefully, the bell. They have also considered an exhibit room to show how the property was used during its time as a textile mill. Likely renters would be recent college graduates, young professionals and older people without children.
Since the Talcott's stopped operating the mill around 1940 it has had several owners. It operated as Aldon Spinning Mills until 1970 and then AMF/CUNO operated there until 1992. Vern, LLC bought it in 1996 and has explored a number of options, including a museum and even demolishing it in 2005. Fortunately, it has survived and will begin a new chapter as home for a new generation, who we hope will learn to love the historic district as much as long time residents.
» Read Mayor Champagne's Press Release.
» Learn about the history of Talcottville.
Ticket Network Planning Tree Farm On Concert Property
|Credit: Google Maps
At the Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC) meeting on May 27 Ticket Network's Conservation Forest, LLC presented their plans for 28 acres of Christmas trees and native shrubs on the property at 60 South Frontage Road where they originally hoped to build a concert venue.
James McKinney, an experienced farmer, was hired to manage the farm and other agricultural TN projects, including a vegetable garden at their South Windsor headquarters. Last September McKinney planted 8 acres of Christmas trees at 60 South Frontage in non wetlands areas establishing the tree farm. Now they plan to expand to 24 acres and into wetlands areas, which will include clear cutting much of the existing forest as is ‘permitted as of right' under IWC rules.
As part of the project they will build a one acre pond downhill from the current gate near the tree line to hold water to irrigate the trees. It will not be necessary to draw water from the Tankerhoosen River.
The project requires a review by the Army Corp of Engineers before proceeding. To protect the Tankerhoosen there will be a 100 foot treed buffer, but the two smaller streams running through the property will only be protected by a 20 foot row of trees.
Golfland Is Closed And For Sale
Golfland is located at the point that the Tankerhoosen River joins the Hockanum River. For fifty years this has been a place for kids of all ages to enjoy themselves playing arcade games, racing cars, and playing golf - both miniature and par 3. Its the location of the start of the annual Hockanum River Kayak and Canoe Race, summer car shows and the summer carnival. Now the commercial businesses are closed and the property is for sale.
The property includes Golfland, the Subway restaurant and the medical office building, which was once a theater. It is owned by the Talcottville Development Co. LLC and was recently approved by the Vernon Planning and Zoning Commission for dividing into two lots. The law firm of Kahan, Kerensky and Capossela is listed as a managing member of the Talcottville Development Co.
So another era is passing, one that holds fond memories for many in town. It's a beautiful piece of property and we hope it will continue to benefit the people who have enjoyed it.
Educating Our State Representative
Photo Credit: House Republicans
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, 2013 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. Perhaps this will stimulate other Vernon politicians and candidates to learn more about this section of their town.
» Read Vernon Patch story.
Vernon Depot Park Dedicated
On June 21, 2013 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.
» Visit the Vernon Depot website for more on the area.
» See photos by photographer Andre Garant of the dedication.
John Talcott, Jr In National Geographic
The May 2013 issue of National Geographic features an article on living beyond 100. The lead picture is a photo of 104 year old JOHN G. TALCOTT, JR. The caption reads, "Looking sharp in his World War II Army uniform and Cadillac convertible, Talcott serves as marshal of the Fourth of July parade in Plymouth, Massachusetts." Article by By Stephen S. Hall, photo by Fritz Hoffmann.
Talcott was born in 1908 in Talcottville. He learned the family business from the ground up, working in the woolen mills as a weaver before going into management. He left the business when the mills moved south just before World War II and joined the U.S. Army, serving in the Transportation Corps. He served on the Vernon school board and was a deputy fire chief before moving to Massachusetts in the 1960s where he was involved in the cranberry business.
» See the article online.
» Read more about the Talcott Family.
PZC Approves Regulation Changes Incorporating LID Techniques
On April 18, 2013 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 the past 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.
Strong Farm Added To CT Registry Of Historic Places
The Strong Family Farm on West Street was recently recognized by the state as an historic property and added to the state's registry of historic places by the Offices of Culture and Tourism. The Strong Farm is one of only about 20 farms in Connecticut to receive this designation.
NANCY STRONG and her mother GERALDINE are working to preserve the farm and the designation will help them apply for future grants. The farm is 134 year old and raised free range turkeys for over 50 years. The hope is to have spring and fall activities for children and adults where they can learn about farming, canning and planting and perhaps have a community garden. The farm will host a Work Day on April 13 and an Animals of the Farm event on May 11.
» Read Vernon Patch story.
» Visit Strong Family Farm website.
Winter Storm Charlotte
Other than tucking in at home for a few days and staying off the roads we got away pretty easily with 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 was 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 is underway. The UCONN lacrosse team and various soccer and flag football customers showed up to help. The tear has been identified and reinflation in getting under way. With luck it will be back up by President's Day.
» Read Tolland Patch story.
East Coast Greenway To Connect To Tankerhoosen Valley
The CT Department of Transportation recently announced that the Charter Oak Trail, part of the East Coast Greenway, will be extended to Bolton Notch, where it will connect with the Hop River Trail (Vernon's Rail Trail) from where it continues on to Willimantic. The trail was recently extended along I-384 in Manchester ending at Highland Park. This left a gap in the overall trail system which will now be filled.
The East Coast Greenway is a developing trail system, spanning nearly 3,000 miles as it winds its way between Canada and Key West, linking all the major cities of the eastern seaboard. Each state along the route is responsible for developing its own section and Connecticut's Greenway system still has a few gaps. See map.
Connecticut divides its 198 mile part of the East Coast Greenways into sections. The Charter Oak Trail is our local piece from East Hartford to Bolton Notch. The CDOT has allotted $11.4 million for the project, although work won't start before the fall of 2014.
What that means to us is that the Tankerhoosen Valley trail system will directly connect to the East Coast Greenway. One day you'll be able to hop your bike in Talcottville and ride it safely to Key West.
» Peter Marteka's The Hartford Courant article.
» Detailed extension map.
» CT DOT January 7, 2013 Press Release.
Gunther Farm Preserved
Gunther Property is left rear|
in this VCAC aerial photo.
Just as 2012 ended the state released over $9 million to 35 towns to preserve open space. Of this, $350,000 will be used to purchase the Gunther Farm, a 21.3 acre property in the Tankerhoosen Valley along the Tolland and Vernon line and adjacent to the Tolland County Agricultural Center (TCAC). This will protect farmland soils as well as an endangered wildlife habitat, grassland habitat and the flood plain of Gages Brook, which feeds into the Tankerhoosen River at Walker Reservoir East.
The program, administered by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), assists land purchase using state bonds and funding from the 2005 Community Investment Act.
Connecticut Farmland Trust Inc. (CFT) will purchase the property, record the conservation easement and then sell it to TCAC, which will use the fields for its agricultural and educational programs and to develop and maintain trails. CFT is the only conservation organization dedicated solely to permanently protecting Connecticut's Farmland.
In the Spring of 2012 the Eastern CT Environmental Review Team surveyed the property and wrote a detailed report, including the geology, habitats, and history of the farm and Tolland County Agricultural Center. The Gunther Property & Tolland Agricultural Center Report provides in depth background on the area.
Much credit goes to GINNY GINGRAS for persistently pushing this project. Another example of what can be accomplished by a dedicated individual. Margaret Mead would be proud.
Scouts Catalog Cemeteries
As their Eagle Scout project MICHAEL LEONARD and ZACH KLINE of Troup 86 recorded information on the headstones at the Old Burial Ground Of North Bolton and the Old Dobsonville Cemetery. The lengthy process, begun in May, involved laying out a grid in each cemetery to record the location of graves, writing down stone inscription, photographing location and then photographing the stones themselves. As many of the stones are badly worn a variety of photography techniques were used.
The project was conceived by CAROL BURKE, chairwoman of the Vernon Education Foundation and supported by JEAN LUDDY and ARDIS ABBOTT of the Vernon Historical Society. The goal is to publish a hardbound reference book making the gravestone records available to historians and genealogists.
The effort was educational for the scouts while helping to preserve the history of Vernon.
On Monday, October 29 tropical storm Sandy blew into town. Compared to 2011's Halloween storm most of us got off easy this year. Fewer trees down and shorter power outages. We lost so much last year there were fewer trees and limbs to come down and CL&P has been trimming anything else that looked dangerous.
Most of the serious damage was done to evergreens with many trees blown over at the Belding Wildlife Management Area at Bolton Road and more at the Talcott Ravine. Belding's JANE SEYMOUR explained, "I think a combination of factors affected the spruce trees at Belding - the shallow roots due to the wet soils being one factor, but probably also the fact that they had grown so tall, plus being shaded causing more growth at the tops of the trees. The hemlocks are a little more shade tolerant, so they will retain some of the lower growth in deep shade, but with wet soils, the roots will still be shallow. Even in drier soils, the roots of hemlocks are relatively shallow which makes them more vulnerable to uprooting by wind (and also to drought) than some other tree species."
» Read Vernon Patch article.
DEEP Announces Bissell-Mason Property Purchase
|Source: DEEP Vernon Open Space map|
The DEEP formally announced their purchase of the nearly 450 acre Bissell-Mason tract on the upper Tankerhoosen River this Friday, June 22, 2012. It was their largest purchase and is particularly important because it adjoins the Belding Wildlife Management Area which in turn connects to the Valley Falls Park area and several Northern CT Land Trust parcels. The ceremony held outdoors was attended by DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty as well as other state and local officials and the Mason and Belding families.
The purchase, to be known as the Tankerhoosen Wildlife Management Area, includes Walker Reservoir West, part of the CT Forest and Park Association's Blue Blazed Trail and the Tankerhoosen River from its start at Walker Reservoir East until it enters the Belding Wildlife Management Area. This is one of the best cold water trout streams in Eastern CT.
The event was well covered by the press whose stories included the history of the area and its importance to Connecticut as a wildlife preserve.
» Read Journal Inquirer article.
» Read DEEP press release.
» Read Vernon Patch article.
» Read The Hartford Courant article.
Bruce Dinnie Receives 2012 CT Greenways Award
Bruce on left at recent ribbon cutting.
Vernon Parks & Recreation Director BRUCE DINNIE received one of six 2012 CT Greenways Council Awards in June from the Governor’s Greenways Council. He won the Municipal Achievement Award for his leadership in both town and regional trail planning efforts as he continues to develop and improve Vernon’s trail system. The awards go to individuals that have made significant contributions to the promotion, development and enhancement of Greenways – linear open space in Connecticut.
Susan Frechette, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) said, “Connecticut’s countryside is made up of thousands of miles of recreational trails and river corridors, including greenways that provide users with creative and unique ways to travel. By land, by waterway --- on foot or on bicycles -- Connecticut provides something for everyone in the great outdoors. Today’s ceremony recognized a selection of dedicated and passionate volunteers, who for years have supported and worked to make greenways in their communities a reality.”
» Go to full story.
Connecticut River Watershed Named First 'National Blueway'
At a signing ceremony on May 24, 2012 United States Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar dedicated the Connecticut River Watershed as the First National Blueways System resulting in a focusing of resources to promote conservation, recreation, and trails. This, of course, also includes the Hockanum and Tankerhoosen River Watersheds.
The term blueway emerged in recent years to describe canoe and kayak routes along rivers and other waterways, akin to greenways for hiking and bicycling. But the National Blueways Initiative as envisioned by the Obama administration is considerably grander in scale, an attempt to focus federal, state and private resources on entire river systems without additional regulation.
A blueway designation is intended to support existing local and regional conservation, recreation and restoration efforts, and does not establish a new protective status or regulations for a river. Within the Interior Department the Connecticut River will be given priority for conservation and restoration programs the agency administers, such as funding for fisheries restoration or water conservation. The 410-mile-long Connecticut is also one of 14 federally designated American Heritage Rivers.
Postscript: At the end of 2014 the Department of the Interior dissolved the Blueways program. Misunderstandings and politics led to opposition in the midwest. The Connecticut River will retain its designation and be the only National Blueways Waterway.
» Read the Hartford Courant May 2012 story on the signing ceremony.
» Read Associated Press January 2014 article on the dissolution of the program.
Braille Trail Re-dedicated At Valley Falls Park
The refurbished Braille Trail at Valley Falls Park was dedicated on Friday, April 20, 2012. It was also an opportunity to honor the many volunteers who devote hours to preserving and maintaining the historic and green areas of Vernon. The event was sponsored by the Friends of Valley Falls, the Vernon Greenways Volunteers and the Vernon Parks & Recreation Department.
Mayor GEORGE APEL and DON BELLINGHAM cut the ribbon as pictured. The dedication marked the completion of a 3-year grant project funded by the federal Recreational Trails program through the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). The grant was awarded to the Friends of Valley Falls. Matching funds were provided by volunteer efforts of the Friends, the Vernon Greenways Volunteers, a grant from Pratt & Whitney and donations from the Vernon Lions Club.
The trail was originally developed in 1996 as an Eagle Scout project by 17-year-old BRAD STEWART.
The refurbishment includes 17 new metal Braille signs, brick and concrete paving of the walkway, and trail improvements. The multi-access trail continues to be a popular attraction at Valley Falls Park for all ages and abilities.
The purple boxes have returned to Bread and Milk and Valley Falls Roads. They are nicknamed Barney Traps for the color and size and are used to attract the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) beetle. The ash borer is expected to hit Connecticut with devastating consequences to our ash trees. Preliminary studies suggest that the borers are attracted to the color purple.
The Barney Boxes first appeared here last year before the arrival of the beetle. It was announced in April 2012 that for the first time the beetle has been seen east of the Hudson River and its arrival in Connecticut seems inevitable. The boxes located here are part of the effort to detect their presence.
Traps have been set throughout most of the state. They are hung in ash trees and will be in place from May through August. The trap uses Manuka oil as an attractant to lure the beetles to it. The surface of the trap is coated with a sticky material which causes the EAB to adhere to it. They will not try to eradicate the beetle if it shows up, but will quarantine the area, not letting any wood products out of the infested area.
The beetle is bright green, a half inch long and is active during June and July. In the larval stage they feed on wood, in the adult stage on leaves. To prevent bringing the beetle into this area the DEP recommends you use local firewood. Firewood is a prime means of transportation for the beetle.
On July 7 15 volunteers from the Vernon Greenways Volunteers broke into four groups and scoured host trees adjacent to the Rail Trail looking for damage to the trees that could have been caused by the Asian Longhorned Beetle or Emerald Ash Borer. A distance of over seven miles was covered and in excess of 800 trees were inspected. No evidence of an infestation was found.
» Read DEP's latest announcement.
» UConn information on the trapping program.
» Learn more about the Emerald Ash Borer
Talcottville Historic District Website Back Online
Bob Brooks was not a Connecticut, native but when he moved here in 2000 he became interested in Talcottville through his wife's interests. He became active in its historical association, designed a website for the group, and later became its president. He researched the history and culture of the village to make the website interesting, and illustrated it with pictures from old books and photo albums. After the town of Vernon received a grant to post signs giving information about Talcottville, Brooks provided text and background information about the former mills and their workers.
In 2006, Brooks was diagnosed with lymphoma and died in 2008. The website name was not renewed, was picked up by a speculator and the site was lost to the public. But over the winter his brother Scott recreated the website with a modified name and it is now back online. The site contains many old photos of Talcottville with a written history.
Talcottville is on the National Register of Historic Places.
» Read about the extraordinary life of Bob Brooks.
» Go to Talcottville Historic District website.
Two More Scenic Roads Approved
The Planning and Zoning Commission approved on December 15, 2011 the Conservation Commission's request to designate Bamforth Road and a section of Baker Road as Scenic Roads. This brings to four the number of designated roads in the Tankerhoosen Valley. The other roads are Valley Falls Road and Reservoir Road.
The goal of the Scenic Road ordinance is to preserve the few remaining roads that show the town's natural and rural historic character. The linked page provides additional information about the ordinance and what it means to land owners.
» Go to Scenic Roads.
DEEP Purchases Tancanhoosen LLC Property
After lengthy negotiations with the town and a local home owner the CT DEEP purchased the 450 acre Tancanhoosen LLC parcel on November 17, 2011. This preserves the upper Tankerhoosen River and saves it from possible development. The parcel extends from Walker Reservoir to the Belding Wildlife Management Area, also owned by the DEEP. This section of the Tankerhoosen River is a Class A trout stream and, as it has been on private land, is well preserved.
This parcel was purchased by the Bissell family and used by the family for hunting and fishing as the section downstream was used by the Belding family. More recently the property belonged to Tom Mason.
The DEEP has yet to make an announcement about the purchase and it is unclear whether they intend to make improvements. As with other departments their budgets are tight. The Blue Blaze Trail currently extends around this parcel north to I-84. Our hope is it will one day follow the river.
We'll have much more on this area in future newsletters.
The final version of Vernon's Plan Of Conservation & Development (POCD), which has been under development for the past two years, was adopted by the Planning & Zoning Commission at its November 17 meeting. It goes into effect on January 30, 2012.
The POCD provides a framework for the use of land, population distribution and traffic circulation within Vernon for the next ten years. The Plan encompasses a long-term vision of the community but also offers guidance for short-term decision making.
It will be the basis for updating and revising Vernon's Zoning Regulations.
» Go to more information on the POCD.
» Read the POCD online.
Peace Walk On Our Rail Trail
CASSANDRA CURLEY is walking 2,500 miles this year - 50 miles in 50 states in 50 weeks. On July 7 she walked ten of those miles on our Rail Trail in Vernon.
From Florida, Cassandra wrote the book, "From Fear To Eternity: A Path to Peace" showing how nature thrives by living in harmony, which is also our natural state if we can overcome our fears. This concept is consistent with recent studies emerging from quantum field and quantum biology experiments as documented in Lynne McTaggart's recently published, "The Bond."
Cassandra is carrying the message around the country that cooperation, not competition, is not only the way to peace, but is nature's intention. She spoke in Ellington before walking in Vernon. Supporters were able to join her at Valley Falls Park for part of the journey. Next stops are Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
» Go to Cassandra's website for more information.
Charles Platt, Donor Of Wings Butterfly Garden Property
CHARLES E. PLATT, 81, passed on May 20, 2011. Mr. Platt had a passion for gardening creating one on Lake Street with over 100 varieties of rhododendron. He and his wife Natalie donated the land to the town of Vernon as a park in 2009, which has become the Wings Butterfly Garden.
We often know little about those who contribute to our valley so its nice to be able to honor Mr. Platt. Synchronistically, we recently created a section of this website to showcase our gardens and, because the azaleas and rhododendrons are blossoming at this time of the year, our first garden is Wings.
Mr. Platt was born in Flushing, NY in 1929, graduated from Plainfield High School and from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as an engineer. He served in the Navy during the Korean War era before receiving a Masters Degree from Rensselaer. He then had a career of over 35 years at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in East Hartford and lived in Vernon for 57 years. He is survived by his wife and 3 children and will be buried in Valley Falls Cemetery
» See full obituary.
Updated Vernon Trail Maps Available
GEORGE ARTHUR, DON BELLINGHAM and the Vernon Greenways Volunteers have updated Vernon's Trail Maps for the Parks & Rec Department. The 19 page document includes descriptions of 12 trails including the Rail Trails, Valley Falls Park, the Braille Trail, other parks and newly added the Talcott Ravine property.
A copy of the Trail Maps can be obtained at the Vernon Parks & Rec office at Henry Park or downloaded from their website.
» View Vernon Trail Maps.
Signs Installed At Vernon Depot
In early April a series of interpretive signs was installed by BRUCE DINNIE and the Vernon Parks and Recreation Dept. at the Vernon Depot on Church Street. Research for the project was done by the team of amateur historians who developed the VernonDepot.com website including SCOTT LENT, who created and maintains the website and DON SIERAKOWSKI, who presents slide shows on the railroad, including one at the Vernon Greenways Volunteers meeting on April 13.
The signs include both text and photos similar to those in Talcottville and will add to your enjoyment and appreciation of the area. Additionally Parks & Rec is clearing and cleaning up the turntable and side track areas to provide a clearer picture of what the area was like at its peak. They have also added new picnic tables and a charcoal grill.
» See our Facebook Page for photos.
Land Deal Celebration
On Valentine's Day, February 14, the Northern Connecticut Land Trust (NCLT) celebrated the acquisition of the 20 acre Talcott Ravine. Known locally as the Talcottville Gorge, the new property name honors the donors and more accurately reflects the size of its most famous feature. The celebration was held in the Talcottville Congregational Church and included NCLT officers and elected officials Rep. CLAIRE JANOWSKI, Rep. TIMOTHY ACKERT and Sen. TONY GUGLEILMO. From Rockville Bank retiring president BILL MCGURK and future president BILL CRAWFORD attended and presented NCLT with a $2,000 check to help with expenses. Also attending were ANN LETENDRE, JEN ROGGI and JON ROE from Vernon Citizens For Responsible Development, who previously donated $1,000 towards the purchase.
» For more photos go to NCLT website.
Peter Marteka Article
Peter Marteka has for many years written a weekly column on nature, hiking, trails and interesting outdoor places to visit for the Hartford Courant. He covers the state for his reports. On Valentine's Day he attended the Northern Connecticut Land Trust's Celebration of the Talcott Ravine. More interested in the area than the cake cutting he slipped out as soon as possible for a walk. As the snow was still knee deep his explorations were limited but he did publish a nice article and promised to return and explore further. As part of the article he quoted from our Tankerhoosen website.
» Read Marteka column on Talcott Ravine.
Fish & Game Club Clubhouse Damaged
It's been a tough winter in Vernon with the record snow and ice. Most of the threatened or damaged buildings have been north of the Tankerhoosen Valley, but the Rockville Fish and Game Club's clubhouse on Fish and Game Road sustained ice and water damage forcing it to close until repairs can be made. Activities scheduled for the clubhouse have been moved to other locations in town.
The club owns 130 acres with two ponds in the area.
Reminder News Article
Shortly after the first issue of the Tankerhoosen Newsletter was released STEVE SMITH from the Reminder News interviewed me for an article that appeared on page 2 in the February 10 Vernon edition. It was great publicity for our new website and the article goes into background on the purpose of the website and some background on how it started. The article is titled 'River runs into electronic age'. Our thanks to Steve for the coverage.
» Read the Reminder News article.
Vernon Residents Willing To Pay More In Taxes To Preserve Open Space
As part of the study creating a new 10 year Plan of Conservation & Development (POCD) for Vernon a telephone survey of 400 residents was done during November. The results were presented to the Planning & Zoning Commission, which oversees the POCD, on December 16. The full survey and its results are available to read on the town's website.
Several of the questions related to the Tankerhoosen Valley, its future development and protection of the area. It was heartening to see that 80 percent of those surveyed favored preserving additional undeveloped land as open space, and 62 percent said they would support a property tax increase for that endeavor.
The commercial zones at I-84 Exits 66 and 67 will eventually be developed and have been the sites of zoning battles over the past ten years. Most respondents to the survey don’t want big-box development at exit 66, while they were split over their support for big-box and multifamily homes at the exit 67 area. In general we prefer small retail shops and single-family homes for those areas.
» Read Journal Inquirer December 30, 2010 article: "Most Vernon residents say they would pay more to preserve open space".
» Read full survey results.
Talcott Family Donates Talcottville Gorge To Land Trust
The Talcott Family has donated the 20 acre Talcottville Gorge parcel to the Northern Connecticut Land Trust; thus preserving this unique section of the river and its history for current and future generations to explore and enjoy. One of the things that makes our river valley special is that most of it is undeveloped. Many groups and individuals have worked to protect this resource and continue to do so. We have been most fortunate that many of the landowners along the river appreciate its uniqueness and value as a natural resource and are willing to work to preserve it.
To complete the acquisition NCLT had to raise $10,000 for acquisition and stewardship expenses. Part of the money was donated by local groups supporting the Tankerhoosen Valley including Friends of Valley Falls, Vernon Citizen's For Responsible Development (VCRD) and Friends Of The Hockanum River Linear Park. The other $5,000 came from Vernon's Open Space Fund after a contentious Town Council meeting.
NCLT is currently working with Vernon groups to develop a stewardship plan. They are looking to Vernon volunteers to maintain the Gorge area.
» Read Journal Inquirer December 28, 2010 article: "Talcottville Gorge ownership transferred to land trust".
» Read Journal Inquirer November 17, 2010 article: "Vernon council debates hunting rights in Talcottville Gorge".
Friends of Valley Falls Farm Receives Funding
The Friends of Valley Falls has received $150,000 from the state for renovation of their historic farm buildings. The money was part of the $22.5 million package approved on December 22 by the State Bond Commission. This project and others were endorsed by outgoing Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
» Read Journal Inquirer December 23, 2010 article: "Make-up bonding session backs funds for area projects".
Arctic Splash Benefits Fall Victim
On December 11 thirty brave folk took a quick swim in Valley Falls Pond as part of a fundraiser for KATELYN RIZNER. If you recall Katelyn, a Rockville High student, fell from the cliffs overlooking the park last August when she and a friend attempted to climb down the face of the cliff. She was fortunate to survive and has been through a long healing process.
The cliffs (photo) overlooking the park have one of the best views of the Tankerhoosen Valley. At one time they could be accessed from Echo Drive, but development of the area cut off that route. Now you have a challenging climb up the trail from the Rails-To-Trails about Valley Falls. Its safe, but not an easy climb.
When more accessible the cliffs were a favorite party spot for young people, so Katelyn wasn't the first to fall. From time to time there is talk of closing the area for safety, but this would be a shame as well as hard to enforce. It's safe to access and enjoy with a little care. Suzanne Carlson's Journal Inquirer article provides an excellent account of the incident, what caused the accident and the consequences. Hopefully others will learn from it.
» Read Journal Inquirer December 13, 2010 article: "Arctic Splash in Vernon benefits fall victim Katelyn Rizner".
» For additional coverage and photos see the Reminder December 23, 2010 article: "Dozens take ‘Arctic Splash’ for a good cause".
Vernon Receives Grant For Watershed Protections
A group of collaborating organizations that came together in 2004 to provide protections for the Tankerhoosen River recently received their third award for the project. A $26,000 grant to draft low-impact development (LID) regulations and a corresponding design manual for the Town of Vernon was awarded to the Friends of the Hockanum River Linear Park, and project partners, the North Central Conservation District, the Belding Wildlife Trust, the Hockanum River Watershed Association, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, the Town of Vernon Planning Department and the Vernon Conservation Commission. ANN LETENDRE (pictured) and GINNY GINGRAS received the award on behalf of the collaborating organizations.
The Tankerhoosen River watershed has been recognized by federal and state agencies for its high water quality and the wild trout populations that it sustains. The Belding Wildlife Management Area within the watershed is one of only two Class I Wild Trout Management areas east of the Connecticut River. Seventy percent of the watershed lands lie within the Town of Vernon. Development pressures in the headwaters region near Exit 67 prompted the collaborating organizations to undertake the studies in 2004 to better understand and document the resources within the watershed, identify potential threats, and outline the steps that are needed to protect the watershed's resources and high water quality into the future.
» Read November 18, 2010 Press Release.
» Learn about Low Impact Development.
Vernon PZC Rezones Exit 67 Parcel At Town's Request
In a move that puts the Tankerhoosen River at greater risk Mayor JASON MCCOY urged the Planning and Zoning Commission to relax zoning restrictions on a forty acre parcel of land at Exit 67, just behind the Burger King. This is the same parcel where Walmart wanted to build a superstore in 2003. That issue was so controversial, resulting in two court challenges by property owners Lee & Lamont Realty, that the PZC spent a considerable amount of time reviewing and working with a consultant to revise the regulations to give neighbors and wetland areas greater protection.
According to Lee & Lamont Realty there has been little interest in the property since the rezoning and the town requested the zoning change to make the property more marketable. Only two of the PZC commissioners who took part in the 2005 rezoning study were still on the committee and both voted against making the change. Neither will be on the committee in 2011 and will be greatly missed.
CHIP BELLOWS was able to add an amendment requiring the town to begin investigating the viability of Low-Impact Development (LID) regulations for the Tankerhoosen, which could help manage stormwater runoff on sites with large amounts of pavement and other impervious surface. The current administration has resisted the creation of LID regulations. See the above News item on the grant received that will pay for this study.
The Exit 67 parcel is partly wetlands and drains into the Tankerhoosen River through both Clark Brook and Walker Reservoir. This parcel is intended for development, but applications must be carefully monitored to protect the river.
November 5, 2010: "PZC removes restrictions on parcel off Exit 67" (Journal Inquirer)
October 22, 2010: "Hearing closes on exit 67 zoning restrictions" (Journal Inquirer)
May 26, 2010: "Proposal to ease development restrictions at exit 67 pulled back" (Journal Inquirer)
Home Depot Sells Parcel Back To Developer
In a small item under Property Transfers published on October 30, 2010 in the Journal Inquirer, was the listing that Home Depot sold the old Exit 67 softball field adjacent to Walker Reservoir back to the developer Diamond 67 LLC for $1,333,333. This ends the long running attempt by Home Depot to build a center on the property. It's a major reprieve for the Tankerhoosen River, but this piece of land will eventually be developed and needs to be done responsibly.
» Go to Smart Growth For Vernon for background on Home Depot application.
Talcottville Historic District Enhancements
The Talcottville Historic District, which is listed as both a state Local Historic District and a National Historic Register District, has long been a hidden town gem, tucked behind busy Hartford Turnpike. To highlight the District and attract more visitors a grant of $636,000 was used to install informational signs, vintage-style street lamps, sidewalks and a visitor's kiosk. Signs and lamps are now in place and Vernon-based contractor VMS Construction Co. is currently working on the kiosk (late November).
The Historic Talcottville Association, a nonprofit preservation group founded in 2001, first approached the town about beautifying the village area in 2002.
The historic district consists of 33 buildings and two structures on 920 acres, according to the National Register of Historic Places. The district is mainly contained along Main Street and Elm Hill Road, and extends east to Dobson Road to include Talcottville Pond and a portion of the Tankerhoosen River that is sandwiched between Interstate 84 and the Rails to Trails hiking path.
July 27, 2010: "Ground broken for Talcottville historic project’" (Journal Inquirer)
August 5, 2010: "Historic district gets final facelift’" (Reminder News)
Wings Butterfly Garden Opens In Vernon
A garden for families who have suffered the deaths of their babies or unborn children opened this October in Vernon. The Wings Butterfly Garden is a new space where grieving families can seek a little solace from their pain and cherish their children’s memories. The garden, which is laid out in the shape of a butterfly and features numerous winged decorations, is part of a new neighborhood town park at 60 Lake Street.
Residents CHARLES and NATALIE PLATT donated the strip of land to the town in 2009 to be used as a park after cultivating rhododendron and conifer bushes on the property for more than 40 years. This spring, Manchester Memorial Hospital bereavement nurse NANCY KRUPIENSKI began work on building the garden.
» Go to October 26, 2010 Journal Inquirer article.
Older Tankerhoosen Valley Stories
July 9, 2010: "Town needs volunteers to remove ‘invasive species’" - The Conservation Commission will survey and remove invasive species on July 24. (Journal Inquirer)
June 7, 2010: "Norman Strong, fourth-generation farmer, laid to rest in Vernon" - Norman was the epitome of the citizen-farmer. (Journal Inquirer)
May 22, 2010: "Valley Falls hosts statewide event for blind students" - Vernon Greenways hosts event using the Braille Trail and fishing. (Journal Inquirer)