A Fishing Pier, Parking and Lights — Old Lyme Debates a Plan for the Lieutenant River

Edie Twining and DEEP employees and interns at the Lieutenant River (CT Examiner)


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OLD LYME — At its Thursday meeting, the Halls Road Improvements Committee debated obstacles to planning a new bridge and nature trails, including a surprise state request for a fishing pier, and the sharing of the plans with the public prior to two open houses. 

Committee chair Edie Twining said she had met with “about 15 people” from the Department of Energy and Environment Protection about two weeks ago at the bridge abutment on the Lieutenant River to discuss the project.

She said DEEP owns a .67-acre parcel between Route 1 and the Hangry Goose that could be donated to the town, but with an expectation that the town build a fishing pier along that part of the Lieutenant River. 

Twining also said the committee would hold open houses on Sept. 30 and Oct. 5 to present options for the bridge and trails and to gather public input about the project. 

In addition to Twining, committee members present at the meeting were: David Kelsey, Deb Czarnecki, Jane Ungemack, and, by phone, Mike Reiter. 

Below are excerpts from Thursday’s meeting, lightly edited for clarity.

A fishing pier?

Twining: The guys from the fish and game world, mainly the fishery guys, were like … ‘you really need to provide us with a fishing pier’ … their main issues were fishing and parking… It’s sort of an ‘additional’ to what AI agreed to design for us. That was never part of their program.

Kelsey: I think the community may have something to say about that… It’s weird that they would want a fishing pier because usually they don’t want any fishing.

Twining: Well, the fisheries want as much as possible now because this is considered a recreational park… What they wanted us to do – as practicable as possible – was to ask us to include this fishing pier because they thought it was a good addition to the project. So it’s kind of like, oh, we’ll give you that land… 

Kelsey: A little bit, except a fishing pier drives the need for parking. It’s not something that we’ve talked about for 10 years at this point. These guys show up out of the blue. So it’s a little bit of a dance. I understand, but still, the town needs to do what the town would like to do… and not just cave to what somebody wants,

Twining: We’ve said if it’s practical, we will do it. If we can’t make all your requests happen, we will do as much as we can. And that’s that so that we can get that property… 

Kelsey: But is there an approval required for the state? … I would, at this point, given how much time we put into this, and the very significant ask, I would say we considered it. We need to consult with the community, because we should, right? This is a pretty big thing.

Twining: I think there is a lot of local interest in people being able to fish and crab there, which I don’t feel is a bad thing but we need to explore that.

Parking for bridge

Twining: This is the way into Hangry Goose (pointing to a document), and this is DEEP’s property that is soon to become ours and we could put four parking spots there, which I think no matter what there’s gonna be people who want to park and go over to the bridge. So we need to pay attention to that.

Twining  So that was one idea. The other idea is to talk with Londregan who owns that property over by Andy’s [17 Halls Rd.]… That would be for a few more parking spots. We’re not doing 20 parking spots, maybe four on one side, three or four on the other. 

Twining: With or without a fishing pier, I think we have to try and provide more parking, because it’s not fair to ask the private property owners to house all the people that might want to drive to the [bow] bridge… I was always expecting this is not to drive to park your car and walk over the bridge – this is to come down and go for a walk and we’ll go over the bridge… We could at least have a handful of parking spots that are on the property that is just for the bridge. I think that’s really important to do. 

Kelsey: That’s an easy thing for us to do if we get that property or even Londregan’s property… he could make a contribution to the town where he gets a tax deduction… I can call Tim Londregan… it could be good for the town and for Londregan. 

Twining: I think the parking issue is going to bite us in the back if we don’t get some kind of ideas going that way.

No fishing?

Kelsey: So if there’s to be no fishing on the bridge, I don’t know how people feel about it.

Twining: I think fishing on the bridge is a bad idea.

Kelsey: So if that’s the case, providing an alternative is something, but we haven’t really kind of fleshed it out very much… and now the state comes in, and they say, ‘Well, you should really have a fishing pier.’ Quid pro quo. Well, wait a minute. That’s a pretty big thing that nobody’s kind of discussed with the community. … We’ve really got to take a pulse of the community.

The arc of the bridge

Kelsey: What’s interesting is they made us bend over backwards because they don’t want us to put piers for the bridge – bridge piers – which would be great because we could have the old bow bridge.

Kelsey: The engineers told us you can’t get any sort of arc without a pier. You can’t get any sort of discernible arc – because we looked at the three designs, and we had flat, and a flat, and then we have the most unreasonably indiscernible [arc]. So it’s just a contradiction… 

Kelsey: I would pose this question to them: If you guys are telling us that we’re allowed to do a fishing pier, could we not do something that will allow us to have a bigger arc?

Twining: With your bigger arc, ADA wise, you can’t do it… because ADA, it’s ‘one and 12.’ You can’t go up like that.

Kelsey: But we’ve always been told it’s such a wide expanse… My point is, it seems bureaucratically incongruous.

Themes and lighting

Czarnecki: How about these themes? (pointing to documents)

Twining: Those would be something where people would say, I like the art theme but I want the nature theme too, or whatever, so people can ask for what they do or don’t like.

Czarnecki: Do you think the art community is going to like this? Because it’s very much ‘Disneyland’ kind of thing. I think this should be as natural as possible. I’m really concerned…

Twining: Yeah, I think this stuff I think is over the top…[garbled] … And I don’t think that they really had enough specifics.

Czarnecki: As far as lighting, isn’t it a no-no to have lights… 

Twining: It will all be dim light, solar powered.

Czarnecki: But still, isn’t there the whole Gateway, dark skies, that whole movement?

Twining: So dark skies means you don’t have regular street lights… The down light just goes down, it’s at a pedestrian level…

Czarnecki: But still, I have a problem with that too because this is turning into a park.

Twining: It’s meant to be a park, yes, and the lights can be set to go off at 10 o’clock or whatever you want.

Counting the cost

Czarnecki: Regarding the cost, are people coming for the open house going to be informed that there’s maybe going to be a cost to the taxpayers?

Twining: I think that especially with the CT Trails people – they have like $10 million or something – I’m thinking that we’ll get most of this paid by grants.

Kelsey:  But we have to inform people what the cost is, which was like $1.5 or $1.6 million.

Ungemack: We need to tell them that the intent all along had been to go for external funding to support this.

Kelsey: And that’s the way projects have been done historically… We hope to get some money, but if we don’t, the town is paying $1.6 million. That’s the way it’s been couched, which I think is appropriate, though.

Ungemack: I think that if we can’t get money for construction, we won’t be able to get off first base with it. Yes, I could see the town may take up a small amount of it, much the way they have done with the design phase, but it’s supposed to be a minimal contribution.

Twining: I think I’ve asked them to add to that list of the costs – what kind of maintenance is expected for this kind of bridge and that kind of bridge? … Because that’s also key to this whole [project]. The longevity of this type of bridge needs to be in this. Because I think you can show lots of pretty pictures and get people excited, but there’s definitely going to be people who want to see what it costs, what’s it like to take care of it?

Informing the public?

Ungemack: In terms of going to the community and posting about these two [open house] dates when we will discuss this, is there going to be a release of some at least basic information? 

Twining: I think what we’re going to do is have a little booklet that we can put on the website that will have whatever we show on the open house and then we can also have something that [where] we ask people for their opinions. We’ve done it at other open houses. We’ve had just some flip boards that have a list of stuff with pictures and you could just say, “I want 6-A or 7-B. It’s very either-or because there’s only two options.

Czarnecki: when is the final plan going to be online?

Twining: I think the same day we do the open house. 

Kelsey: With the open house, you want to have a little bit of time for people to consider it… like, a couple of days.

Twining: What would be good would be if you put it up and say, the open house produced these results of people’s voting and comments and let people add to that…

Kelsey: But I think you have to give something to people to get them to come…

Twining: I was gonna do an invitation for that.

Kelsey: No, I mean, a plan – ‘this is roughly what we’re thinking and we’re going to ask you to weigh in on XYZ and PDQ’. ‘So here’s the overall plan for the bridge… the committee has considered three options, we’ve narrowed it down to two. And we’d like your input’… And if we were to do that, I think we do need to consider having AI… throw in a fishing pier that is 50 feet by eight feet, or something like that… So that everyone is kind of fully informed about what we’re asking the community to [look at]. 

Ungemack: I don’t think you need to give them all the information, I think maybe just the key things. Partly you want to whet their appetite and also to bring them in. The first few people will probably raise concerns… but you don’t want to give them all the information because after all, it’s an information gathering session we’re having, not just for the public, but for us.

Kelsey: I think those are three powerful things {the open house invitation, the renderings of the bridge options and the site plan] that you’ve got right there that will really excite the community to learn more.

Editor’s note: CT Examiner submitted a Freedom of Information request on Sept. 15 to First Selectman Tim Griswold and the Halls Road Improvements Committee for the documents discussed in the public meeting above.