[CT Birds] Silver Sands Improvements

Kathy Van Der Aue kathyvda at gmail.com
Thu Sep 24 22:30:06 EDT 2015

Several of us testified tonight at the public hearing on the Silver Sands
Improvements.  If you have comments you would like to submit, they will be
taking public comments until October 8th.  Comments can be emailed to
deep.adjudications at ct.gov

Kathy Van Der Aue
Southport, Connecticut
Visit my Blog at http://naturaliststable.wordpress.com

On Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 5:06 PM, Frank Mantlik <mantlik at sbcglobal.net>

> Kathy,
> It's now doubtful I will be able to attend the hearing tonight. But I will
> plan to submit written comments (tomorrow?). Do you happen to have the
> email or address to do so?
> Frank
> Sent from my iPhone
> On Sep 24, 2015, at 4:49 PM, Kathy Van Der Aue <kathyvda at gmail.com> wrote:
> Thanks, Lisa.  Your insights were very helpful.
> Kathy Van Der Aue
> Southport, Connecticut
> Visit my Blog at http://naturaliststable.wordpress.com
> On Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 4:47 PM, Lisa Wahle <lcwahle at aol.com> wrote:
>> Hi Kathy and everyone who will comment tonight, best of luck!  I know you
>> will be tactful and tough!  I really don't think it's a good idea for me to
>> comment, given my somewhat uncomfortable relationship with DEEP.   I was
>> going to come just for moral support but I'm still catching up on bunny
>> work.  Looking forward to hearing how this all goes. Best,
>> Lisa
>> Sent from my iPhone
>> On Sep 24, 2015, at 12:01 PM, Kathy Van Der Aue <kathyvda at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>> Thanks, Lisa.  I'll certainly raise that question about the internal
>> review tonight.
>> Kathy Van Der Aue
>> Southport, Connecticut
>> Visit my Blog at http://naturaliststable.wordpress.com
>> On Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 10:59 AM, <lcwahle at aol.com> wrote:
>>> Ditto Buzz's comments... May thanks for your tireless efforts!
>>> Just FYI, here's the link to the summary of proposed changes with
>>> parking space configuration and all.
>>> http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2716&q=565984&deepNav_GID=1650.
>>> Paul F is correct, there was no general and formal wildlife division
>>> review of this project.  As explained to me by wildlife staff, there is
>>> (was?) a standard "procedure" for such projects.  A project request form
>>> for projects of this magnitude and even smaller would be circulated among
>>> the various divisions to review plans, comment and sign off. This process
>>> seems to have been ignored by Parks recently, but also in the past.  What I
>>> have not been able to determine is if this project request circulation was
>>> an official policy, SOP or a courtesy.  Regardless, it's just foolish not
>>> to go through an internal review!  (Note, I think/hope that concern about
>>> this omission is being elevated to upper management.) And not that DEEP
>>> biologists would be exactly on the same page as COA/Audubon on all
>>> recommendations... but they would certainly have addressed many of the
>>> concerns now being raised from the outside before this ever went public...
>>> Beyond that, there should have been a Natural Diversity Database (NDDB)
>>> review and sign off.  Laura Saucier said that she commented on plans a
>>> while back (I think she said 2013, but not completely sure).  She said she
>>> did not have enough information to make a determination and asked for
>>> further information from parks regarding how the changes would affect
>>> habitat, and how those effects would be offset and how the public would be
>>> managed to avoid conflicts with nesting egrets, ibis etc. on Charles
>>> Island, piping plovers and the SE and LE owls.... these T & E species are
>>> really the only birds she can hang hat on in a database review.  She also
>>> recommended surveys of bird use as mentioned by Paul F.  She never got
>>> anything back.
>>> I was told by my supervisor that Peter Picone (Western District
>>> biologist) and Ann Kilpatrick (Eastern District biologist) would be
>>> available int he future to "work toward improving things at Silver Sands
>>> and Hammo".  Not exactly sure what that meant but I have it in a text.
>>> These would have been the first biologists to review the park plans, had
>>> the above procedure been followed.
>>> I guess my point is that we need to ask the tough question of Parks... *where
>>> is/was your internal review of wildlife effects of your plans?*  I'm
>>> pretty sure they never got any official input from wildlife.  I'm not sure
>>> how the endangered grass got incorporated without any mention of T & E
>>> birds.  The LIS permit for the wetland disturbance should also have
>>> included a NDDB review.
>>> Tom Tyler came to the meeting with a thick set of engineering plans.  He
>>> started the conversation by saying that they like to get public input
>>> somewhere between a conceptual water color design  and final engineered
>>> drawings ready to go.  These were damn near final drawings as far as I
>>> could tell.  Even the website notice says the project is in the final
>>> design phase.  Shouldn't they have  considered wildlife somewhere before
>>> this?  They need to go back and get input... not just from the external
>>> birding community.  For crying out loud, this is a designated IBA!
>>> And yes, I agree that planting the  proposed parking lot to mimic what
>>> is there now would be the 3rd most desirable outcome.  But designing that
>>> should not be our job to design this.
>>> Sorry for the rant, but as usual, I don 't think Parks takes wildlife
>>> concerns seriously.  Their behavior belies their words.
>>> Best,
>>> Lisa W
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: Kathy Van Der Aue <kathyvda at gmail.com>
>>> To: Comins, Patrick <PCOMINS at audubon.org>
>>> Cc: Paul Fusco <paul.fusco at sbcglobal.net>; Green, Tina <
>>> petermgreen at hotmail.com>; Stephen Spector <charsjs at sbcglobal.net>;
>>> William Batsford <william.batsford at yale.edu>; John Oshlick <
>>> john.oshlic at yahoo.com>; Folsom-O'Keefe, Corrie <
>>> cfolsom-okeefe at audubon.org>; Kruitbosch, Scott <
>>> skruitbosch at ctaudubon.org>; Wahle, Lisa <lcwahle at aol.com>; Mantlik,
>>> Frank <mantlik at sbcglobal.net>
>>> Sent: Wed, Sep 23, 2015 11:04 pm
>>> Subject: Re: Silver Sands Improvements
>>> 204, counting the four by the bath house.
>>> Kathy Van Der Aue
>>> Southport, Connecticut
>>> Visit my Blog at http://naturaliststable.wordpress.com
>>> On Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 10:55 PM, Kathy Van Der Aue <kathyvda at gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>> Please tell me if you don't want to be copied on these posts anymore.
>>>> I received this from Buzz.  I copied our Committee on my original report.
>>>> The second was the striping, etc. option.  I believe it is 200 new spaces
>>>> with the expansion and "triangle" lot.
>>>> "Thank you for sending along the information about the modification to
>>>> Silver Sands S.P and for putting so much time into this project. It seems
>>>> that your meeting with DEEP was productive and you learned a great deal
>>>> about the scope of the proposed "enhancements.".  I reviewed the Stormwater
>>>> Pollution Control Plan and must say that the figures are awfully busy and
>>>> difficult to discern from the small diagram.
>>>> Do we know how many new parking spaces will be established with the
>>>> expansion of the existing parking lot and establishment of a new parking
>>>> lot?   I would support the suggestions made at the meeting to mitigate
>>>> impact to the sparrow habitat.  In particular, I like the first
>>>> recommendation but I'm not certain that it would fly with the DEEP.
>>>> However, I feel the second recommendation may be more practical.
>>>> I will get back to you tomorrow if I am able to think  of any other
>>>> options.
>>>> Thanks again for your tireless effort."
>>>> Kathy Van Der Aue
>>>> Southport, Connecticut
>>>> Visit my Blog at http://naturaliststable.wordpress.com
>>>> On Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 5:33 PM, Comins, Patrick <PCOMINS at audubon.org>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>> I believe a necropsy was performed and the death was determined to be
>>>>> of natural causes.  In any event we saw no evidence of canine or human
>>>>> tracks in the fenced in area nor any evidence that the mortality was
>>>>> anything but a natural event.
>>>>> Patrick M. Comins
>>>>> Director of Bird Conservation
>>>>> President, Friends of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife
>>>>> Refuge
>>>>> Audubon Connecticut
>>>>> 185 East Flat Hill Road
>>>>> Southbury, CT 06488
>>>>> Phone: (203)405-9115
>>>>> Fax: (203)264-6332
>>>>> pcomins at audubon.org
>>>>> http://ct.audubon.org/conservation-efforts
>>>>> Audubon Connecticut is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AudubonCT
>>>>> The Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds is on Facebook:
>>>>> https://www.facebook.com/pages/Audubon-Alliance-for-Coastal-Waterbirds/168520783251234
>>>>> Our blog: http://ctwaterbirds.blogspot.com/
>>>>> Friends of Conte is on Facebook:
>>>>> http://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-the-Silvio-O-Conte-National-Fish-and-Wildlife-Refuge/121976791147545?v=wall
>>>>> *From:* Paul Fusco [mailto:paul.fusco at sbcglobal.net]
>>>>> *Sent:* Wednesday, September 23, 2015 5:12 PM
>>>>> *To:* Kathy Van Der Aue <kathyvda at gmail.com>
>>>>> *Cc:* Comins, Patrick <PCOMINS at audubon.org>; Green, Tina <
>>>>> petermgreen at hotmail.com>; Stephen Spector <charsjs at sbcglobal.net>;
>>>>> William Batsford <william.batsford at yale.edu>; John Oshlick <
>>>>> john.oshlic at yahoo.com>; Folsom-O'Keefe, Corrie <
>>>>> cfolsom-okeefe at audubon.org>; Kruitbosch, Scott <
>>>>> skruitbosch at ctaudubon.org>; Wahle, Lisa <lcwahle at aol.com>; Mantlik,
>>>>> Frank <mantlik at sbcglobal.net>
>>>>> *Subject:* Re: Silver Sands Improvements
>>>>> Yes, Kathy,
>>>>> It would be advantageous to have brushy, berry producing shrubs and
>>>>> weedy plants along the sparrow lanes instead of the wood rails. I don't
>>>>> think the concern about dust has much merit. If there is grass growing and
>>>>> it's properly mowing there should be minimal dust. Also if it gets that dry
>>>>> it would kill their grass so maybe they will have to water it anyway.
>>>>> I understand the owl roosting places are out of this development. But
>>>>> the owls require a lot of open habitat. They hunt the landfill as well as
>>>>> the fenceline and the parking areas including the sparrow lanes.
>>>>> Question for Scott- was that dead plover is good enough shape to do a
>>>>> necropsy on it? Just wondering if the cause of death could be determined.
>>>>> If it had crushing bite wounds from a dog I am sure the Feds would be
>>>>> interested.
>>>>> P
>>>>> Sent from my iPhone
>>>>> On Sep 23, 2015, at 4:54 PM, Kathy Van Der Aue <kathyvda at gmail.com>
>>>>> wrote:
>>>>> I agree, it's about the birds, not the birders.  I really appreciate
>>>>> you're insights into this, Paul.  I just want to be positive.  You're OK
>>>>> with no brush between the parking lanes?  Leveling it and having a little
>>>>> wooden fence where there used to be a swale and brushy habitat?  The
>>>>> reinforced grass is going where the cars will park, right across where the
>>>>> brushy areas are now, with a wooden fence to divide the lanes, as I
>>>>> understood it.  We can certainly argue for plantings instead of the wooden
>>>>> fence.  I just thought of the water truck because we do that on our gravel
>>>>> road in Maine and it works very well.  We could argue that the owls come
>>>>> down to the sparrow lanes and that is why they are important but the places
>>>>> where they usually roost aren't included in this plan, as far as I know.
>>>>> They talked about hiking trails up there but that idea has been abandoned,
>>>>> for good I hope.  I was also thinking since the lot is seldom open, that a
>>>>> temporary person on those few days would be doable, but maybe not.
>>>>> Kathy Van Der Aue
>>>>> Southport, Connecticut
>>>>> Visit my Blog at http://naturaliststable.wordpress.com
>>>>> On Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 4:31 PM, Paul Fusco <paul.fusco at sbcglobal.net>
>>>>> wrote:
>>>>> Hi Kathy,
>>>>> Yes that is why the sparrow lane area needs to have a management plan,
>>>>> including a mowing schedule and plantings for cover at some level between
>>>>> the rows.
>>>>> The Wildlife Division is not involved in reviewing the Parks plan, at
>>>>> least not as an equal partner with Parks. It should probably be asked that
>>>>> they become involved.
>>>>> The endangered grassland species along with the wintering owls carry
>>>>> conservation weight. Those species will be the most likely to get habitat
>>>>> conservation attention.
>>>>> I know about the plovers and how they still try to nest in the park
>>>>> and that Scott mentioned a dead adult that was found this year.
>>>>> Unfortunate. Piping plovers are federally listed on the east coast as a
>>>>> threatened species. That carries the most weight because the Feds give
>>>>> money for their protection.
>>>>> Striping the grass is a good approach, but realize it would like be
>>>>> over the hardened grass option. Millings should be fought against. A water
>>>>> truck is not a good option. It is not practical. And a parking attendant
>>>>> will never be authorized because it will cost money. I don't see how an
>>>>> attendant will make things better. It's not the Big E down there.
>>>>> The sparrows will migrate thru the park whether there are "lanes" or
>>>>> not. They will find and use whatever food and cover is convenient. The
>>>>> lanes just concentrated them into brushy places that are easy to view.
>>>>> Which makes me think that our focus should be on bird and habitat
>>>>> conservation as a whole, not just that the park provide easy to see areas
>>>>> to tick off birds.
>>>>> It's all about habitat.
>>>>> P
>>>>> Sent from my iPhone
>>>>> On Sep 23, 2015, at 1:08 PM, Kathy Van Der Aue <kathyvda at gmail.com>
>>>>> wrote:
>>>>> Thanks for your insights, Paul.  Did you realize that they plan to
>>>>> level the whole area, no swales, no brushy cover?  I do think we need to
>>>>> say something about the Sparrow Lanes.  I think the way to go on this,
>>>>> since I will only have three minutes tomorrow, is to stress the value of
>>>>> the habitat for migrating birds and to ask what the wildlife division's
>>>>> response was when they reviewed the plan.  I hope they did more than
>>>>> mention the endangered grass species.  Piping Plovers have been driven out
>>>>> by the Boardwalk and to my knowledge, haven't nested successfully there for
>>>>> several years so there is probably little use in bringing them up [Steve
>>>>> and Charla??]
>>>>> I think then that I should put forward that our choice is that nothing
>>>>> be done other than striping the grass, running a water truck through on dry
>>>>> windy days and having a parking attendant (for the 7 days it is used a
>>>>> year) until the need for the extra parking has been justified.  They are
>>>>> enlarging the paved lot and putting a new grass lot in on the other side in
>>>>> that triangular space. There won't be time for anything else probably, but
>>>>> the next worse choice would be that the reinforced grass be installed in
>>>>> the driving lanes (not the "processed" as called for in the plans) and that
>>>>> the brushy areas between remain untouched.  The last resort would be the
>>>>> compromise I suggested as an alternative to leveling the whole area. The
>>>>> really last resort would be prostrating ourselves in front of the
>>>>> bulldozers...
>>>>> Are you, Paul, willing to testify against the boardwalk?  I am not
>>>>> sure it is as damaging as I originally thought, now that I know where it
>>>>> will be placed.  You probably have better knowledge about these things than
>>>>> I do.
>>>>> Please let me know your thoughts on this approach.  How many of us
>>>>> plan to testify?
>>>>> Kathy Van Der Aue
>>>>> Southport, Connecticut
>>>>> Visit my Blog at http://naturaliststable.wordpress.com
>>>>> On Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 11:23 PM, Paul Fusco <paul.fusco at sbcglobal.net>
>>>>> wrote:
>>>>> Thank you, Kathy.
>>>>> A few thoughts:
>>>>> The grass area along the fenceline is a wet meadow strip after it
>>>>> rains. That has wildlife value for many species.
>>>>> FWIW, I think making a big issue out of the sparrow lanes is not the
>>>>> way to go. The sparrow lanes will take care of themselves with simple
>>>>> mowing and planting practices as long as the park uses the hardened grass
>>>>> approach. The sparrows and palm warblers will be using that area during
>>>>> fall migration when visitor use is low. The important thing about that
>>>>> patch is that impervious material such as pavement and/or asphalt millings
>>>>> are not used.
>>>>> The issues that I think we need to be focused on include demanding
>>>>> that additional paving is kept to a minimum. Gravel and grass are more
>>>>> valuable habitat than impervious surfaces.
>>>>> We should ask that depressions be made to hold standing rain water for
>>>>> shorebirds. And that the boardwalk extension spur thru the restored tidal
>>>>> marsh be eliminated. That boardwalk is unnecessary and damaging. Any
>>>>> construction on the dune should also be kept to a minimum.
>>>>> The real value to that park is the expansive early successional
>>>>> habitat of the landfill and the adjacent grassy roadside. There have been
>>>>> grassland birds using those areas for years. Those species include
>>>>> kestrels, meadowlarks, bobolinks, sparrows, snipe, turkey's and deer among
>>>>> others. A complete breeding bird survey should be undertaken.
>>>>> Also, there are state listed species that use the park. Wintering
>>>>> long-eared and short-eared owls roost in the landfill grassland and
>>>>> adjacent thickets. American bittern, great and snowy egret, ibis, thrasher,
>>>>> chat and uncommon migrant songbirds have all been found in the park.
>>>>> And finally, piping plovers will be affected by increased visitation.
>>>>> Paul
>>>>> Sent from my iPhone
>>>>> On Sep 22, 2015, at 10:26 PM, Kathy Van Der Aue <kathyvda at gmail.com>
>>>>> wrote:
>>>>> I have another idea after visiting Silver Sands again today and
>>>>> walking the entire area.  Of course the best thing for the birds would be
>>>>> inaction, but I really don't think that will fly. I think there might be a
>>>>> possible compromise.  The first picture below shows the Sparrow
>>>>> Lanes/overflow parking area.  It is divided into two sections of four rows
>>>>> each, as you know.  There is very little habitat left in the first section,
>>>>> but the second section (further west) still has some habitat and I saw lots
>>>>> of migrating Palm Warblers and Phoebes, along with resident species in that
>>>>> area.  That back section seems most productive.
>>>>> If you walk up to the cross road separating the two sections and turn
>>>>> north, you come to a wooden fence where there is a path leading out to to
>>>>> the access road.  (See the second picture)  what if we were to suggest a
>>>>> compromise whereby the entire back section of Sparrow Lanes be permanently
>>>>> closed off and the overflow lot be the front (more easterly) section and
>>>>> then allowed to spread north to the road, up to the chain link fence?  They
>>>>> have been mowing that section and it seems unproductive for wildlife.  The
>>>>> plus for them is that this area is closer to the beach, therefore a shorter
>>>>> walk for beach goers, and probably gives them about the same number of
>>>>> spaces. They could do their reinforced grass thing.  We would have the
>>>>> better habitat preserved from any parking and we could get them to put in
>>>>> additional plantings.  We could make it a condition that the area toward
>>>>> the marsh not be mowed and perhaps the Meadowlarks and Bobolinks would
>>>>> return.
>>>>> Just thoughts.  Please let me know what you think.
>>>>> Kathy Van Der Aue
>>>>> Southport, Connecticut
>>>>> Visit my Blog at http://naturaliststable.wordpress.com
>>>>> On Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 2:28 AM, Kathy Van Der Aue <kathyvda at gmail.com>
>>>>> wrote:
>>>>> We had what I consider to be a very informative and productive meeting
>>>>> with Tom Tyler last evening.  He brought a large set of plans and we were
>>>>> able to see the full scope of the intended development.  It seems that most
>>>>> of the improvements are necessary and reasonable, even the impact of the
>>>>> new boardwalk appears minimal from a wildlife perspective and the
>>>>> disruption has been mitigated by planned restoration of marshland.
>>>>> It wasn't until the very end that I was able to go over the map detail
>>>>> of the proposed changes to the overflow parking area fondly known to
>>>>> birders as the "Sparrow Lanes."  I now understand that the plan calls not
>>>>> just using reinforced grass in the parking area (leaving the areas in
>>>>> between) but it calls for completely digging up the entire area up,
>>>>> flattening it, using processed gravel in driving lanes and the reinforced
>>>>> grass where the parking would be: the areas that currently contain the
>>>>> swales, grasses, shrubs, etc. that lie between the existing grassy lanes,
>>>>> the very area that make this particular habitat so unique.  The new parking
>>>>> areas would be delineated by low wooden fencing, similar to that being
>>>>> installed at Hammonasset.
>>>>> The Parks Department reasoning is that the overflow parking needs to
>>>>> be formalized and stabilized.  I think Tom Tyler understands our concerns
>>>>> and is looking for us to make suggestions for mitigation or alternative
>>>>> suggestions for the overflow parking.  We are lucky to be forewarned on
>>>>> this and to have an albeit very short time to come up with something before
>>>>> the public hearing on Thursday.  It is apparently a departure for them to
>>>>> request public comment at this stage of planning.
>>>>> We made some suggestions at the meeting:
>>>>> 1.  Leave the area as is and see what the impact of the new admission
>>>>> fee is on attendance.  The lot is only used at the busiest times (perhaps
>>>>> seven times a year) although this seems to be poorly monitored.
>>>>> 2.  Organize the parking with seasonal striping on the grass with
>>>>> white paint, dampening the dust with a water truck and having a parking lot
>>>>> attendant guide visitors to parking spaces.
>>>>> 3.  (Less desirable) Reduce the number of parking lanes from four to
>>>>> three and install two areas between these lanes that reproduce the habitat
>>>>> that exists now.
>>>>> I could find only these plans on line:
>>>>> http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/water_regulating_and_discharges/stormwater/201502263_Silver_Sands_State_Park_SPCP_final.pdf
>>>>> The plans are at the end, in appendix C, starting at p. 22. The area
>>>>> of most concern is on p. 29.
>>>>> We can testify and make a written response.  Tom Tyler was thin on
>>>>> possible statistical evidence of degradation that would justify the need
>>>>> for such drastic stabilization.  They are putting an additional lot in a
>>>>> less birdy spot and enlarging the existing paved lot, so there is already a
>>>>> net gain of parking spaces.
>>>>> Any constructive ideas would be appreciated.  There is a paved road
>>>>> that runs up to the access area to the overflow lot.  Perhaps parking could
>>>>> be along that area?
>>>>> Kathy Van Der Aue
>>>>> Southport, Connecticut
>>>>> Visit my Blog at http://naturaliststable.wordpress.com
>>>>> <IMG_0292.JPG>
>>>>> <IMG_0297.JPG>

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