[CT Birds] Hammo construction: anther view...

Jerry Connolly birdshop at sbcglobal.net
Mon Oct 12 19:00:45 EDT 2015

I've held off these last few months commenting on the "imminent demise of Hammonasset SP" as a birding hotspot but now feel compelled to do so.   I believe some of the negativity concerning the current construction at West Beach and the new Nature Center to be non-constructive at best.  I have no interest in becoming involved in an email debate, but only wish to temper what has been a very one-sided "discussion" of these issues which, to an outsider reading this forum, may appear to paint us all with one broad stroke.  I have actually fielded phone calls and emails from out-of-state birders asking about alternatives to Hammo since they read (on this forum) that the park was "irrevocably and irreparably" lost as a bird habitat.  Of course everyone has the right to their opinion, but statements such as these should not go unchallenged if, as I suspect, a significant segment (if not the majority) of the state's birding community does not subscribe to them. 

First and foremost, I think it's important to remember that birders represent a very, very tiny percentage of the over ONE MILLION visitors to the park annually.  Yes, many groups use the park for gatherings, very often with charitable motives.  Don't they have the same right to use the STATE park as we do?  If someone wants to put together a birding/photography festival, I'm sure the park will welcome you with open arms.  

The new Nature Center has been a long time coming.  The old building is falling apart.  Having an educational center in the park is a wonderful asset that serves THOUSANDS of students from all over the state.  Programs run there can often provide one of the few exposures to the natural world for many inner city youngsters.  I can't imagine any of us being against that! 

To be sure, the construction areas of both the West Beach and the Nature Center sites look hideous.  Please remember that this is temporary, not forever.  

Here's a link to DEEP regarding current construction with an illustration of the new pavilion.  

I would suggest that people with issues concerning construction, contact Jack Hine (203-245-2785 or john.hine at ct.gov), the very accessible park supervisor with concerns and /or questions they may have. A couple of weeks ago I did just that, and this is what I found out.

1. The construction of the West Beach Pavilion has a target opening for Memorial Day 2016, though it is running ahead of schedule and should be completed well before that date.  Weather, of course could factor in to the completion date.

2. The fencing off the West Beach area beyond Chase's Pond (aka "Swan Pond") is being implemented by the contractor (not the DEEP / park) because of logistical and liability concerns.

3. The several acre fenced off rectangular area in the extreme west near the campsite playground is not slated for additional parking as some have suggested.  It is a leeching field, that will have a simple baseball field upon it, similar to what was there before. 

4. The West Beach parking lot will NOT be expanded, contrary to statements made on this forum.  In fact, the footprint will remain the same with the pavilion being constructed within that footprint.  Further, they have constructed several swales within the parking lot that will be planted with grass and shrubs.  The net effect of this will be better habitat and 275 LESS parking spaces than what was previously there.

Hammonasset is still a great park to bird in.  I, for one will continue bird and enjoy the park for all it has to offer.  If I want to bird the west end, I simply park my car and take a walk.  The disruption is a pain but not forever.  Bottom line: when the projects are finally done, the park just might be better.

Jerry Connolly

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