Calves Island (CT) Permanently Protected

GREENWICH, Connecticut, 2/13/03: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today purchased Calves Island in Long Island Sound as an addition to the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge based in Westbrook, Conn., according to the Service’s Northeast Regional Director Dr. Mamie A. Parker. The Trust for Public Land helped negotiate the purchase from the Greenwich Family YMCA, and, at the request of the Y, a “friendly taking” process cleared the title because deed restrictions limited the property to residential use.

“This purchase will protect the natural state of the island with its habitat for a diversity of wading birds, waterfowl, and shorebirds, as well as marine mammals and other marine life,” Parker said. “The island will be available to the community as an open space resource, strengthening the connection between wildlife and people through partnerships with community organizations to develop activities and programs.”

Connecticut’s congressional delegation, especially Representative Chris Shays, was instrumental in acquiring the $6 million funding for the purchase from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The Trust for Public Land also announced today that it will be working with local organizations to raise a stewardship endowment fund for Calves Island. The endowment will be used to supplement available federal funds for developing and maintaining island facilities such as docks, nature trails and interpretive signs. It will also support community-based programming for wildlife-related uses including recreation, environmental education and special events.

“We are delighted to have helped permanently protect Calves Island from development,” said Whitney Hatch, acting Connecticut director of the Trust for Public Land. “After years of very little use, Calves Island will now be incorporated into the McKinney refuge for the permanent benefit of both wildlife and community residents. We’re looking forward to working with local organizations and residents to establish an endowment fund for the island.”

“We are pleased with the sale of Calves Island to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said YMCA CEO John Eikrem. “Their charter mandates public activities at a level much greater than could ever be achieved under YMCA ownership. The agreed-upon use plan with the Service will allow public access 12 months of the year from sunup to sunset, and it includes recreation and environmental activities, picnicking, boating, overnight groups and the like.”

“I am pleased that Calves Island has now become part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge,” said Greenwich First Selectman Richard Bergstresser. “Greenwich takes pride in its coastal resources and manages one of the most important heron rookeries in Long Island Sound, known as Great Captain’s Island. The proximity of Calves Island to the heron rookery makes it an important addition to the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The YMCA has owned the island since 1954 and at one time operated a children’s day camp that was discontinued due to high operational costs and complicated logistics. In 1999 the YMCA decided to sell the 28.8-acre island. They expressed a preference to sell the island to an organization that would preserve it as an undeveloped public resource forever. Proceeds from the sale will be used to rehabilitate the Y’s historic building and add an Olympic pool, new gymnasium and childcare center – plans that address key needs in the community.

Calves Island lies about 3,000 feet offshore of Greenwich, directly south of Byram Harbor. It is one of several islands near the western edge of the McKinney refuge. The Service’s primary purpose for protecting the island will be for managing and preserving migratory birds and other wildlife. Project supporters include the Town of Greenwich, Connecticut’s congressional delegation, Audubon Greenwich, Greenwich Land Trust, League of Women Voters of Greenwich, Save the Sound, SoundKeeper, Sound Waters and the Trust for Public Land.

In the friendly taking process, the Service filed a Declaration of Taking with the U.S. District Court in the District of Connecticut giving clear title to the people of the United States represented by the Service. This process was used to clear the title of deed restrictions that would otherwise have limited the property’s use to private residential development.