Monday, December 15, 2014

Dodge Beal Project

By Beth Sullivan
Those of you have been reading Avalonia eTrails may have followed the saga of Dodge Paddock and Beal preserves--the last open space and true coastal preserve in Stonington Borough. Its history is rich, with generations of changes and uses, but in the last decade, it has truly been a sad example of how sea level rise can impact the shoreline we love.
After Sandy the entire Preserve was flooded with water and debris. 

Neighbors watched it become wetter and fill with invasive Phragmites. Hurricane Sandy devastated walls and flooded it with not just water but debris.
In the last 2 years, Avalonia has worked with CT DEEP to open a new drainage area, remove the Phragmites, create channels for better flow of floodwaters, and begin a plan for the future.
An emergency drainage culvert needed to be created.

There is more great news to share. Last month the National Fish and Wildlife service, which administers the Long Island Futures Fund, granted nearly $45,000 to the Mystic Aquarium in partnership with Avalonia to restore the landscape in Dodge and Beal Preserves. Planning has begun.

An adaptable landscape

Resiliency is a term we have all been hearing more frequently. As oceans rise and storms increase in intensity we all have to be prepared to change, to adapt. Shoreline towns are developing task forces to discuss and plan for the needs of the communities on many levels . Our landscape will have to adapt as well.
The brown areas will be replanted with native species.

The preserve area will be studied for elevation compared to sea level, soil salinity, water levels and direction of flow. A team comprised of consultants and experts from many areas will work to develop a specific plan for vegetation and plantings that will enhance the area. They will be able to withstand fresh water flooding and periodic salt water inundation. The plants will help filter pollutants that come from road run off from within the borough to prevent them from reaching the ocean. The native plants will replace the non-native Phragmites and provide much greater appeal, food, and shelter for native wildlife. Other plants in other areas will reinforce and support the land itself in the face of other storm events.
The walls around the Paddock speak of its history.

Many benefits from this grant

Wildlife will not be the only beneficiaries. The area, when completed, will be available as a model, a poster child for a resilient landscape. Local environmental groups will be able to bring volunteers to help with the project and to experience the landscape first hand. Educational signage will be installed that will enable others to learn from this effort, about the best ways to adapt to the changes that are surely in our future.
The pond will be healthier and attract more wildlife.

There will be public information meetings and active work will begin in the spring. We will keep you posted!

Photographs by Beth Sullivan. Aerial photograph by Roger Wolfe.

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