March 10, 2013
The Guilford Land Conservation Trust (GLCT) has received a grant from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to assist with a major Phragmites removal project along the West River near downtown Guilford. This project will remove the plant along the approximately one mile of the West River as it travels between Routes 1 and 146. The DEEP estimates that its 75% share of the costs will be $50,130. GLCT will provide the remaining 25% of the value through project oversight and coordination, outreach and education, bird surveys and mapping. Phragmites, the tall common marsh grass widely seen along Connecticut tidal waterways, is an aggressive invasive plant. It has replaced hundreds of acres of Guilford’s marsh habitat with a monoculture that supports fewer native flora and fauna. This expenditure by the DEEP is funded in part through a grant from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. While the Landowner Incentives Program cannot fund every proposal to remove Phragmites, the application by GLCT was compelling because includes the commitment of 26 neighbors, or 100% of the affected landowners between Route 1 and Route 146. When combined with the marsh owned by GLCT in the area, the total area covered by Phragmites is approximately 25 acres. “When we were calling other landowners to invite them to join us, the response was overwhelming. Many landowners were relieved that someone would finally be able to help them with this difficult job” said GLCT President, Sarah Williams. The DEEP plans for most of the work to be completed by its staff. The work is expected to include three cuttings and three applications of water-safe herbicide over three years. The first round of removal will begin early this spring with the cutting of existing Phragmites by a low impact DEEP machine. Because so much plant material will be released from the marsh during the process, the DEEP will leave a narrow edge of the plant standing until the end of the project in order to control the volume of plant matter traveling down the river and through the culverts under Route 146. “There will be a major difference in the views but the complete unveiling of the marsh will not happen all at once,” says Williams.
The Guilford Land Conservation Trust is a volunteer-run non-profit organization that was founded in 1965. The mission of the organization is to “acquire and conserve natural places for future generations.” To date, GLCT has protected 3,000 acres in Guilford, including the well-known areas of Bluff Head and Westwoods, and is currently fundraising to raise $200,000 for the protection of 17 acres at the heart of Westwoods.