OPINION: Taking care of the turtles on the Meriden Green   

OPINION: Taking care of the turtles on the Meriden Green   

I have to admit I find it amusing when I read about turtles taking over — even if it’s not entirely likely. In this case the turtle drawing scrutiny is the wood turtle, of which I had never even heard until just the other day.

It reminded me that this is the season of vernal pools and the brief opportunity they provide to species like the spotted salamander. If you wander around Hubbard Park and, say, make your way up to Castle Craig, you’re bound at this time of year to encounter a vernal pool or two, or more.

It doesn’t seem like that big a to-do; vernal pools are here in spring, gone by summer, but certain species depend on vernal pools making an appearance. I learned about this years ago when vernal pools and spotted salamanders came into play regarding a proposed development in South Meriden. Little and otherwise seemingly inconsequential creatures can exert an influence.

In the more recent situation, the turtle in question is in a position to play a part in a major multimillion dollar retrofitting of downtown Meriden known as the Meriden Green. A turtle has rights, too, you could say.

I'm very fond of nature, at least in a general sense, and on occasion delve into the details of life and the creatures who share it with us — and who depend on us for protection.

The wood turtle is one of these creatures. I think I read it right when I saw that when a construction worker is on the job and the hard hat spies the hard shell of the wood turtle he — the hard hat, I mean — has to call for a stop in the action so the little reptile can be accommodated. This seems reasonable.

The project under consideration is the Cedar Street bridge over Harbor Brook. As was reported the other day, “site managers are asked to relocate and secure all wood turtles and conduct daily checks on any remaining on site.”  No reason not to try to get the turtle population on board with the project, is one way you can look at it.

At the web site of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, you can learn that the wood turtle has been having a rough time of it. It’s described as “a species of special concern” — to which, as homo sapiens, we could say “join the crowd” or “welcome to my world” or tempting rejoinders to that effect. But what it means is the wood turtle needs our help when it comes to surviving.

They can be found throughout the state, says the DEEP, “but they have become increasingly rare due to their complex habitat needs.” They also do not mix well with litter — who does? — so when you’re wandering around the Green, keep your trash to yourself. If you see a wood turtle, take a picture of it and send it to the DEEP. That sounds like fun.

(You can find a description of what they look like at https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Wildlife/Fact-Sheets/Wood-Turtle).

It’s worth hoping the turtles and workers can get along because the project is important. It’s another part of the flood control plan for the heart of Meriden, which has historically had difficulty when it rains a lot.

The Meriden Green is a gem, a gem that joined a pantheon of Silver City gems that include Castle Craig, Hubbard Park, the Hanging Hills, Meriden’s municipal golf course and Giuffrida Park and, you know, you could go on.

The Green is important in a very particular way because it is the city’s investment for the future. Though a certain kind of vitality is not likely to return — International Silver is not coming back, for example — there’s reason to hope that other types of vitality will, and the award-winning Green is something you can hang your hat on. So there’s reason to support remaking the bridge as part of the flood control effort, and extending the Green. Just keep an eye out for the turtles.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or jkurz@record-journal.com.


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