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New London Maritime Society places bid for Little Gull Island

By Judy Benson

Publication: theday.com

Published October 09. 2012 12:00PM   Updated October 10. 2012 12:51PM

New London — A bidding war for Little Gull Island appears to be under way.

Over the course of the day Tuesday, four bids were submitted for the one-acre island in eastern Long Island Sound, including one for $100,000 from the New London Maritime Society. But within moments of acceptance of its bid by the General Services Administration, the federal agency in charge of the sale, the Maritime Society was faced with upping its offer if it remains committed to acquiring the property.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, a high bid of $130,000 had been accepted by the General Services Administration, the third received after the Maritime Society's bid. Susan Tamulevich, director of the society, indicated earlier in the day Tuesday the society would be submitting at least one more bid. Its initial $100,000 bid was sent via overnight mail to the GSA, and was posted on the agency's web site Tuesday morning.

"We have a strategy," she said. "The more I think about it, the more I think this is the right thing to do."

Tamulevich said that by helping the Maritime Society acquire Little Gull Island, people will help preserve an important part of the region's history. Both the lighthouse at Little Gull and New London Light, already owned by the Maritime Society, were the work of the same builder. In addition, the lighthouse at Little Gull played an important role in the War of 1812, which has been commemorated this year with events marking its 200th anniversary.

"Two hundred years ago, the lighthouse keeper (at Little Gull) stood up to protect the Connecticut shore, and with all the interest in the War of 1812, people should stand up to protect Little Gull Island," she said. "There's still time. There will be more bidding, and we hope to be a part of it."

Thus far five other bids are registered on the GSA website for the auction, which will conclude just after 1 p.m. today. Prior to the Maritime Society bid, the highest offer was $90,000. The identities of the bidders are not being released by the GSA. Both the state of New York and the town of Southold previously, in which the island is located, said they are not interested in acquiring Little Gull Island.

Once the public action concludes, registered bidders can continue to bid among themselves for several more days. The Maritime Society has set up an online fundraising campaign to accept donations for the purchase of the island that will be used to increase its offer. Donations can be made to: http://en.indiegogo.com/Save-Little-Gull-Island or to the Maritime Society, www.nlmaritimesociety.org, or Save the Sound, www.ctenvironment.org.

Save the Sound, a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, worked with the New London Maritime Society over the past several weeks to secure funding for the bid from the New London Community Foundation, several other anonymous donors and The Quebec-Labrador Foundation, a nonprofit group that supports conservation initiatives in the North Atlantic region.

The island, located about 12 miles from New London, is located between Plum and Fishers islands. The Maritime Society wants to manage preservation of the 1869 lighthouse on the property and work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage the rest of the island for wildlife habitat.

In a news release, Save the Sound said Little Gull has "excellent potential" to support nesting seabirds in the future, because of its proximity to Great Gull Island. That island, owned by the American Museum of Natural History, is home to North America's largest colony of roseate terns, a federal endangered species. Little Gull is also important foraging area for roseate and least terns, according to Save the Sound.

"The management and protection of this island will contribute toward the larger island protection effort in this part of Long Island Sound," the organization said.

Patrick Sclafani, spokesman for the GSA, said the closing date of the sale will be no later than 60 days after the winning bid is chosen. The amount of the bid will be the primary consideration in choosing the winning bid, he added.

j.benson@theday.com

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