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Waterford eighth graders take Gov. Malloy to task

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published 11/28/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 11/28/2012 08:26 AM

Goaded by a local writer with an interest in Groton's Fort Griswold, I wrote in August that the opening of the state's two-year, $27 million branding tourism campaign, Still Revolutionary, strangely omits the state's Revolutionary War prize - the most distinct remaining fort of the war in the country.

I'm not surprised that newspaper column fell on deaf ears in Hartford.

Three months later, you still can't find a mention of Fort Griswold on the state's tourism website without specifically searching for it.

It is not included in any of the featured sections for state attractions on the site, including an interactive map of places to visit and a timeline of Revolutionary events in Connecticut. A big picture of Gov. Dannel Malloy and a welcoming message are easy to find, though, on the home page of ctvisit.com.

But while I am OK with being ignored, I was disappointed that the governor also seemed to turn a deaf ear to a group of Waterford eighth-graders, who later also took up the cause of including Fort Griswold in the state's new tourism campaign.

The history students at Clark Lane Middle School in Waterford were much more eloquent than me, in a series of letters they wrote together and sent to the governor in September.

"We are proud of our state's heritage and history and believe that it is important in a campaign called 'Still Revolutionary' that we actually present the part that makes Connecticut revolutionary," wrote the students.

It's so simple that you would think they would get it in Hartford.

But no.

The state's tourism director told me, when I called the governor's office to ask about the students' letters, that it is unlikely that the Revolutionary War's Fort Griswold will ever be included in any of the television commercials for the Still Revolutionary campaign. None are planned for the first, two-year phase.

He did suggest that the students make a good point in their letters and said Fort Griswold might be included in other aspects of the campaign in the future, like online promotions.

But I am dubious about this claim, because he also told me Fort Griswold is included on the ctvisit.com site. Even with a search engine, you can only find the barest mention of the fort on the site, which trumpets all other kinds of attractions in the state, from the casinos to the whales at Mystic Aquarium.

Maybe the students are right when they suggest better promotion of the fort would lead to more visitors and a plan to invest more in its upkeep.

"Fort Griswold should be included in the campaign because it is forgotten local history, it needs the money and it is a unique Revolutionary War site," the students wrote to the governor. "Fort Griswold is run down and it doesn't show the beauty that it once was. If you put Fort Griswold into the 'Still Revolutionary' campaign, people will be more aware and people will pay money to see it.

"Then the maintenance will be increased and we can preserve this remarkable revolutionary site."

It makes you think maybe we ought to let eighth-graders run the state.

Gov. Malloy wrote back to the Clark Lane students in late October and said "Fort Griswold and the battle fought there are representative of the many great experiences Connecticut has to offer."

The governor acknowledged that the fort was not included in the Still Revolutionary TV commercials and campaign, but he suggested it is "highlighted" on the tourism website.

I guess he hasn't checked out that website.

I might take this chance to set the record straight. I wrote in August that the battle in Groton was the only one in Connecticut during the Revolutionary War.

I heard from a number of historians who there was also another battle in the state, in Danbury.

Of course, that battle is not mentioned either in the Still Revolutionary campaign.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

David Collins

Town News

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