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Trump's Plum Island Golf Course Development: Welcome to Anthrax Acres

By Steve Fagin

Publication: theday.com

Published October 05. 2013 4:00AM

So, which statement by Donald Trump about his plans to build a golf course on Plum Island, instead of allowing conservationists to convert the 840-acre property off Long Island's North Fork into a wildlife refuge, is more laughable:

"It would be a low-key and beautiful use for the area."

Or, "The community would love what we would do. We're adored all over the world."

Trump, who is to good taste, humility and environmental sensitivity what Miley Cyrus is to wholesome entertainment, made the pronouncements this week in connection with his proposal to buy the island from the federal government after it closes a high-security livestock disease testing lab that has operated there since 1954.

The Donald told the Associated Press that if the General Accounting Office approved the sale, "We would do something, but it would not be on a big scale. We would look at it and come up with something appropriate."

Meanwhile, after the federal government announced its intentions in 2009 to sell Plum Island, environmentalists persuaded officials in Southold Town, N.Y. to rezone the island to prohibit precisely the type of development Trump envisions.

"This is exactly our fear, that this island will become a Club Med for the rich," Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the nonprofit group Citizens Campaign for the Environment, told the Long Island newspaper Newsday.

First of all, a good part of Plum Island isn't exactly pristine. In addition to housing the lab that studies foot-and-mouth disease and other illnesses dangerous to cattle and pigs, the island includes a defunct U.S. Army base and a lighthouse. There also have been persistent rumors, always vigorously denied by government officials, that the Plum Island lab has been used to study anthrax.

I would think foes of any Trump project might try to bring this up, since it's not generally a good marketing strategy to attract people to a place connected, however remotely or scurrilously, to a deadly disease.

I don't think you'll be seeing any "Visit Anthrax Acres" sales brochures.

Such ominous reports helped propel the narrative of Nelson DeMille's entertaining 1997 novel, "Plum Island," in which nefarious scientists are suspected of carrying out biological warfare research.

Fanciful tales or not, I've always steered a good distance from Plum Island whenever I've kayaked past there en route to Orient Point from New London. It's a challenging, 28-mile, round-trip excursion that must be timed perfectly with the tides to avoid getting sucked into the vortex of Plum Gut, among the hairiest stretches of confused seas in local waters.

Anyway, I've always seen plenty of gulls, terns and herons on Plum Island, and none seemed any the worse for wear despite the government research. I hope they get to live there quietly, without dodging errant Titleists.

Changing gears, hope many of you can show up Monday for a meeting to discuss plans for a 14-mile trail connecting Groton and Preston. This is a great idea, a lot of people have been working for years to promote it and public support is needed.

Forum Monday on Groton-Preston trail

Groton – State and local officials will participate in a public forum Monday organized by a group working to create a 14-mile trail connecting Bluff Point State Park in Groton.

The panel discussion on "Reservoirs and Recreation: the Challenges and Opportunities in Developing Public Trails on Reservoir Lands" will take place at 7 p.m. at the Groton Senior Center on Route 117.

Panelists will include Paul Yatcko, director at Groton Utilities, which owns reservoir property through which the proposed trail would pass; Laurie Giannotti, trails and greenways coordinator for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; Eric Hammerling, executive director of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, which oversees some 700 miles of blue-blazed recreational trails in the state; and Lori Mathieu, who heads the Connecticut Department of Public Health Drinking Water Section.

The association recently learned that the Federal Highways Administration, with the recommendation of The Connecticut Recreational Trails Advisory Board, has approved the Town of Ledyard's application for a $128,000 grant that will help plan the trail and secure rights of way.

The trail would connect 4,000 acres of state and local open space, requiring only seven road crossings. Some 40 percent of the trail already exists so the group just needs to obtain access to about 10 additional property owners.

More information: www.tritowntrail.com.

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