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Environmentalists hope to preserve Bridgeport's urban forest near former arms factory

Sergey Galyonkin
/
Flickr

Environmental advocates delivered a petition with approximately 2,300 signatures to agricultural chemical company Corteva on Valentine’s Day.

But unlike most petitions, the effort signaled support for recent moves made by the company; namely, to conserve Remington Woods, a nearly 450-acre plot of land the company owns, rather than continue previous plans to turn it into a business park.

The petition was organized by the Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental organization with chapters across the country. The Aspetuck Land Trust, City of Bridgeport Office of Sustainability and Save the Sound were also participating.

Jhoni Ada, a community organizer for the Sierra Club, said the petition was meant to show the vast support that Corteva has in continuing plans to conserve the green space rather than use it for commercial businesses. She said the health benefits of the woods nestled within the urban landscape alone make the decision worthwhile.

“We have been calling Remington Woods Fairfield County’s last lung,” she said. “Fairfield County has some of the dirtiest air in the nation.”

Ada is pushing for the forest to become publicly accessible, and protected as a green space for the Bridgeport and Stratford communities. The land has been inaccessible for decades due to soil contamination – the Remington name comes from the Remington Arms Company, which was previously situated directly next to the land. Artillery was tested in the forest, as well as the lake within it, strewing lead and other poisonous materials throughout the area.

But more than two decades ago, the Environmental Protection Agency provided Corteva with a legal consent order to begin remediation in the area and remove toxins from the soil. State Representative Joe Gresko (D-Stratford), who co-chairs the state’s Environmental Committee, signed the petition to acknowledge the work that Corteva has done since to clean the forest.

“We have to tip our hats to them because they’ve stood by their word,” he said. “They have been remediating and continue to remediate the property.”

Gresko said the company has spent millions to make the land safe, including draining the forest’s lake and detonating any explosive material. He said the cleanup is set to wrap by 2025, after which he and more than 2,000 others look forward to enjoying the trees, water, and animals that are home to the forest.

Eda Uzunlar is WSHU's Poynter Fellow for Media and Journalism.