Fairhaven, MA  

Town Beach at West Island 

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 Save West Island

East cove over the West Island Reservation looking northeast.
 
By M.L.Baron

With orange stake s placed in the ground and seeing low flying aircraft banking over obviously taking pictures, you know somebody’s up to something.  That was the scenario I saw as I routinely walked along the West Island Town Beach back in 1986. 
 
 
Areal video clip of the reservation taken at about 500ft
 
   I immediately called my long time friend and Board of Public Works member David Szeliga. I told him that we have to find out what’s going on the east side of the island. Sure enough, developers where surveying over 338 acres of  pristine land to build over 100 homes. Upon this confirmation, I told Dave who’s a naturalist as well, “How in the hell can we stop these guys from bulldozing half of the island into oblivion?”
 
   
This was a monumental uphill battle going against all odds.  We organized along with others and formed a grass roots group given the simple name of Save West Island Inc.
State Reservation  - southeast side looking west towards causeway (right)


      The so called “Massachusetts Miracle “ that Presidential candidate Governor Michael Dukakis, heralded to the media, was quickly fleeting. The timing was disastrous for our endeavor.  Without the state to back us up with funding to purchase the property from Realty Transfer of New Jersey, the destruction of more than half of the island to development was at a threshold.

Save West Island remembered at recent meeting (enter above)

 

 

 

   The clock was indeed ticking against our  favor.  Negative elements said it couldn’t be done and that our group was pissing in the wind. We were laughed at as a bunch of tree hugging political fanatics.  But our resolve never faltered, if anything, it became even stronger.  Save West Island bumper stickers were seen as far away as Worcester.  We couldn’t keep up with the demand for T-shirts and promotional videos.

After almost two years of lobbying, fund raising and hard work by our group, it became “politically correct” for those who hesitated to finally join in and support our cause. A long awaited urgent message was received.

    In December of 1988 the Save West Island newsletter announced that the Commonwealth of  Massachusetts   has concluded an agreement for the purchase and acquisition of over 338 acres of pristine wetlands and forestry of West Island for 1.6 million dollars.  It was one of the largest conservation land acquisitions in the region’s history since the days of the pilgrims.  Tears of joy, disbelief, and relief befell the membership at the final meeting of Save West Island Inc. at the Fairhaven Town Hall.

  Today the land is known as The West Island State Reservationdedicated to my late dear friend and compatriot David L. Szeliga.  The island reservation is a habitat for common, rare, resident and migratory birds.

Dave Szeliga was well known for the breeding of Golden Retrievers. He had customers from all over the country with his business "Fairlane Golden Retrievers". Dave would often bring his pups to local eldery homes for what he called "pet therapy" , much to the enjoyment of the residents. His assistant was his son, Ross. He was also an avid fisherman in local fresh water streams. (Photo courtesy Maryanne Regan, Dave's sister.)

 

 Save West Island Inc. received the distinguished

National Award “A”  from the National Audubon Society for

“Excellence in Environmental Action”.
West Island State Reservation

 The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

 

A 1988 Save West Island Newsletter

SAVE WEST ISLAND

What is it, and what does it mean to you?

As you read the history of West Island, you will learn (or be reminded) that this beautiful part of Fairhaven is more than just another Buzzards Bay island. It's unique character goes beyond its history, however for the majority of the island, the entire east shore, has never been developed and is accessible from the mainland. In short, it is one of the very few places left around Buzzards Bay where the average family can enjoythe untouched beauty of coastal nature without bumping into either "NO ADMITTANCE" signs or megabucks development. 

SAVE WEST ISLAND, Inc. was the brainchild of a few Fairhaven natives who were willing to work to save this irreplaceable public asset. Those few have been joined by a lot more of us who feel that the undeveloped  east shore should stay as it has been for hundreds of years - so that our children and their children can enjoy it as we and generations before us have enjoyed it.

 Accomplishing this will not be easy. Anyone who has glanced at the real estate section of the Sunday papers or has been on Buzzards Bay waters in the last few years is familiar with the dwindling amount of waterfront land still available and the breath taking  rise in the price of such land. The potential for wall-to-wall development has never been higher. On a more down to earth level, the island's ecology has been on a precarious balance for years. The island's limited fresh water aquifer and the waste disposal needs of existing homes have been on a collision course for some time. The pristine nature of the eastern shore shellfish beds is, at least partly, the result of their distance from this man-made intrusion.

SAVE WEST ISLAND, Inc. has as its goal the development of a consortium of private and public funding sources which may gain title to the land and preserve it, in its unspoiled state for our and future generations. In order tom accomplish this, we need to publicize the value of such action and possibly serve as a catalyst in bringing together potential funding sources. The Town of Fairhaven earmarked this land for conservation purposes many years ago, and this spring reaffirmed its intention through near unanimous Town Meeting approval of SAVE WEST ISLAND, Inc. sponsored resolution to formally concur with this goal.

We look forward to having your help in our efforts.

Fred Ryan, President

SAVE WEST ISLAND, Inc. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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