The New London Maritime Society and its partners have made a $100,000 bid to acquire Little Gull Island with the hope of preserving its wildlife habitat and historic lighthouse.
The society, which is based out of the Custom House Maritime Museum, has worked with the environmental group Save The Sound to raise funding for the bid to the General Service Administration. Several other organizations have joined in the effort, including the Quebec-Labrador Foundation, Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, and private donors.
Little Gull Island includes about one acre of territory and is located in Long Island Sound, seven nautical miles from Orient Point in New York on the western edge of the Race. Along with Plum Island and Great Gull Island, it is in a Long Island Stewardship Site recognized by the Long Island Sound Study.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has named Little Gull Island a significant coastal wildlife habitat due to its proximity to the other two islands in the study. According to Save The Sound, Great Gull Island includes North America’s largest colony of the roseate terns, which are on the endangered species list, and Little Gull Island is a “critical foraging area for roseate and least terns.” Great Gull and Plum Islands are also habitats for piping plovers, which are on the threatened species list.
The GSA is also considering Plum Island for sale. The New London Maritime Society is not listed as a member of a coalition seeking to prevent the sale of the 840-acre island, but it has expressed opposition to the proposal in its newsletters.
In additional to environmental protection, the bid seeks to preserve an 81-foot lighthouse on Little Gull Island. First constructed in 1806, the present structure was built in 1869 and is a navigation aid for the hazardous waters of the Race. The lighthouse, which is owned by the Coast Guard, is active and part of the National Register of Historic Places.
“If today's bid is accepted, the New London Maritime Society will manage the preservation of the lighthouse and will work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to potentially manage the wildlife property,” said Susan Tamulevich, executive director of the Custom House Maritime Museum, in a statement.
The New London Maritime Society took stewardship of the New London Harbor Light in 2010. It has also expressed interest in Race Rock Light, a lighthouse built in the Race between 1871 and 1878. The GSA announced in June of 2011 that this and 11 other lighthouses would be available to “eligible state or local entities, nonprofit corporations, historic preservation groups, or community development organizations.”
The Custom House also began holding Sentinels on the Sound, a series of lighthouse tours and events, in 2011. Tamulevich said Race Rock and Little Gull are among the beacons visible from the top of New London Harbor Light.
“With ownership of New London Harbor Light, our partnership with the Ledge Light Foundation, and the acquisition of Race Rock and Little Gull, the New London Maritime Society will secure a strong, local stewardship for the beacons leading to New London,” said Tamulevich.
The auction will close on Wednesday, but bidding among the registered bidders—who are kept anonymous—may continue for several days. According to the GSA auction site on Little Gull, there have been five bidders on the island starting with a $50,000 bid on May 31. The $100,000 bid was logged today and automatically eclipsed by a raise to $110,000 from the third bidder.
The New London Maritime Society has set up a page for online donations toward their effort to acquire Little Gull Island, saying it believes it needs another $50,000 to secure the highest bid. Donations may also be made directly to the society or Save The Sound.