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Artist/Photographer Member Al Braden

The Connecticut River Project

One summer day, I was cruising up past Charlestown, New Hampshire in my 16 foot bow rider, passing farm fields, hills, sandy banks and a few small islands. Almost no sign of development, noise or civilization. How exquisite to be out enjoying this day!

"The river is under utilized," I thought.

I almost stopped the boat. "Under utilized!#$*&#&&*#!! Who are YOU to think such a thing? Would you be happier with an extra 100 boats per mile?"

"Well, no, it´s just fine like this, thank you."

And so with that bit of discourse, I began to think about our relationship with the Connecticut River. How do we relate to it? How have we used it? What has it been in our past? How has in sustained us? How did it
contribute to our history? Our development? Have we abused it? What is being done to conserve it? Who is doing what? What more needs to be done? How are we doing?

The history of the settlement of central New England traces its steps upstream from the original village of Wethersfield, Connecticut in 1634. Then exploration, settlement, wars. Transportation. Then timber harvesting and agriculture. Later, water power and mills. Towns like Bellows Falls, Turners Falls and Holyoke. Industrial mass production: Hartford, Springfield, and Vermont´s Precision Valley. Hydroelectric power. Dams everywhere, slowing the river. Railroads. Bridges. Highways.

Then with neglect and pollution, we were cut off from the water´s edge.

Now with clean-up, rediscovery, recreation, renewal, the Connecticut River again connects us.

My ten years of travel, exploration and photography produced a 160-page, 136-image photo essay published in September of 2009 by Wesleyan University Press, entitled: The Connecticut River, a photographic journey through the heart of New England. The book provides a visual and narrative journey down the river from it´s headwaters at the Canadian border in Northern New Hampshire, then following the Vermont and New Hampshire border, through central Massachusetts and Connecticut and finally pouring out into Long Island Sound at Saybrook Point Light. Ultimately, it leads to a call for care and conservation, eloquently written by Chelsea Reiff Gwyther, Director of the Connecticut River Watershed Council.

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