I am a 19-year-old resident of Willington, a town in the Quiet Corner of Connecticut that my family has lived in since 1914. This town of about 6,000 people is living with the fear that their home is on the brink of transformation into something unrecognizable.
The state police wish to turn 326 acres of pristine woodland in the heart of our town into a massive training facility and gun range complex.
If the proposed facility is constructed, it would forever alter the dynamic and character of our town. It is heart-wrenching to know that this very property that my family has poured their lives into could instantly be ruined by a barrage of overwhelming noise, an exponential increase of police presence and the looming inevitability of lead contamination and stray bullets.
As a college sophomore, I am uncertainly wading ankle-deep into the sea that is American politics. This proposal is a direct violation of everything that I have ever learned about democracy, about the principles that are so essential to the identity of our nation.
At the public meeting conducted by the state police last May, it appeared they were not there to ask permission of the people, but rather to make it very clear that we, the citizens of this town, have no say in this process, that it is out of our hands, futile to contest.
Yet for these stubborn New Englanders for whom justice and freedom are as vital as water and air, who are willing to fight for their hometown and quality of life, this meeting was not a sentencing but, rather, a spark. The people of my town refuse to be submissive. An overwhelming number of residents made it very clear that this town is not an appropriate place for a paramilitary complex.
We believe this facility would seriously deflate property values, and irreparably tarnish the natural beauty and small-town appeal.
This proposal has already lit a fuse of destruction, the unraveling of our community. Residents are concerned that real estate deals will fall through because nobody wants to buy a house rattled by gunfire on a daily basis, where dogs cower under the kitchen table, and children are absorbing everything with curious eyes. At the end of the day, the State of Connecticut is always going to be able to trump the Town of Willington. The state does not have to abide by any of the town’s planning and zoning laws or noise ordinances.
Originally, there were three sites proposed: two in Willington and the one in East Windsor. It seems suspicious to me how, if the police are claiming to have given thorough consideration to all sites available, two of them fell in our little town. The owner of the other site in Willington has retracted his offer to sell. Prior to that, the police had proposed putting their facility on 30 acres in the Meshomasic State Forest in the affluent nearby town of Glastonbury, where a well-organized opposition group managed to quickly shoot it down.
This is not the America that I thought I knew, where laws were made to be followed, the voices of the people matter and discussions are two-sided.
The police have not been forthcoming with their information, stammering hazily about how Willington is a low-impact area. Within a mile of the site, there are two churches, a historic town green, Boy Scout hall, two schools and an apartment complex. I know that the police are not invested in this on a personal level, that they just want a new facility, but Willington is not the place for it.
They have not built a home here, been on their hands and knees planting apple and Christmas trees or learned to swim in a Willington pond. Most importantly, they have never lived here.
We do. And that is the difference.
Skyley Parizek is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut.