MILFORD, CT — At Walnut Beach, there is a sign showing many creatures who call the popular beach their home. Over time the sign has faded, and if one wants to see it, one must get near the sign to make out what it used to look like.
However, Erik Johnson of the Walnut Beach Association is leading a fundraising campaign to reproduce the sign and add two more signs so people can learn what animals live on the beach and what they can do to protect Milford’s beach.
“In 2019, I had a student who wanted to do an Eagle Scout Project, and there’s a patio at Walnut Beach that was damaged during Sandy and Irene Hurricane,” said Johnson. “One of the problems was the environmental sign washed away, so we wanted to have that replaced.”
A year later, During COVID, Caroline Chesson, a former Jonathan Law High School student, contacted Johnson and told him she had worked on a Google Maps overlay project.
“It was a tour of the boardwalk, and you could scan the QR code, and you would click on different things along the boardwalk, and it would give you environmental facts and figures about some things about our environment,” Johnson said. “So, we are at an opportunity now where these two projects have come together, and we can, with a little bit of funding, restore the signs already here but add two more.”
Johnson said the two signs would be at the start and end of the mile-long boardwalk connecting Walnut Beach with Silver Sands State Park and have the QR code.
“Visitors can scan the QR code and take the tour,” he said. “We are going to keep that tour up to date through the years with various changes to the environment, and we are hoping to add some historical pictures as well as promotional stuff for events that might happen at the park.”
The Digital Environmental Awareness and Signage Project at Walnut Beach is still fundraising.
“We do have the support of City of Milford Open Space Coordinator Jeremy Grant, who has been a big help,” Johnson said. “We also have the support of public works to help us put the signs at the public parks.”
Johnson said they started with a 45-day window, now 24, from Sustainable CT, who agreed to match the funds.
“In the past couple of days, we have raised over $1,000, and we have had 18 different donors,” he said.
Johnson said The Milford Med Spa has made the biggest donation of $500 towards the project.
“This has been a community project with many people donating to the project,” he said. “It’s been uplifting to hear people say what a great idea it is.”
With 24 days to go, the project has received $1,095, and the goal is $1,500. (View the fundraising page here).
“I want to install a QR code on the main sign, so when people scan it, they can see who the donors were,” Johnson said. “I believe those people deserve that if they want to be recognized.”
The now-faded environmental sign featured original artwork by a local artist, and Johnson said he’s secured the rights to reproduce the artwork.
“Since I’ve lived here, I’ve noticed this park has ballooned in popularity and has been visited by folks from all over, not just Connecticut,” Johnson said. “This is an opportunity for us not just to teach visitors what is natural to this place and to teach them about the plight the nature is going through and some of the things we humans can do to help restore the original beach environment.”
Johnsons said the project is a combination of information and conversation.
“The Walnut Beach Association is concerned with the improvement of the neighborhood, and part of that is beatification and conservation,” he said. “This project is truly nature-driven.”
Saul Flores,Patch Staff