GROTON — Due to an overly strict interpretation of its mandate, a state agency could end up being the cause for the cancellation of a popular event involving a Civil War re-enactment and encampment.
According to Town Manager Mark Haddad, the state’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife turned down a request by the sponsors of a planned Civil War reenactment to use its portion of the Surrenden Farm property as the site for an encampment and mock battle.
The original intention of event organizers was to hold the reenactment at Hillbrook Orchard off Old Ayer Road as they did two years ago, but problems with the land’s owners forced them to look elsewhere for a suitable site.
With only two months remaining before the planned encampment, organizers teamed with local supporters including Parks Commissioner Donald Black to find someplace else in town where the event could take place.
Use of the Surrenden Farm site was chosen after a visit and a subsequent meeting with the Board of Selectmen took place, seeking its support in using portions of the property for the reenactment, encampment and parking.
Organizers had in mind a 14-acre spot that could provide adequate parking for vehicles that were expected to bring an expected over 2,000 visitors to the three day event which was scheduled to take place over Oct. 9 to 11.
Unfortunately, the area that had been chosen as the site of the actual battle reenactment lay within the portion of the Surrenden Farm property controlled by the state’s Fisheries and Wildlife department, which chose to interpret the conservation restriction placed upon it in the narrowest sense.
News of the refusal was given to selectmen by Haddad at the board’s Sept. 8 meeting.
Claiming they had paid $2 million for the conservation restriction, state officials said they were responsible to make sure that the land was used only for more passive recreational purposes such as hunting and fishing.
Frustrated at the turn of events, annoyed selectmen noted that Groton had paid $5 million for its share of the property and were willing to allow the reenactment to go forward considering it an appropriate kind of passive use.
But despite the setback, as of last Monday, Haddad said that event organizers were still determined to find a suitable location in Groton for the re-enactment.
In the meantime, board member Fran Dillon suggested that in the future, any potential partnerships with the state involving land acquisitions should be more carefully considered.