Cetacean Society International hopes that Conny, the life-size replica of a sperm whale that has graced the grounds of the Children’s Museum in West Hartford since the mid-1970s, can be preserved.
By Ronni Newton
Cetacean Society International (CSI) is dedicated to “the conservation of whales, dolphins, porpoises and their habitats”, and its leaders hope that these conservation efforts will extend to saving Conny, the iconic concrete sperm whale armed that has stood sentry on the grounds of the Children’s Museum of West Hartford since it was hand-built there in the mid-1970s.
CSI “is thrilled beyond words at the prospect of beloved whale Conny having a new home near the Trout Brook Greenway,” the nonprofit’s president, the West Hartford attorney, said Thursday. , David Kaplan, after plans to move Conny into space right in front of Trout. Brook Drive have been made public.
Conny’s fate – the nickname is a nickname for ‘Connecticut’ – has been officially questionable since it was announced earlier this year that the land the 62ft sperm whale replica sits on, the Children’s Museum campus, has been sold. and will become a luxury residential development.
The need to move has been a possibility for years. Kingswood Oxford purchased the 950 Trout Brook Drive property – which is adjacent to its campus – from the Children’s Museum, then known as the Science Center of Connecticut, Inc., in 2003. At the time, the Children’s Museum, which had moved to the site in West Hartford in 1958 was already planning to move.
Conny, however, has been a beloved and visible symbol in West Hartford for decades.
“CSI literally built this great whale, by hand, with 200 volunteers and 15,000 man hours, about 40 years ago,” Kaplan said. “We wanted Connecticut to make a statement based on the history of near-extinction whaling in New England and the fact that we now cherish these great animals and want to prevent extinction.”
In 2016, many of the original volunteers returned to celebrate Conny’s 40th birthday.
According to Kaplan, Dr. Robbins Barstow, co-founder of the Cetacean Society, was the inspiration behind Conny. Its aim was to draw attention to the plight of whales and to have the sperm whale chosen as a state symbol. At the time, many of the Children’s Museum board members were also part of the “Save the Whale” efforts and seized the opportunity to have the statue on campus, which was then owned by the Museum.
The sperm whale was named Connecticut’s state animal in 1975 and has been symbolized by Conny for decades.
“It has been for all these years a symbol of conservation, if we do not take all the necessary measures to save the great whales, we will lose the great whales. Forty years ago, it was still commercial whaling. Today, in addition to the harpoon, it is climate change, plastics, pollution of the oceans that still keep whales in critical danger. Conny reminds us every day to never forget,” Kaplan said.
“CSI is thrilled that 21st century state legislative leaders have once again shown wisdom and foresight so as not to lose Conny. If a new home was not found, Conny faced extinction. House, Matt Ritter — and our own representatives from West Hartford — stepped in and didn’t forget about Conny,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan hopes that moving Conny across Trout Brook Drive to what is currently a grassy area that is part of Trout Brook Greenway, will not only be the best – and most economical – option to preserve the whale sculpture, but will also improve education. Conny’s value.
“CSI is planning a ‘Whale Trail’ that would lead to Robbins Barstow Whale Education Park (being a destination part of the Trout Brook Greenway). The original intent of why we built Conny would be fully restored. The Great Whale is a historic relic, handcrafted by conservationists 40 years ago. It is a symbol of what we have and what we could so easily lose – A statement that tells us not to forget that these animals are just off our coast and are still in danger,” said said Kaplan.
“And this new trail and park would be pure education,” he added. It could highlight “the science, history, Connecticut’s role, and environmental significance of the largest animals that have ever lived on earth.”
CSI has known for years that Conny would likely need to be relocated and has been prepared for the need to support preservation efforts. The organization is committed to helping with relocation, as well as future maintenance.
Kaplan said public participation, a “Friends of Conny Foundation,” will be needed to make the dream a reality.
“CSI calls on those who built Conny, along with their children and grandchildren, and all of the thousands of people who have come to see a life-size whale in West Hartford, CT, to be part of Friends of Conny as we establish the foundation that will care for, protect and enhance this priceless icon well into the future,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan and CSI are “happy beyond words that Conny [hopefully] stay in West Hartford,” and to have the support of the city’s mayor and city manager, who know and love Conny and support the whale as a prominent public feature.
“Enlightened state leaders have stood up to save her state animal,” Kaplan said, adding that the original mission to save the great whale is needed now more than ever.
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