Here are some recent news stories you may have missed from around Connecticut.
A dream denied no more
At age 71, Gwen Goldman finally got to live out her 10-year-old self’s dream: To be a bat girl for the New York Yankees.
In 1961 a 10-year-old Westport girl named Gwen wrote a letter to the New York Yankees asking if she could fulfill her dream of being a bat girl. The team’s general manager, Roy Hamey, wrote back, denying her request. “While we agree with you that girls are certainly as capable as boys, and no doubt would be an attractive addition on the playing field, I am sure you can understand that it is a game dominated by men and a young lady such as yourself would feel out of place in a dugout,” Hamey wrote.
But six decades later, on June 28, her wish was finally granted. For the first three innings of the Yankees game against the Los Angeles Angels, Gwen Goldman was the bat girl. In full Yankees uniform, she also threw out the ceremonial first pitch and conducted a press conference. “It was a thrill of a lifetime — times a million,” said Goldman, now a Newtown resident.
Current GM Brian Cashman invited Goldman to Yankee Stadium after being forwarded an email from Goldman’s daughter, Abby McLoughlin, informing him of the original request.
“I didn’t hold it against them. I loved the Yankees,“ Goldman said. “I never in my wildest dreams — never thought that 60 years later, Brian Cashman would make this become a reality.”
That's the aggregate save rate for shelter animals in Connecticut in 2020, according to Best Friends Animal Society.
About 80% of Connecticut’s shelters (that’s 85 shelters out of 106) were designated as no-kill shelters, meaning they maintained a save rate higher than 90%* in 2020
Nationally, just 48% of all shelters were designated no-kill
In 2020, 14,423 dogs and cats were in Connecticut shelters, 13,267 of which were saved.
About 96% of dogs and 89% of cats were saved.
*The 90% save threshold for designation as a “no-kill” shelter is based on the premise that, typically, no more than 10% of dogs and cats entering shelters “are suffering from irreparable medical or behavioral issues that compromise their quality of life and prevent them from being rehomed.”
Some towns are getting hotter, faster
The average surface temperatures across Connecticut have increased over the past two decades, but one UConn researcher has found that the heat has risen more in some places than others.
Mariana Fragomeni, assistant professor at UConn’s Department of Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture, using satellite imagery from the past 20 years, found that the average surface temperature in communities like Greenwich, Stamford, Darien and North Haven has increased more than in other communities.
The reason? Urban sprawl. Places like Bridgeport, which has grown about as big as it can get, have gotten somewhat hotter. But temperatures have increased as much as 10 degrees over the last 20 years in places where concrete and asphalt have replaced what Fragomeni called “green infrastructure.”
“It’s the communities where, and this makes sense, people have gravitated,” she said. “They work in New York and they live in Connecticut. These are the communities that we’ve seen grow in the last 20 years.”
Fragomeni’s analysis is not complete, and she’s not sure why, but Darien particularly stands out. Looking at a map of temperature increases, Fragomeni said that “Darien has something going on because there’s a really big, little red spot here.”
“They’ll crawl over everything. The females will lay eggs anywhere — your garden furniture, your house, even your car… [it was] millions of caterpillars turning into millions of moths.”
— State Entomologist Kirby Stafford III, describing “a major outbreak of gypsy moths” in Litchfield County in 2021.
When the moths were in their pupal stage, as caterpillars, they were so dense that Stafford likened their droppings to “rain through the trees.” (It’s called “frass,” for the curious.)
Gypsy moths were introduced into Massachusetts in 1869 by French artist and amateur entomologist Étienne Léopold Trouvelot; by 1955 they had been spotted in all 169 Connecticut municipalities. In 1981, the caterpillars deforested about 1.5 million acres of trees, as they did again between 2015 and 2017, with smaller outbreaks every few years.
This year, the destruction won’t be as widespread, though it will be significant. It’s “much more focal and concentrated, but very heavy,” Stafford said. “There are entire mountains that have been completely defoliated.”
Connecticut’s forest gardeners
Volunteers have been planting trees — in existing forests. At the Hoffman Evergreen Preserve in Stonington, for example, volunteers from the Avalonia Land Conservancy along with the University of Connecticut’s Juliana Barrett, state foresters and Audubon Connecticut have been clearing dense woodland areas that are aging and overgrown with invasives to better prepare the forest for the effects of climate change, as the Connecticut Mirror reported.
With warming winters, increasing numbers of invasive pests and plant species, and land use, Barrett and her colleagues began to think about planting trees that would be resistant to those threats. “Maybe we could think about a resilient forest,” Barrett said. “What’s going to do well here in the future?”
The result, in places like the Hoffman Preserve, is old brush being cleared away and hundreds of new trees being planted. “The wild cards are drought and precipitation,” Barrett told the Mirror — especially with things like torrential downpours. “So we’re being very careful to put things like a tulip tree — which is found in moister soil — at the bottom of a slope, where it already is moist, to enhance their chances.”
A soldier finally comes home
Army Sgt. John E. Hurlburt was 26 when he was killed July 7, 1944, during a Japanese attack on the island of Saipan. Seventy-seven years later, the Madison resident’s remains have finally been identified.
Hurlburt had been a member of the 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division, and his unknown remains were buried along with his comrades in an Army cemetery on the Northern Mariana island in the Pacific. In fact, Hurlburt’s identification tags were found in the grave when the remains were disinterred in March 1948. But the American Graves Registration Service concluded the remains and the tags were mismatched. “The remains were buried at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines on June 15, 1950,” said Sean P. Everette, of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
On Dec. 6, 2018, in an attempt to identify the remains, they were again unearthed and subjected to modern analyses. “To identify Hurlburt’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence,” Everette said. The remains were found to belong to Hurlburt, and are scheduled to be buried in New Haven on Aug. 14.