The Preserve Management Advisory Committee has created an online survey, available now through Friday, March 1, for public input into the ways in which people will be permitted to use and enjoy The Preserve’s roughly 1,000 acres. A public meeting will be scheduled later in the year, once the information has been compiled and reviewed by the committee. GEI Consultants was hired by The Trust for Public Land to prepare a forest management plan, which will recommend a final trail system and a list of allowable public uses of The Preserve. The plan is scheduled for publication in late 2019. The survey has around twenty questions and should take around five minutes to complete, said Kathy Connolly, a member of the advisory committee. “This is just a part of what we were doing to put together a final recommendation for a trail map, a final recommendation for allowable activities, a final recommendation for how the trees and plant life and wildlife in the forest will be managed,” Connolly said. “It’s input into a process that’s been underway for a while and we welcome as many voices on the survey as wish to participate,” she said, noting that it is not necessary to live in one of the three towns The Preserve encompasses—Old Saybrook, Westbrook, and Essex—in order to take the survey. Those who come from out of state to use Connecticut’s parks and forests are just as welcome to participate, she said. The survey asks questions about how the respondent uses the park currently and how he or she would like to use it in the future. In addition to suggested uses that may be selected (“select all that apply”), there is an “other” option that allows the respondent to fill in other suggestions. It also asks about trails—current, unmarked trails as well as plans for future marked trails—and whether there should be separate trails for specific uses, listed as mountain biking, cross-country skiing, hiking, and horse riding. Further questions seek input into whether trails should be published in the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA) Connecticut Walk Book and whether there should be trails that connect to Old Saybrook’s Great Cedars East and West Conservation Areas. Allotted its own separate question is the issue of whether hunting should be permitted on The Preserve if the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) deems it safe. This issue may prove controversial as well as tricky, as the Town of Old Saybrook’s charter prohibits hunting within town limits, and Old Saybrook owns 50 percent of The Preserve. Those taking the survey may notice the absence of certain activities for which they have used The Preserve in the past. “There’s only a certain number of things that are allowable based as its status as a forest,” Connolly explained. One of the most difficult topics of discussion is the desire of some members of the pubic to use ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) and motorbikes on the land, which “is not allowed in any state forest unless there are specific designations,” Connolly said. The use of these vehicles will not be permitted in The Preserve and so are not included as options in the survey. Connolly emphasized that, as a forest, The Preserve has a markedly different purpose than a state park. A park is provided primarily for the enjoyment of the public. The primary purpose of a state forest, on the other hand, is to conserve habitats for plants, trees, and wildlife; people’s use of the area is designated as passive recreation. The survey is available at bit.ly/ThePreserveSurvey.