Refuge History

Esther Lape shakes hands with Assistant Secretary of the Interior Nathaniel P. Reed during the ceremony to create Salt Meadow National Wildlife Refuge.

The Significance of Salt Meadow

Salt Meadow is the original part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge. When Esther Lape donated her Westbrook estate in 1972 - making it the first piece of Federal conservation land in Connecticut - she started a trend. Since then, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been able to acquire small parcels of land along the Connecticut coastline that represent some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and wildlife habitat areas that still exist here. Without Lape's initial interest in the concept of putting significant conservation land "under national administration" the refuge may not have come into being.

The human story behind Lape's Salt Meadow - which includes other significant women of the past like Elizabeth Read and Eleanor Roosevelt - is certainly worth exploring. The landscape of Salt Meadow today, with it's trails and historic buildings, still evokes the presence of these people and what they did to preserve the land. 

To learn more about the personalities that were instrumental in shaping Salt Meadow during the 20th century, download and read Esther Lape's Salt Meadow from the Perspective of a Half-centuryPart One and Part Two.

To better understand the deep friendship and intellectual connections Eleanor Roosevelt had with Lape and with Salt Meadow itself, search Roosevelt's regular newspaper column My Day. There are more than seventy references in her column that relate to Salt Meadow and the people here.