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So what did we learn from walking the Sound, strolling along its beaches and rocky shores, dipping in and out of its marshy coves, tracing its history as we traversed 72 miles from Woodmont in Milford to Byram Point in Greenwich?
We met scores of people who draw sustenance from its waters and land. The Sound provides a livelihood for some, a neighborhood for others, inspiration for many, a playground for almost all.
There were parks and municipal beaches where we found easy access, private areas where we were warmly, even eagerly welcomed, and many communities — too many, in our view — where gates and security patrols told us to keep the heck out. Our informal rating system for access, which awarded a maximum five points, averaged right in the middle at 2.57. Greenwich, alas, had the lowest rankings, an average of about 1.8. For most people, the gateway to New England is locked.
We were reminded that we are the temporary stewards of this remarkable and beautiful place. Our footsteps took us past where speakeasies, resorts, mansions, factories and marinas once stood, replaced now by the modern structures of our leisure and our wealth. Presumably those face their own uncertain future in the hands of our children’s children.
Hey, Einstein was here. So were Hepburn and Karloff, Tweed and Barnum, nuns, scientists, sailors, financiers, TV stars, teachers, farmers. Some come and go. Some never leave.
We found environmental neglect and abuse. Abandoned cottages and factories, stinking water. But plenty of places where refuges have been created for creatures of the shore, where clean-up efforts have borne fruit. All of it, the bad and good, our own doing. The contradiction of our project is that unlimited access to our shores would endanger the Sound’s true natives.
In the end, the stories we found in Breaking the Sound Barrier are our stories. Not to be trite, but the Sound is us. We all have a stake in preserving it.
We met wonderful people, and learned a lot — including just how much we don’t yet know. So this is really just a start — and a promise to keep walking, keep learning and keep writing about the Sound and our magical shoreline.
Thank you for taking the trip with us.