Rebirth and return: Wilton native assumes Soundkeeper role, in a vessel honoring Terry Backer

The Soundkeeper boat was christened the Terry Backer, in honor of the organization’s founder at late Stratford state representative, on Thursday, Aug. 3, at Brewer’s Marina. It would have been Backer’s birthday. — John Kovach photo

The day that would have been Terry Backer’s birthday was one of rebirth for the organization he established, and a return for the man who will now fill his role.

Soundkeeper, now merged with Save the Sound/Connecticut Fund for the Environment, has been relaunched. On Thursday, Aug. 3, a boat for the Soundkeeper was christened in honor of Backer, the late state representative from Stratford and advocate for clean water.

The ceremony also marked the introduction of Bill Lucey, who will assume the role that thus far has only been performed by Backer until his death in December 2015. Born in Wilton, Lucey nearly circumnavigated the world on a three-decade journey that has brought him back to his hometown.

Speaking on the dock at Brewer’s Marina in Stratford, with the Housatonic River behind him, Save the Sound/CFE Executive Director Curt Johnson called it “the biggest day of this decade for this organization.”

Lucey served in the Peace Corps. He did odd jobs related to fish, including fishing for lobsters, off Montauk, Long Island. He led a coalition to successfully contest a timber sale on tribal lands in Alaska, lobbied federal agencies in Washington, D.C., and coordinated the writing and passage of a 2017 invasive species bill in Hawaii. Most recently, he served as project manager for the Kauai Invasive Species Committee at the Research Corporation University of Hawaii.

Lucey arrives on the heels of a report from Save the Sound that finds deteriorating beach conditions in West Haven, Bridgeport and Fairfield. Lucey will look into why, and what can be done to fix any problem.

“He’s going to be the guy out patrolling those beaches and making things better,” Johnson said.

“But perhaps most importantly, he is going to be building on the movement that Terry Backer created here in the Sound what the Waterkeeper Alliance is all about, which is to build a movement.”

That movement, Johnson said, would unite anglers, shellfishermen, people who love the beach and “citizens” all over the state.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-3rd) said it was fishermen and lobstermen who, three decades ago, noticed the Long Island Sound was dying and created the Soundkeeper post in an attempt to save it.

“There is really no more appropriate a name for a vessel on the Sound than the Terry Backer, because Terry was a fearless warrior and a tireless advocate for the Long Island Sound. He gave the Sound his heart and his soul,” said Marc Yaggi, executive director of the Waterkeeper Alliance, who called Backer a “hero, mentor and friend.”

“Terry was the driving force behind a small group of advocates who helped create a global movement for clean water,” Yaggi said, “what ultimately became the Waterkeeper Alliance.”

“Terry taught us to the bold and to never give up,” Yaggi said, “and so that lesson now passes on to the new Soundkeeper organization and the new Soundkeeper, Bill.”

Micah Tucker donated the circa-1985 21-foot Mako, with equipment donated by others in the maritime industry, Johnson said. Cheryl Backer broke the bottle across the bow to officially name it in her late brother’s honor.

As Backer did before him, Lucey will patrol the Sound seeking sources of pollution and constantly monitoring its health.

“I’m confident that having Bill on the water is going to strengthen the protections for the Sound,” DeLauro said.

She added that the importance of the role of Soundkeeper “cannot be overstated,” giving the deaths of fish and wildlife, algae blooms and other threats to the vitality of the Sound that were prevalent 30 years ago.

“Lobstermen and fishermen were the first to notice,” DeLauro said, “and their call to action literally saved the Sound.”

Lucey said he left Wilton in 1986, after a boyhood spent playing soccer around the area and fishing places such as the Housatonic River, which flowed behind him.

“This is my first time moving back,” he said. “It’s been about a 30-year — as Australians would call it — walkabout.”

During those travels, his work always had something to do with fish.

Lucey said marshes are deteriorating and sea levels are rising in the Long Island Sound.

“Some people don’t like to talk about it,” he said. “Fishermen notice.”

Non-partisan action, he said, is required when the environment is involved. Lucey said he was told, “If you see a bunch of people lined up on the docks, say, at Calf Pasture casting lines for bluefish, hanging out, relaxing, no one cares if they’re Republican or Democrat,” Lucey said. “They’re enjoying their fishing. We really need to bring this country back to that middle ground.”

About author

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© HAN Network. All rights reserved. Monroe Courier, 1000 Bridgeport Avenue, Shelton, CT 06484

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress