Branford resident Eric Johansson loved the outdoors! When he wasn’t out in his boat fishing, he was working at Vail Ski Resort, spending his free time skiing. But, summer was his favorite time of year. At the age of 10, Eric bought a boat with his own money. He took and passed the Connecticut boating class, and received his boating certificate. He loved to go out on the water with his black lab named Will. Eric found all of the great places to fish, including the waters around Spectacle Island.
As he got older, Eric graduated to bigger boats and ventured further out into Long Island Sound, but he always came back to “Spec,” the best place for blackfish. Eric respected Long Island Sound and the ways of the water, as well as the birds that nest on Spectacle, which he trusted to lead him to where the fish were jumping. When Eric wasn’t fishing, he and his friends could be found clamming and crabbing. His mother, Amelia (Amy) Johansson, says she would often come home to find a house full of boys cooking up a crab sauce.
Spectacle Island was purchased from the Town for $10.00 in 1872 by Philip Stedman. More recently, it has been owned by several generations of the Bracken family, including Amelia Bracken, Eric’s great grandmother. This year, his grandparents, Lucy and Bob Hayden have given the Branford Land Trust the opportunity to protect Spectacle in memory of Eric, who passed away in 2013.
“It means so much to my husband Gary and me when we drive on Linden Avenue to see Spectacle Island and remember our beautiful memories of our son,” writes his mother, Amy. “We are grateful to have this island protected in honor of his memory.”
Spectacle Island, just a half mile offshore from Indian Neck, is a bare granite outcrop island west of the historic Thimbles. “Spec” is undeveloped and remains an active nesting area of several species of sea birds, and is a popular resting spot for migrating seals.
The Branford Land Trust’s goal is to raise $200,000 to preserve and protect both Spectacle Island and Red Hill Woods, a stunning 29-acre parcel at the end of Red Hill Road, just north of 950 acres of protected open space. To learn more, for a schedule of upcoming Red Hill Woods pubic walks, and to make a donation, click here.