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Save the tail! Plan to preserve Conny the Whale scales back

 Conny the Whale at her home in front of the Children’s Museum in West Hartford.
Provided Photo
Cetacean Society International
Conny the Whale at its home in front of the Children’s Museum in West Hartford.

Conny the Whale, a massive 20-ton sculpture and a staple of West Hartford for decades, would be partially preserved on a public greenway under a new plan announced Friday by the Cetacean Society International.

“After much work and consideration, we have determined that our original plan to move Conny is far too costly and technically challenging,” the agency said in a statement. “Instead, we believe the best way to preserve Conny’s legacy and a significant portion of its structure is to remove its tail and install it on the Trout Brook Greenway, across the street from its current location.”

Conny’s story (the name is short for “Connecticut”) goes back to 1976 and an all-volunteer effort led by the Connecticut Cetacean Society. The group built the roughly 60-foot-long sperm whale to help raise awareness about dangers facing whales. For more than 40 years, the massive exhibition has inspired children and adults.

   Conny the Whale during its construction in 1976.
Provided Photo
Cetacean Society International
Conny the Whale during its construction in 1976.

Conny’s future became uncertain when Kingswood Oxford School, which has owned the former Children’s Museum property since 2002, sold the land to Continental Properties.

For months, Conny has been fenced off to the public. A new residential community is planned for the site. Volunteers tried to raise money to move the whale across the street onto West Hartford property, but estimated costs were around $250,000 or higher.

As of Friday, the GoFundMe to move Conny had raised about $12,000.

CSI President Jessica Dickens praised the effort but said plans to move Conny had to change.

“So many people have helped with the challenges, donated funds and come up with creative ideas at each step of the process. Moving just the tail is a fine solution. It retains Conny’s symbolic power and will continue to inspire children and others who visit Conny,” Dickens said in a statement.

CSI said it anticipates submitting a permit application to West Hartford to install Conny on the Greenway later in the spring.

Anyone who donated to the fundraiser should “be assured that their donations will continue to go toward preserving Conny, including the application, installation and ongoing maintenance for his new home … If a donor is not aligned with this new, more feasible approach, they can ask for their donation to be returned,” Dickens said.

Continental Properties, the new owners of the former Children’s Museum property, will cover all costs to remove and transport Conny’s tail to the West Hartford Public Works storage facility on Brixton Street, where it will remain until permitting approval.

Dickens said the date for the move will be shared soon.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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