Eagle Scout candidate, Michael Collen, completed his project at our Indian Meadow nature area. The land trust has owned the 34-acre Indian Meadow property for more than 30 years, but had not developed it for public use due to difficult access issues. The access at White Oak Dr. has a steep slope and a stream crossing just down from the road. Michael’s project has made public access from White Oak Dr. safe and inviting. In 2018, he completed a bridge crossing over the stream and in summer 2019, he completed steps leading down from the road to his bridge.
Michael’s work opened the way for the land trust to develop a 2-mile trail system at Indian Meadow and to manage it for conservation purposes. Now that the project has been completed, the area is ready for public use.
We thank you, Michael, for the great work you did.
The Harwinton Land Trust continually maintains and improves its properties solely with volunteers. Last year (2018), land trust volunteers worked on our nature areas for a total of 599 hours on 68 separate days. The Town of Harwinton prides itself on the high level of volunteerism provided by its residents, and our land trust exemplifies the good things that can be accomplished with volunteers.
Spring, 2019 Work Parties
This past spring, the land trust held four work parties (Indian Meadow on 4/27, Bull Pond on 5/4, Forever Forest on 5/11, and Meadowview on 5/18). Work included trail improvements, installing park benches, mulching gardens, planting shrubs for wildlife conservation, and expansion of a pollinator meadow. The land trust wishes to thank all 24 volunteers who came out to help at our work parties: Kenn Baldwin, Bruce Baldwin, Paul Begley, Frank Buonocore, Karen Burnett, Brandon Burton, Brian Burton, John Chevalier, Bob Clark, Larry Connors, Cathy Cook, Steve Craig, Celeste Echlin, Bob Hart, Steve Kaczynski, Karen Kelleher, Dan Lyga, Matt O’Connell, Bob Orciari, Donna Potwin, Eric Rahn, Elaine Sederquist, Bill Tracy, and Sam Walker. We had fun and got to make new friends who share a love of the outdoors.
Fall, 2019 Work Party
On November 17, ten people helped clear a new trail on our recently acquired section of Forever Forest. Thanks to Frank Buonocore, Karen Burnett, Gary Griffin. Karen Kelleher, Franci Knight, Bob Orciari, Eric Rahn, Elaine & Bob Sederquist, and Fred Tullock for extending the trail another 100 yards from what is called Bernie’s Outlook.
Help from the Wilderness School
The Wilderness School is run by the CT Dept. of Children and Families (DCF) and fosters self esteem, personal responsibility, and interpersonal skills of young boys and girls attending the program. As part of the program, the kids are required to perform community service. The Land Trust and the Wilderness School have developed a close working relationship over the years. Starting in 2014, kids have come every year to help improve our trails and wildlife habitats. We feel that it’s a terrific program.
On July 9th, eight students and four of their counselors from the School arrived at Meadowview to gravel-over occasionally muddy sections of trail. A total of about 4 yards of gravel were wheelbarrowed more than 1,000 feet past the first boardwalk. From there, the kids spread gravel over about 300 ft. of trail. Land Trust Directors Steve Craig, Bob Orciari, and Eric Rahn assisted and provided guidance. Thanks to the Wilderness School, Meadowview’s entire trail system now provides dry walking, even during wet periods.
On November 2, a dozen kids from around the state along with four counselors from the School, assisted by Land Trust Directors Steve Craig, Bill Tracy, Eric Rahn and Bob Orciari, helped to improve the new trail at Indian Meadow. The kids wheelbarrowed about 4 yards of sandy/gravel fill and spread it over several hundred feet of trail. This fill, which had been inadvertently dumped on our property, was used to smooth over rough or soggy sections of trail. With the kids’ help, the entire trail system at Indian Meadow will now provide dry and safer hiking. Hemlock seedlings were planted for a visual buffer and daffodil bulbs were planted for spring blooming. An amazing amount of work was accomplished and we are grateful for their help.
The Harwinton Land Trust is very happy to have received a recent (fall, 2019) acquisition of 2 acres of land adjacent to its Forever Forest nature area, located off of Whetstone Drive. The acquisition was donated to the Trust through a generous donation made by Charleen and Bernie (deceased 2017) Chevalier. Bernie and Charleen loved the woods behind their home, and years ago decided to donate a portion of their land to the Trust. Both were long time Harwintonians and ran their kennel on RT 118 for 50 years. They were also long time members of the Land Trust. Bernie was an avid outdoorsman and Charleen loved outdoor work, especially keeping their property in meticulous condition. Both were simply very nice people. Charleen recently moved from Harwinton to be closer to family. We wish her the best.
The 2-acre donation provided the Land Trust with complete ownership of a high ridge affectionately called “Bernie’s Overlook”. Bernie’s nephew, John Chevalier, helped install a park bench on the overlook in Bernie’s honor. Previously, a trail led to the overlook’s bench, but it dead-ended at our property line causing hikers to return on the same trail. By having complete ownership of the ridge, the Land Trust was able to extend the dead-ended trail as a loop around the entire ridge. This new loop (marked with blue blazers, see Forever Forest Printable Map) added a substantial length to Forever Forest’s hiking system and now provides nice views of surrounding marshland. The tip of the ridge also contains several large slabs of sandstone. These slabs may have historic importance, as these types of rock may have been used to produce whetstones at a “factory” site known to have been located nearby off of Whetstone Drive (perhaps its the old stone foundation found within Forever Forest). The Trust is currently has working to extend the trail farther beyond the ridge to “islands” in the marsh with a series of bridges and boardwalks.
Eagle Scout candidate Lukas Bushka recently completed his project at our Bull Pond Preserve area. Luke and company built a beautiful kiosk which now houses our trail map for the Bull Pond area and our site map outlining our other properties.
The land trust is thrilled with the completion of an elevated observation deck at Bull Pond. We are even more appreciative of the project’s leadership provided by Eagle Scout candidate, Joseph Sefcik, and his crew of skilled advisors and hard working kids. Joey’s Eagle Scout project was intricate and very challenging, but was pulled off without a hitch. In addition to all the planning, purchasing of materials and pre-cutting of lumber, it took three work days with Joey and his crew of a dozen helpers to complete the project.
The Scouts held the official opening ceremony for the deck on August 19, 2018.
The deck is a great addition to our Bull Pond Preserve. It provides sweeping views of the remote upper area of Bull Pond, and should be an excellent place for bird watching. Thank you Joey and congratulations on completing your Eagle Scout project.
In summer-2017, the land trust began work to restore the large marsh at Forever Forest. Previously, the marsh contained standing water that supported native aquatic vegetation and excellent habitat for wildlife. However, it appears that sometime during the mid 2000s, two low berms that retained the water were breached, perhaps by a major flood that occurred in 2005 (see Marsh Aerial views 91-05).
Over the next decade, the marsh remained dry causing most native vegetation to be replaced by a non-native, invasive reed (Phragmites). Phragmites grows in tall, dense stands that provide poor habitat and a low aesthetic value.
The trust discounted any use of herbicides, but instead sought to reduce the reed by re-watering the marsh. We planned to do this by plugging two 7-10 foot-wide breaches in the berms with sand bags. We would need to use a total of 70 sand bags to fill both breaches. This would be a difficult task since we would need to haul the bags weighing a total of 1.75 tons over a quarter mile to the work sites. Fortunately, these challenges were not insurmountable. We received volunteer help from the kids attending the Wilderness School as well as from a good neighbor who allowed us passage on his adjacent woods road.
Land Trust members, Bob Hart and Eric Rahn hauled sand bags with a tractor along the woods road that came close to the property’s trail and within 200 – 500 feet of the two breaches.
Forever Forest’s Land Steward, Steve Craig, also used the bucket of his tractor to haul the bags.
On August 7, the Wilderness School came to Forever Forest to help with the marsh restoration project. The School is run by the CT Department of Children and Families (DCF). It is designed to foster self esteem, personal responsibility, and interpersonal skills of young boys and girls attending the program. As part of the program, the kids are required to perform community service. Prior to heading out on the trails of Forever Forest, students were told about the property, the restoration project, and how their help would be needed. This was the fourth consecutive year that the land trust received help from the Wilderness School, and once again the students did an outstanding job for us. Their help is always greatly appreciated.
Students and counselors from the School enthusiastically shouldered 50-pound bags along the trail to the work sites.
The students had to carry the heavy bags nearly 500 ft. along the trail to the farthest breach.
Students and land trust members worked together to rebuild the dikes. Surrounding rocks and soil were used to plug leaks and to provide a more natural covering over the bags.
A week after the breaches were plugged, standing water began to appear in the marsh vegetation. It is likely that much of the marsh will now be covered with up to a foot of water. Some additional work will need to be done on the refilled breaches to better naturalize their appearance, to stem minor seepages, and to direct more outflow to the area’s historic eastern stream channel. Such improvements were completed by land trust members in fall 2018. We hope that over the years we will see a reduction in the cover of Phragmites and an improvement in the marsh’s habitat for wildlife.
On September 17, the CT Botanical Society conducted a survey of the plants, shrubs and trees along Bull Pond. With its variety of habitats, the Bull Pond Preserve was an ideal location for a botanical survey. About a half dozen expert botanists from around the state came to conduct the survey. The Trust was impressed by their expertise and was truly honored to have such an organization dedicate its time to visit one of our properties.
One of the main goals of the CT Botanical Society is to increase public knowledge of the state’s plants. This was evident, as its experts were happy to share their knowledge with about 20 local residents in attendance. Professor Sigrun Gadwa, who led an informational walk, was enthusiastically willing to answer the barrage of questions of “what’s this”, “what’s that”, “is it good for wildlife”, “and can I eat it?” She was particularly helpful to several young people, who may be on their way to a career in protecting the environment.
Sigrun found a good diversity of shrubs along the east shore of the pond, including chokeberry, swamp azalea, shadbush, elderberry and several different low-growing spiraeas. She also pointed out a young pin oak, a species of tree which does not seem to be common in Harwinton. One of the sticktights, Bidens cernua, and also the blue joint grass were indicator species for unpolluted sites. Another indicator of good water quality was the fact that the shoreline marsh consisted of species like soft stem bulrush and branched bur-reed, rather than Phragmites. She found the abundance of purple New York aster along the shoreline and the ground cover of bristly dewberry and cinquefoil to be very attractive. She indicated that the area around the pond, with its diversity and accessibility, was exceptionally well-suited to teaching about pond-side vegetation.
Sigrun did point out an invasive shrub, glossy buckthorn, growing sporadically along the shore of the pond. She spent considerable time explaining how the plant can rapidly spread and how to eliminate it by painting an herbicide onto cut stems. Land Trust volunteers promptly treated all the buckthorn according to her recommendations, and will check for any re-sprouting next spring.
For anyone who wishes to learn more about plant identification, the CT Botanical Society maintains an outstanding website.
On July 23, 2016, Harwinton Land Trust members (Bob Clark, Larry Connors, Paul Edwards, Gary Griffin, Craig and Heather Henry, Bob Orciari, Eric Rahn, and Bill Tracy) installed 340 ft of boardwalk at Meadowview over two separate sections of trail. One 130 ft boardwalk spanned the tip of the south marsh and another 210 ft boardwalk was installed between the south and north marshes. Combined with close to 250 ft of boardwalk constructed along the side of the north marsh last year, Meadowview has close to 600 ft of boardwalks. The boardwalk system is now complete and will allow visitors to keep their feet dry, even during wet times of year. Meadowview’s trail loop is about ¾ mile in total length and was constructed with seniors and small kids in mind. The cost of lumber was covered through a grant by the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation.
On Saturday, May 14, the Harwinton Land Trust made improvements to the Bull Pond area that was devastated by the 2009 wind storm. Our accomplishments included:
Installation of wooden posts to provide a barrier at the edge of the steep bank near the dam,
installation of a bench at a scenic location near the boardwalk crossing,
weeding and mulching flower gardens around the land trust signs and observation deck,
The Land Trust wishes to thank the following for their good work: Tamara Christensen, Steve Craig, Gary Griffin, Steve Kaczynski, Karen Kelleher, Bob Orciari, Donna Potwin, Eric Rahn, Glen Richardson, Elaine Sederquist, and Peter Thierry with special thanks to Larry Connors for constructing our new beautiful and comfortable bench.
With the lack of snow this winter, the Land Trust has been able to get out and make improvements at Meadowview. Work centered on plans to extend the existing trail through the marsh located beyond Meadowview Pond. To improve views for hikers, small trees and brush were removed from the marsh.
With safe ice by late January, Land Trust volunteers were able to walk out on Meadowview Pond to install a wood duck nesting box. Meadowview Pond should be an ideal habitat for wood ducks.
Nesting boxes are intended to provide cavity space for wood ducks that are unable to excavate their own holes for nesting. According to the CT DEEP, wood ducks were on the brink of extinction by the early 1900s, but have recovered. Their recovery is partly due to the installation of nesting boxes.