The H. Smith Richardson Wildlife Preserve is a Greens Farms gem.
Straddling the Southport border, it’s actually 3 parcels: a 24-acre Christmas tree farm at the top of Sasco Creek; a 14-acre field habitat across the way, and a 36-acre evergreen plantation by Hedley Farms Road, behind Greens Farms Academy.
It’s a gem because it’s open, and teeming with nature. But for a “preserve,” it wasn’t always well preserved.
Several years ago when Charles Stebbins joined the Connecticut Audubon Society board, the organization surveyed all 19 sanctuaries they managed. The one most in need of restoration: Smith Richardson.
For 3 years, volunteer days in November have drawn dozens of neighbors, friends and board members, plus Staples High School League of Boys and Builders Beyond Borders teenagers. Slowly but methodically they cut vines, cleared brush and cleaned the 14-acre habitat.
With the help of Oliver Nurseries, they planted 100 trees and shrubs — oaks, cedars, pawpaw, black gum, dogwoods, blueberries and holly. They seeded 4 acres with native pollinator flowers and grasses, and built a stone bench.
Regular users — hikers, dog walkers, cross country skiers — helped fund the project.
Early last year, the Long Island Sound Futures Fund — which combines money from the US Environmental Protection Agency, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation — awarded $145,780 to the Smith Richardson preserve.
The goal is to restore a coastal forest habitat. Stebbins calls the Greens Farms property one of the few remaining forests along Connecticut’s 100 miles of coastline.
A year from now, the area will be cleared of deadwood and invasive plants. Fields and meadows will be restored — exploding in bloom — and 1,200 trees planted. Professionals are doing much of the work.
The grant is contingent on $134,047 in matching funds. Neighbors and friends have already contributed generously.
“It’s heartening,” Stebbins says. “Greens Farms and Southport are so built up. To be able to restore this property is a great gift.”
Smith Richardson Preserve is a neighborhood gem.
But this is nature at its best. Everyone is welcome.