Tag Archives: Barlow Cutler-Wotton

Celebrate A New Children’s Nature Trail

Fifty years ago, the newly formed Aspetuck Land Trust preserved its first open space.

Ralph Glendinning donated 20 acres off Weston Road, adjacent to the wooded area where he was building an office for his marketing firm.

Originally called Twin Bridges Preserve, it was renamed the Leonard Schine Preserve in honor of the local lawyer who helped Barlow Cutler-Wotton form the ALT. Schine told her that the organization should always be “for, not against.”

Aspetuck Land TrustSince 1966 the Land Trust has preserved 146 open spaces and 40 miles of hiking trails, covering more than 1,700 acres in Westport, Weston, Fairfield, Easton, Wilton, Redding and Bridgeport.

At its half-century mark, the Leonard Schine Preserve is getting renewed attention.

This year, the ALT built a new nature trail for children there. The aim is to engage kids’ hearts, minds and imaginations outdoors.

A grand opening is set for this Saturday, June 11 (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Christine’s Critters presents her rehabilitated wild animals, including Chester the Red-Tailed Hawk. Ira McIntosh (the Catskill Mountain Music Man) will sing and tell stories.

The new trail is part of a 10,000 square-foot natural playground. Set in a meadow, there’s room for fort building, digging, tea parties, tower climbing, trail walking, stick stacking, nature collages and more. There’s even an elven village where children can play with pine cone dolls, honing their imaginations and fine motor skills.

The Natural Playground was voted one of the Top 50 Playgrounds in the U.S. by Early Childhood Education Zone.

Part of the Children's Playground at the Leonard Schine Preserve.

Part of the Natural Playground at the Leonard Schine Preserve.

The play areas were built with natural materials — primarily red cedar, found natively in the Leonard Schine Preserve — and sticks, logs, saplings, pine cones and acorns collected by volunteers from the Land Trust and nearby businesses.

You may not have heard of the Leonard Schine Preserve — located a few yards off a major road — or even the  Aspetuck Land Trust.

But it’s a hidden Westport gem. Just like the organization that — for 50 years — has developed, maintained and gently improved it, for all who discover and enjoy it.

(To learn more about the Leonard Schine Preserve, click here.)

Downtown Salt Marsh Threatened By Development

Last Sunday’s photo challenge showed a sign for “Taylortown Salt Marsh.” Though the 3.2- acre preserve sits in the heart of Westport — the Saugatuck River, off Wilton Road and Kings Highway North, opposite the “Fort Apache” medical complex — it’s unknown to many Westporters.

That will change soon.

Tomorrow night (Thursday, January 21, 7 p.m., Town Hall), the Planning and Zoning Commission discusses a proposal for a 45,796-square foot, 5-story, 48-unit apartment building planned for 122 Wilton Road.

122 Wilton Road -- site of the proposed 6-story, 48-unit apartment building -- sits at the corner of Kings Highway North. The property abuts the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

122 Wilton Road — site of the proposed 6-story, 48-unit apartment building — sits at the corner of Kings Highway North. The property abuts the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

The developer — Garden Homes Management — is using Connecticut’s Affordable Housing Statute. Known as “8-30G,” it allows developers to add “affordable units” that override local zoning regulations, in towns where less than 10 percent of the housing stock is considered affordable.

In this case, 30 percent of the units — numbering 15 — would be “affordable,” as defined by state housing law.

Th3 8-30G regulation was part of a 2014 plan to build 200 apartments on the site of the Westport Inn. First Selectman Jim Marpe and P&Z chair Chip Stephens instead found a local buyer who understood the importance of maintaining the lower-impact inn on that small-footprint, already-crowded stretch of the Post Road.

The Aspetuck Land Trust — which owns the Taylortown tract, and spent the last 3 years saving the marsh from invasive weeds — is not pleased.

An email from the organization warns of negative environmental impacts to the marsh and river, as well as destruction of views of the estuary.

Garden Homes believes that development of the site will not impact the wetlands.

One view of the Taylortown Salt Marsh...

One view of the Taylortown Salt Marsh…

Interestingly, the Aspetuck Land Trust itself is a direct result of a struggle to save the salt marsh from being filled and developed in the 1960s.

Back then, there was no legal protection of tidal marshes. Inland wetlands were thought of as boggy areas to be filled for level building lots, the Trust says.

When Barlow  Cutler-Wotton learned of plans to build a geriatric hospital on the Wilton Road/Kings Highway North corner, she contacted attorney Leonard Schine. He based his case on traffic congestion. The P&Z denied the application.

...and another.

…and another.

Cutler-Wotton went on to form the Aspetuck Land Trust, for Westport and Weston. The Trust buys, or receives as gifts, property that it then preserves in natural states as open space. The organization acquired Taylortown Salt Marsh in 1987.

The Trust will have to work hard now to keep it. 830G is a powerful state statute. It overrides most local rules and regulations — except those related to the environment or safety.

Let Westport’s newest battle begin.

(Tomorrow’s Planning and Zoning Commission evening meeting is open to the public. So is a P&Z field trip tomorrow morning to examine the property. It begins at 8:15 a.m., at 122 Wilton Road.)