Tag Archives: Haskins Preserve

Scott Smith Discovers Westport’s Hidden Gems

Scott Smith is an alert “06880” reader, a longtime Westporter and an ardent outdoorsman. He writes:

If you ask Westporters to comment on our community’s natural charms, chances are most would cite the dazzling string of beaches and coastal places: Compo Beach, Sherwood Mill Pond, Gray’s Creek and Burying Hill. If pressed, they might claims Sherwood Island too.

Others would tout the Saugatuck River, from the fly fishing shallows along Ford Road to the impoundment of Lees Pond, and the tidal stretch through town leading to the mouth at Longshore and Cedar Point. Cockenoe Island gets a shout-out, too, especially from those with the nautical means to visit it.

Fishing off Ford Road (Photo/Richard Wiese)

But plenty of other places across Westport beguile with bucolic beauty. Many of these underappreciated open spaces are in the midst of a welcome renaissance, sparked by renovation efforts from those who love and tend them.

I’m talking about the town parks, preserves, land trusts and wildlife sanctuaries that constitute our remaining inland open spaces. Over the past year or two, I’ve visited quite a few. I always come away thinking how fortunate we are to be able to trod upon them.

“06880” has covered these developments over time, noting singular efforts and improvements. But if you step back and tally them all up, it’s quite an impressive list, covering virtually every part of town.

Over in Old Hill there’s the Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum. I toured it a couple of seasons ago with its caretakers, including Lou Mall and tree warden Bruce Lindsay. They’re spearheading its transformation from an untended patch of blow-downs and invasive vines to a fetching enhancement to the adjacent Earthplace facility.

Dead creepers line a Wadswworth Arboretum trail.

Coleytown has the Newman Poses Preserve, which affords a wonderful walk through meadows along the Saugatuck stream and through upland woods. Having the memory of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward and their family as you traipse along is a nice bonus. Their neighbors — and the Aspetuck Land Trust — get credit for giving us that open space.

Right near downtown there’s the blossoming of long-neglected Baron’s South, another town-led reclamation project with even brighter prospects in store as a nature-driven arts campus.

A path in Baron’s South. (Photo/Judy James)

And just down Compo, off Greenacre Road, is the hidden gem of the Haskins Preserve, my longtime favorite place for a weekend stroll.

Haskins Preserve’s dogwoods and daffodils — a lovely combination.

I have “06680” to thank for cluing me in to my newest place to take a hike: the Smith Richardson Preserve in Greens Farms. I’ve long known about the 2 parcels north of I-95. The Christmas tree farm off Sasco Creek Road is where I chop down a tree every year. I consider it in part my annual donation to the Connecticut Audubon Society, which manages the farm and the open space across the road.

But I had no idea of the separate property just across 95, a 36-acre parcel stretching from Sasco Creek all the way to the playing fields behind Greens Farms Academy off Beachside Avenue.

I walked it the other day, taking advantage of frozen ground to course through fields that are in the midst of being cleared of smothering vines and other invasive species.

It’s an impressive project, even if the space is hard by the highway and Metro-North rails. Hemmed in by neighboring houses big and small, and what looks to be a refuse depot managed by the railroad or state, the area has the look of a pocket-size Central Park in the making, with Olmstedian trails that wind through woods, and alongside meadows and ponds. I can’t wait to see how the property develops, with its ambitious new plantings and clearings, and whether the caretaking crews can keep the tick-haven invasives at bay.

Smith Richardson Preserve (Photo/Scott Smith)

These public/private corners of our community are all discovered places, at least for me. When I visit them, either with my dog or solo, I’m often the only one around. I like the solitude, and question why I’d even want to spread the word about them. Parking is often a pinch, and I’m not even sure about the proper access to the new Smith Richardson preserve behind GFA’s sprawling athletic fields.

But these largely hidden local natural spaces deserve recognition, and our support for the groups that manage them — the town, Aspetuck Land Trust, and the Connecticut Audubon Society — whether by check or volunteer hand.

Separately and together, they all make Westport a wonderful place to live and to explore.

Photo Challenge #150

Compo Road South is home to 2 beautiful town-owned properties.

Everyone knows Baron’s South. A few “06880” readers thought last week’s photo showed rocks and woods on that land a few steps from downtown, once owned by perfume mogul Walter Langer von Langendorff.

Nope. As Leigh Gage, Alec Head and Jamie Walsh knew, it was Haskins Preserve — the much-lesser-known gem on Green Acre Lane, off South Compo. It’s just as lovely as Baron’s South, and easier to access. Click here for the back story; click here for Wendy Cusick’s photo.

Equally rustic is this sign, commemorating Westport’s founding as a town. In fact, it looks like it dates all the way back to 1835. If you know where in Westport you’d see it, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Pic Of The Day #194

Haskins Preserve (Photo/Wendy Cusick)

“Tails, Trails And Tales”: Etiquette For Dogs (And Their Owners)

Haskins Preserve is going to the dogs.

Literally.

The 16-acre park off Green Acre Lane — itself a quiet, lovely road off South Compo — is an astonishing place. Filled with woods, meadows, 2 ponds, dams, and a spectacular assortment of rare trees, it’s one of Westport’s most wonderful little gems.

It’s beloved by nature lovers. Walkers. And — in this dog-crazy town — dog owners.

Haskins Preserve's dogwoods and daffodils -- a lovely combination.

Haskins Preserve’s dogwoods and daffodils — a lovely combination.

The latter group does not always treat the preserve well. I’ve posted 2 stories in the past 3 years about dog issues. One described bags of poop left on a sign requesting owners to remove waste. The other was about mounting mounds of doo left all over the beautiful property.

That crappy problem is now worse than ever. There are also reports of out-of-control dogs threatening wildlife — it’s a nature preserve, not a park — as well as other dogs, even people.

Ground nesting birds can be chased from their nests by free-running dogs — on purpose, or inadvertently. If it happens often, birds won’t return to the nest.

And dogs looking to refresh themselves with a harmless jump into a forest pool can silt it up, destroying egg larvae from salamanders and frogs. That, of course, affects many other types of interconnected wildlife.

Aspetuck

A hard-to-believe scene at Haskins Preserve.

Aspetuck Land Trust — the non-profit organization that maintains Haskins, as well as many other open spaces in Westport, Weston, Fairfield and Easton — is not rolling over and playing dead.

This Saturday (May 7, 10 a.m.-noon), they’re sponsoring a free, open-to-the-public class in dog and dog owner etiquette.

“Tails, Trails and Tales” will be conducted as a hike. Connecticut Audubon Society senior director of science and conservation Milan Bull, his dog Edge, and noted dog trainer Jason Hofmann will walk, talk and provide answers to questions you’ve always wondered about: What does a dog sense in the woods? What does a biologist observe? How do we accommodate both, and protect the environment too?

(Interestingly, except for Edge, this is a dog-free event. The hike leaders request no dogs, to avoid chaos.)

Responsible dog owners respect property -- and all animals.

Responsible dog owners respect property — and all animals.

“Tails, Trails and Tales” is limited to 20 people. To RSVP, email administration@aspetucklandtrust.

Parking is available at the preserve, on Green Acre Lane off South Compo.

Which is not to be confused with Westport’s actual dog park, Winslow, on North Compo.

(To read more about Haskins Preserve, click here.)

Hey, Has Anyone Seen My Shoes?!

An alert Westporter walking his dog this morning at the Haskins preserve looked up and discovered a new definition of “shoe tree”:

Shoes in Haskins Preserve

Meanwhile, for weeks another pair of shoes has dangled even more mysteriously above Myrtle Avenue:

Myrtle Avenue

Baby, it’s cold outside. This is no time to go barefoot!

 

 

 

Poop Plea

Haskins Preserve is an astonishing site on Green Acre Lane (off South Compo Road) administered by Aspetuck Land Trust. Its 16 acres are filled with woods, meadows, ponds, dams, and a spectacular assortment of rare trees.

Many Westporters have never heard of it. Those who have, treasure it as an oasis of beauty and solitude.

Most do, anyway.

Dog waste is a mounting problem at the Haskins Preserve. And it’s not just droppings on trails and paths. Some owners actually take the time to wrap waste in plastic bags — then leave them lying around.

Some sleazeballs “hide” the poop behind rocks and trees. Others are more brazen. They dump the dumps within sight of a sign saying, “Please remove dog waste.”

Steward Jamie Walsh has posted a video documenting this spectacularly rude and seriously obnoxious behavior.

Why don’t the stewards just put garbage cans at Haskins Preserve?

“We’re a volunteer organization, with a limited budget and resources,” Jamie explains. “It’s not practical for someone to empty them on a regular basis.

“And it would attract wildlife that would feast on the remaining garbage, which would then be strewn all over the parking lot.”

Haskins is a preserve — not a park. Is it too much to ask that if you bring your dog with you, then you take your dog’s business out?

For some Westporters, the answer is apparently: yes.

Haskins Preserve: no place for dog poop.

Haskins Preserve: no place for dog poop.

 

Do You Want To Know A Secret?

I thought I knew every place in town.

I’ve shown long-time Westporters the undiscovered treasures of Compo Cove.  I can point out the hidden teeny-tiny town-owned parcels off Beachside Avenue and Saugatuck Shores.

But until last weekend, I’d never set foot in Haskins Preserve.

In fact, I’d never even heard of it.

Minutes after discovering it, the 16-acre park off Green Acre Lane — itself a quiet, lovely road off South Compo — became one of my favorite spots in Westport.

One of the two ponds, with an island birds love.

It’s an astonishing place — woods, meadows, 2 ponds, dams, and a spectacular assortment of rare trees — made even more so by its history, and its anonymity.

Anonymity first.  Haskins Preserve is administered by the Aspetuck Land Trust.  For 45 years, this organization has preserved open space and natural resources here and in surrounding towns.  They don’t toot their own horn, so you’d never know they manage 7 preserves, salt marshes and arboretums in Westport.

As for history, head back to Caryl and Edna Haskins.  A noted scientist, author, inventor, philanthropist, government advisor and pioneering entomologist in the study of ant biology (!), Caryl died in 2001 at 93.

Edna was a scientist too, at a time when few women entered the field.  Her research encompassed diagnostics explosives and alkalimetal hydrides — and ant biology too.  She died in 2000, age 88.

The bulk of their $15 million estate went to the Carnegie Institution.  But they left their 22-acre Green Acre Lane estate to Aspetuck — with the stipulation that a portion be sold to generate funds to create a nature preserve — and the result is a true Westport gem.

Scott Smith, on a misty afternoon.

It took 3 years to create the park.  The home is gone; so is what by all accounts was a phenomenal greenhouse.  But after extensive landscaping, restoration of many trees, and clearing of the grounds and ponds, the preserve opened in October 2005.

Very, very quietly.

In topography it’s similar to Winslow Park — not unusual, as it’s only a mile or so from there.  Like Winslow, it’s got paved paths, walking trails, a bowl, benches, woods, meadows and dogs.

Unlike Winslow, it’s got 2 ponds, a stream, a cistern, 2 enormous boulders, and very few visitors.

It also feels much more intimate — and natural.  Close your eyes, open again, and you could easily be in Vermont.

To its regulars, Haskins Preserve is a year-round delight.  There’s skating in the winter, fishing in the summer, bird-watching with the seasons.

And always, the trees.

Dogwoods and daffodils -- what a combination.

Fifty are labeled — larch, Southern red oak, white oak, black oak, tulip poplar, willow, white ash, birch, beech, mulberry, ginkgo, American elm.

Many were brought back by the Haskinses themselves, from their world travels.  Some are almost extinct.

There are rows and rows of flowers too.  Last week, the daffodils were spectacular.

Of course, not many Westporters saw them.  They didn’t know about the Haskins Preserve.

Now you do.

Ssssshhhh…keep it to yourself!

More daffodils!