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Tag Archives: Haskins Preserve
Last year, there were 2,251 bear sightings in Connecticut. As many as 700 adult and cub bears live in the state. Residents spotted 3,249 bobacats too.
That’s a big change from a century ago. According to Dr. Tracy Rittenhouse, by the late 1800s, almost all forest here had been logged for agriculture, fuel and construction.
Bears, bobcats and deer were rare.
But forests grow back. And — with strong laws also regulating hunting — large animals have habitats in which they thrive.
Dr. Rittenhouse should know. She is a wildlife expert, and an associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Connecticut. Her long-term research project examines how black bears have expanded their range to include suburban areas of the state.
Next Wednesday (November 14, 7:30 p.m., Westport Unitarian Church) she’ll speak about bears and other large mammals — specifically, why we see so many more of them these days, and what it means for folks like us.
The talk is part of Aspetuck Land Trust‘s Haskins Lecture Series. Scientists Caryl and Edna Haskins donated their Green Acre Lane estate to the trust in 2002. It’s now a 16-acre preserve, just off South Compo Road.
Caryl Haskins earned renown as an ant biologist.
Bears and bobcats are somewhat larger. But they’re all part of our Westport world.
For anyone hoping to understand our changing town, Wednesday’s talk should be fascinating.
(Dr. Rittenhouse’s talk is open to the public. Admission is free to Aspetuck Land Trust members. A $5 donation is suggested for non-members.)
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.
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.
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.
And just down Compo, off Greenacre Road, is the hidden gem of the Haskins Preserve, my longtime favorite place for a weekend stroll.
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.
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.
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.
Haskins Preserve is going to the dogs.
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.
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 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.)
“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.)
An alert Westporter walking his dog this morning at the Haskins preserve looked up and discovered a new definition of “shoe tree”:
Meanwhile, for weeks another pair of shoes has dangled even more mysteriously above Myrtle Avenue:
Baby, it’s cold outside. This is no time to go barefoot!
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.