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.”
Since 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 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.)