Wilton is home to more than 23 preserves that are open to the public and range from 16 to nearly 200 acres. Wilton also has access to open space and trails at Woodcock Nature Center, Weir Farm, and Ambler Farm. For many residents, the pandemic brought a renewed interest in exploring and learning outdoors.
For anyone who still has an itch to get out there, spring is the perfect time. What’s more, Wilton has two local, outdoor organizations that couldn’t make it any easier, or more fun, to explore nature together.
Woodcock Nature Center and the Wilton Land Conservation Trust have teamed up on a series of hikes aimed at highlighting the numerous and naturally diverse trails right here in Wilton. The first public hikes were held this fall at the Nick Parisot Memorial Trail, and three more are scheduled for Saturday, May 15, and Saturday, May 22 at the Harrison-Smith Preserve.
The Harrison-Smith Preserve is one Land Trust property in particular that uniquely combines the beauty of the New England woodland with historical glimpses of Wilton. This property was acquired by the Land Trust in 1974 and is located in North Wilton off of Keeler’s Ridge. It encompasses 23 acres and is abutted by Quarry Head State Park.
The free 90-minute guided nature tour will be led by staff naturalists from Woodcock Nature Center alongside Land Trust Executive Director David McCarthy. Leaders will illuminate the diverse wildlife, ecosystems, native and invasive plants, and provide insights into Wilton’s land-use history. With any luck, participants might even spot some local wildlife.
Each hike is limited to just 18 participants. Registration, masks and physical distancing are required of all participants attending this program. Cameras are encouraged but dogs are not permitted (to increase the odds of spotting wildlife). Hikes will be held on Saturday, May 15 at 11:30 a.m. and Saturday, May 22 at 9 a.m. The hikes are free but donations are welcome (and will be shared by the two organizations).
For more info and to register, visit the Woodcock Nature Center website.
About Wilton Conservation Land Trust: The Wilton Land Conservation Trust is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of open space in Wilton. The Land Trust works to protect Wilton’s unique natural, scenic, and historical landscapes through conservation and stewardship. The WLCT is a community-focused land trust dedicated to preserving land for open space, protecting biodiversity, and promoting environmental awareness and education. 100% of its operational funding comes from member support. Every contribution supports Wilton’s open spaces and goes toward our programs, operations, and conservation efforts.
Formed in 1964 by Wilton residents Morris Earle, Augustus W. Merlin, Lawrason Riggs III, and George W.D. Symonds, these founders anticipated the adverse impact of population increase and housing development on the natural resources and wildlife habitats in the Town.
The trust is comprised of a volunteer Board of Trustees, all of whom are Wilton residents, and hundreds of members. We work in cooperation with the Town of Wilton governing boards and commissions to preserve the lands and share our mission with other land trusts in Connecticut.
The land trust currently owns or holds conservation easements on 119 separate parcels totaling nearly 835 acres in Wilton. The WLCT actually owns outright 97 parcels covering 440 acres. Many of these parcels such as the 74 acre Gregg Preserve, the 44-acre Marble/Van Haelewyn-Richards Preserve, the 22-acre Harrison Smith Preserve, and the 16-acre Robert Hale Symonds Preserve are available to Wilton residents for passive recreational use. Many others, such as the meadow at Keeler’s Ridge and the Slaughter Fields at the corner of Nod Hill and Pipers Hill, contribute importantly to the rural character of our town. The land trust strives to acquire land for the enjoyment of Wilton residents. When open spaces are developed, they are gone forever. Visit the Land Trust website for more information.
About Woodcock Nature Center: Located on 150 acres of state-protected land, the Woodcock Nature Center includes a pond, wetlands and nearly 4 miles of publicly accessible woodland trails. The Center is home to a variety of living local and exotic creatures including snakes, frogs and lizards. The Center also houses three non-releasable birds of prey.
The preserve is a haven for aquatic life and a remarkable variety of birds. Along the trails are historic stone walls and stands of old maple, beech, oak and hickory trees. An Everglades-style boardwalk allows rare access through part of the rich, abundant wetlands nestled in the woods. In these graceful surroundings, young and old can experience the rich, renewing world of nature. Woodland trails are open to all, sunrise to sunset, every day of the year.
The Center staff works with the local protected wildlife to serve as a resource for educating the community about our natural surroundings through public outreach, school field trips and visits, on-site birthday parties, after-school programs and an extremely popular summer camp. For a complete schedule of activities please visit woodcocknaturecenter.org