Smart Investment: Preserving Our Natural Resources
When people come together to conserve forests, fields, streams, lakes, and other open spaces that are important to the community, they are doing more than protecting the scenery. They are improving the quality of life for our citizens, and are helping to preserve plant, animal and community ecosystems that would otherwise disappear. The Valley is filled with numerous conservation areas that provide opportunities for recreation.
Seymour and Oxford Land Trusts
Throughout the past several decades, land trusts in Seymour and Oxford have helped these towns acquire open spaces and conservation easements to hold these properties in trust. This work has resulted in the preservation of one contiguous area of approximately 1,200 acres that straddle Oxford’s southwest border with Seymour, sloping down to the Housatonic River.
One of Oxford’s recent purchases to add to this area, the Rockhouse Hill Sanctuary, was aided by the work of the Oxford Land Trust. The Trust is now the steward of the sanctuary, which includes more than 500 acres of woods, wetlands, ponds, and rocky outcroppings. Because the Sanctuary borders Oxford High School, a regulation cross country course is planned for the property. Volunteers such as the Oxford Youth Conservation Corps have helped clear and mark miles of trails, and many local Boy Scouts have used the site for completing eagle scout projects such as building bridges.
In addition to managing more than 200 acres of open space, the Seymour Land Trust (SLT) also maintains Legion Pond in Seymour, a popular fishing site and hiking area that receives nearly 10,000 visitors each year. SLT purchased the site in 1989, and thousands of volunteer hours and philanthropic dollars have since helped restore the site, including making the park handicapped accessible.
Ansonia Nature Center
With a visitor center and more than 150 acres of woodlands and fields, including a two-acre pond, the Ansonia Nature Center is both a wildlife sanctuary and outdoor classroom. Formerly known as the Schrieber Dairy farm, the land was purchased by the city in 1964 with a federal grant and the park was dedicated to the citizens of Ansonia in 1977.
“In a dense older industrial community such as Ansonia, it is so important to have open space wherever you can get it,” said Sheila O’Malley, Director of Economic Development for Ansonia. “Whether it is a pocket park or a place like the Nature Center, it provides much needed breathing room for our residents.”
A large-scale community effort in Derby turned the Naugatuck River flood wall into a greenway trail that is one of the most popular recreation sites in the Valley. Planners overcame several major technical challenges, including three railroad crossings, to complete the project. Now, nearly a decade old, the river walk trail has been extended through Ansonia. The project has been so successful that communities along the Naugatuck River are committed to continuing the trail for 40 miles to Torrington, an effort that has attracted the support of the Council of Governments and the U.S. National Park Service. In December 2012, the Federal Government recognized the Naugatuck River Greenway by including it in an exclusive list of local conservation priorities highlighted in the America’s Great Outdoors Progress Report.
“The success of Derby’s greenway sparked the effort to link the trail from Derby to Torrington,” said Jack Walsh, Valley United Way President & COO, and member of the greenway committee. “You’re recapturing the river. It became an immediate success and people from all over the area come to use it.”
On the other side of the Housatonic River, the City of Shelton has performed a significant amount of work over the years to preserve open spaces and farmlands. The city is composed of a combination of residential areas, corporate offices, and conserved lands, which include several redevelopment projects.
Terry Jones, of Jones Family Farms, said, “When it comes to land conservation and community spaces, it is all about balance – something I believe the City of Shelton has worked very hard to accomplish. The preserved lands, community gardens, trails and recreation sites such as the greenways offer a unique quality of life that both residents and businesses enjoy, and that is a beautiful thing.”
The Valley is filled with numerous conservation areas that provide opportunities for recreation and wildlife and ecosystem preservation, which have such a positive impact on a community’s overall economic development. These collective conservation efforts of natural, public land are enduring legacies that Valley residents of today are preserving for future generations.