When the Branford Land Trust was founded 50 years ago, members had little idea that the organization would encompass more than 1,000 acres in over 130 parcels and conservation easements on another 400 acres in Branford, nurtured by more than 500 volunteers, member families and businesses.
Members and friends came together last month to celebrate that milestone and dedicate the Red Hills Bog Walk, the latest jewel in the land trust’s crown.
The raised walkway traverses the 29-acre property with views of the tussock sedge-red maple floodplain, and adjacent streams. In the spring and summer, this wetland is sunny and filled with clumps of sedges, different species of ferns, and numerous leafy herbaceous plants growing beneath a high canopy of maples and other hardwood trees.
Pete Raymond, president of the land trust, described the process for constructing the 1,100-foot-long bog walk, which was funded by a gift from Ellen Matlock and Mike Bowler in honor of their wedding and from Branford Rotary Club. There are 250 hemlock boards, locally milled that weigh 60 pounds each. The 7.5 tons of lumber was moved into the woods with the help of 45 Quinnipiac University students and the land trust’s “Navy Seal” trail maintenance crew of Matt Reed, Jackie Skelly, Bud Gunnheim, David Andrews, and Bob Baker, along with some Branford High School interns.
Raymond said that the Red Hill property is one of his favorite sections of Branford. “Over $200,000 was raised by 300 members, Branford Community Foundation, Guilford Land Trust, and a DEEP grant.” Overall Red Hill comprises 104.5 acres.
He said the property is a “key acquisition” that connects to the Van Wie Preserve and is part of the watershed for Hoadley Creek. “The floodplain forest really captivated a bunch of us and an idea was pushed forward to create what we are calling the ‘bog walk.’
“So the water that hits the ground you are standing on ultimately runs through to a small estuary and salt marsh on the west side of old quarry road,” he said. The property contains glacial erratics, connects to the Branford trail, and has numerous sensitive areas including vernal ponds and a really great floodplain forest/sedge wetland.”
The group walked a short distance from the trail head and kiosk on Red Hill Road to the beginning of the Bog Walk, where they gathered for a dedication and thanks yous before heading out for two guided walks around the property. Amy Paterson, executive director of the Connecticut Land Conservation Council, shared a panoramic of the walk and glacial erratics.
The event concluded with a champagne toast and a pot luck offering of treats and beverages at the trail head.
Supply Ponds was the first tract of land acquired on behalf of the Conservation Commission, which pre-dated the land trust, out of concern that the land would be developed when the Connecticut Turnpike was constructed. The 250-acre site was acquired with the help of state and federal grants with the final cost to the town just $66,000 out of a total of $234,000. BLT itself was incorporated on Nov. 29, 1967;among the incorporators was First Selectman John B. Sliney, Town Counsel Frank J. Dumark, Planning and Zoning chair Joan Berdick, Conservation Commission chair Elizabeth C. Breed, and Open Space chair Commission Alis W. McCurdy. So Branford did have a solid foundation is land preservation.
“BLT is built on 50 years of hard work. Collaborations. Neighbors. Members. Volunteers. Board members,” said Raymond.
Check out the Branford Land Trust’s website for additional 50th anniversary events.