Red Hill Woods Joins the Branford Land Trust

Branford Land TrustA lush 29-acre coastal forest with walking trails, streams, an overlook, and a Native American rock shelter will be preserved and open to the public, thanks to the efforts of the Branford Land Trust.

“Red Hill Woods adds to the large area of already protected coastal forest. It protects a lot of habitat and it’s going to be a real asset in terms of passive recreation,” said environmentalist Bill Horne, who is a member of the Land Trust’s advisory board.

Branford Land TrustThe land is located at the end of Red Hill Road on the eastern end of town, south of I-95 and north of the 406-acre Stony Creek Quarry Preserve which is owned by the town of Branford.  The Red Hill site borders Guilford, and a small portion of the property is actually in Guilford.

Another new property acquired by the Land Trust is a tiny granite island off Indian Neck, known as Spectacle Island, which serves as a bird sanctuary for gulls, cormorants, and American oystercatchers.

The Land Trust is adding these two properties to their list of about 1,000 acres of protected open space in more than 130 parcels. The non-profit organization is about to launch a campaign to raise funds for both the Red Hill Woods property and Spectacle Island. The money will be used to cover the purchase price and also to maintain the properties through the organization’s stewardship program.

Red Hill Woods

Branford Land TrustHorne said an agreement was reached to purchase the 29-acre parcel from the Warner and Hull families. “The Land Trust has been in contact with the families about acquiring this property for more than 20 years and last year they agreed to sell to the Land Trust,” Horne said.

Branford Land TrustAlong with the fund-raising campaign, the Land Trust has applied for funding for a state DEEP Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant toward the purchase of Red Hill Woods. The Guilford Land Conservation Trust will contribute funds for a portion of the property that is in their town.

The property serves as a connector to popular walking trails in the Branford Trail system, connecting to the Stony Creek Quarry Preserve trails and to Westwoods Trails in Guilford. Passive recreation activities include hiking, cross-country skiing, bird watching and nature walks.

Branford Land Trust“It’s a nice place to walk,” Horne said. “We’re really excited about taking people there.” The Land Trust is planning to sponsor walks over the summer months.

“There are some really big trees, but they’re pretty widely spaced,” Horne said as he described the property.  “It has an open feeling to it, particularly on top of the ridge.”

Branford Land TrustHorne said the new acquisition is important because it abuts a large area of environmentally sensitive protected open space, including the Van Wie Woods, the Stony Creek Quarry Preserve, and the Hoadley Creek Preserve. It also enhances public access to those spaces. The coastal forest helps protect the animal and plant habitats of several species that or threatened or endangered.

In addition to the forested area, the site contains streams and wetlands that drain toward the Thimble Islands. The property is located in the Hoadley Creek watershed, which is part of the South Central Shoreline coastal watershed of Long Island Sound.

Native American Rock Shelter

Bill Horne PhotoThe above photo shows a small rock shelter on the site that is believed to have been used by Native Americans in pre-colonial and colonial times.

Any artifacts that may have been there are long-gone, but Horne said the historical site will be of interest to anyone hiking through the woods. He said that because of the small size, the shelter was probably used as a temporary refuge.

Spectacle Island

Branford GIS web site. Diana Stricker PhotoSpectacle Island is a one-quarter acre granite outcropping that lies about a half-mile off Indian Neck. It can be seen from Linden Avenue, but birdwatchers will want to bring binoculars for a better view.

There are no buildings or trails on the island, but it is a popular nesting spot for a variety of shore birds.

“The islands are important for the health of the economy of Long Island Sound by proving nesting places,” Horne said.

The Branford Land Trust is an all-volunteer organization with more than 600 members. The non-profit organization, which was founded in 1967, is dedicated to preserving open spaces and protecting natural resources. See their website for additional information or to make a donation.

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posted by: Mimi Ann on June 14, 2016  11:00am

I cannot believe this area is only a couple of blocks from my home.  It is absolutely awesome.  In the summer I would feed the swans who would actually come and get the bread.  If they were across the water and saw the car they would actually fly on the water to where I was.  Maybe one day I can manage to go through this area…somehow. Walking distances is limited for me.  Thank you Land Trust for taking over and preserving this beautiful area.