In conservation, the concept of creating greenways has grown from the understanding that animals and birds, and even plants, need corridors of land to move along. In the past it seemed enough to protect any parcel, even an isolated one. Every bit counted. Now we realize that finding and protecting land that is connected to other preserved and protected land is a greater goal. When Avalonia Land Conservancy seeks new properties with hopes of acquisition, we look at surrounding areas and see how each piece of the puzzle can fit and enhance the whole.
One such greenway in the town of Stonington is made of the combined lands of several organizations or institutions, and not only is it a green corridor for animals to utilize, but contains a lovely length of trails and side loops to be explored, and all are in walking distance from the hub of the Mystic tourism area.
|Trail map of the greenway area.|
There are several parts to this trail system. The most Northern parcels are the White Cedar Swamp and the Deans Mill Preserve, owned by Avalonia, that are accessed from Jerry Browne Road and a small road-side parking area. A lovely winding path rises high and overlooks a small white cedar bog on one side and the Deans Mill reservoir on the other. The water company land, while not open to the public, contributes to the greenway of protected acreage. The trail goes as far north as the I -95 interstate and loops around through land that contains vernal pools and seeps as well as old stone walls, glacial erratics and beautiful old trees. Returning to Jerry Browne Road, you can cross the street and head up a short distance to a new connector trail through Avalonia’s Perkins Wildlife Corridor that goes into the woods, crosses a stream and then abuts another Avalonia property: the Pequotsepos Preserve. This connects to land owned by the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center and continues to land held by the Denison Society. A walk in this area takes you down to the Nature Center fields and habitat restoration project.
|Trail head in the greenway.|
This collection of green acres also adjoins more protected space and another set of connecting trails to the west of Pequotsepos Road. These are most easily accessed from the overflow parking area directly across from the Mystic Aquarium and off Maritime Blvd. The first segment is owned by the Aquarium and goes through varied habitats, mostly early successional brush and shrub lands and then leads into more Avalonia land, the Pequotsepos Brook Preserve that is second growth forest and follows a stream and walls that indicate former farm use. One of the most interesting aspects of this segment of the greenway trail is that it skirts several settling ponds and as it follows the Pequotsepos Brook, volunteers have uncovered several historic stone bridges. Huge stones, many of which were quarried from this same property, were placed to create these crossings. These provided solid crossings for farm carts, animals and vehicles from the past century. These are scenic and peaceful places to stop and listen for the wildlife hidden here. At one point the trail comes out into a large open field at the end of Maritime Blvd. It is here that there will be a connection to the Coogan property being purchased and protected by the Nature Center.
|Stone bridges in the greenway.|
Continue the walk through the woods, behind the Denison Homestead, and you emerge into the Farmer’s Market field and you can enjoy the sunny habitat and multiple bird houses with Bluebirds and Tree Swallows in residence. You may be lucky enough to spy a deer or a fox.
Walking to the south edge of the field you go back into the woods a short distance before coming to the end of the trail on Mistuxet Avenue and overlooking the head of the Pequotsepos Cove.
These are not long or difficult trails. There are loops and side trails, varied habitats, and within them, a wide variety of wildlife to be discovered. It is only with the cooperation of multiple organizations, with the same goals, that we can continue to protect and connect the open spaces in our town and provide Greenways for all to enjoy.
Written and photographed by Beth Sullivan.
You can learn more about greenways in Connecticut at the DEEP website.
There are maps and other information about the preserves mentioned here.