Monday, May 1, 2017

Protecting a new space: The Benedict Benson Preserve

By Beth Sullivan
We are thrilled to honor and be trusted by, a family that has been conservation-minded from the beginning of the last century. The descendants of Benedict Bengt Benson have donated 94 acres of beautiful forest land in North Stonington, to be preserved in perpetuity.
Benedict Benson's family members. Photograph by Bruce Fellman.

Mimi and Brad Borden have been in conversation with Avalonia for quite a long time, trying to determine the best way to donate land, preserve portions for their farm and family, and ensure that the entire area will be preserved for both people and wildlife to enjoy and thrive.
These acres are part of a large forest block, parts of which are also protected. It is a widely varied area, with fresh streams, many vernal pools, and abundant rocks-rocks that are ledges and outcrops, rocks that are glacial erratics, and of course the area is strewn with the stones from which the Stoningtons get their name. These have been gathered into all manner of walls and mounds and piles scattered throughout the area.
Any rock lover will be thrilled to walk here, observing the glacial effects of many thousands of years ago. Big boulders scattered seemingly at random throughout the landscape are covered with mosses. Many of them have cracked and split, in recent time, relatively speaking. During the natural process of water entering a crack in the rock, then freezing and expanding, the cracks are enlarged. Organic debris fills in the cracks, and over years there is enough to support the growth of a seed. The seed sends its roots, strong and persistently powerful, out and down, until the rock cracks a bit more. Over time the two parts of the boulder are completely separated. There are many examples to be found here of full sized trees growing within a rocky base.
It's easy to imagine kids making a fort in these rocks and woods.

Over decades, this tree has found a foot hold, or root hold, by cracking apart this bolder.

Appropriate Dedication

Appropriately, on Earth Day, the new preserve was dedicated with over 30 people in attendance, including descendants of Benedict Benson himself as well as the donors.
The North Stonington town committee has completed marking a trail through the woods on the west side of Swan Town Hill Road, with yellow blazes . But the orange tape on the trees is also a testament to Mr. Borden himself enjoying the property, hiking over many decades. A little bit of different family history remains deep in the woods. A very old car, probably a family first, remains in place, home to small creatures and greenery.
The old family car. Wonder what it was?

The varied habitats also support a wide range of very unique plants, spring ephemerals and other wildlife as well. The area is well known to birders as one of the very few breeding/nesting areas for the critically threatened Cerulean Warbler. As we walked the trails, we could hear bird song from well over our heads, announcing the beginning of spring migration.
Woodpeckers have abundant food and nesting opportunities.

The Lantern Brook flows through the property starting from a pond to the north, spreading into pools and wetland seeps, then tumbling down a stony rubble path making beautiful noise along the way. The wetlands were the greenest spots in the woods with Skunk Cabbage and False Hellebore following the waterway.
The early greenery of False Hellebore follows the flow of the Lantern Brook.

A map, directions and description will be on our preserves page shortly. We will also include a history of the property written by Mimi Borden herself. Take a ride into the country of North Stonington. Get a little lost in the woods and think about what Benedict Bengt Benson must have felt when he first arrived on the land and made it his home. His family says he would be happy to know it is preserved for others to enjoy as well.

Thank you Benedict. Thank you Mimi and Brad.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise noted.

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