There are a few natural treasures to be found at 34 Pole Bridge Road.
Citing a “nice main trail, some recently cleared meadows” and “old charcoal pits,” Conservation Commission member Joe Hovious recently ticked off some of the property’s features. While some trails have “been there a while,” Mr Hovious said, “some are under construction by Newtown Trails Committee.”
“Recent volunteer efforts have aimed at making the preserve more attractive,” said Trails Committee member Paula Burton. She described a vernal pool that is as much as 75 feet wide when full. Visible from existing trails are meadows and paths that “loop through forests and fields.”
She mentioned a hemlock forest specifically, “a healthy one, which is rare in this area.” She also described the charcoal pits that Mr Hovious had mentioned as raised areas where wood had long ago smoldered and turned to charcoal for fuel. A field there is also “returning to its natural state,” she said, since a recent invasive species removal took place.
Considering the property’s preservation and conservation as open space, Mr Hovious noted that the “large, connected open space is nice for hikes,” and that the Trails Committee anticipates “good mountain bike trails.” Ms Burton said it is a nice location to walk the dog.
Mr Hovious said, “I’d like to snowshoe there.”
Such pockets of protected habitat are important for Newtown, Ms Burton agreed.
The Conservation Commission recently finished a brochure for the Pole Bridge Preserve, offering background on the property, and a trails map.
In addition to providing habitat for wildlife, plants, and birds, the preserve provides recreational opportunities for residents, as stated in the brochure. “With an additional 70-plus acres of open space nearby, the property has the potential to be part of a larger greenway/trail system with future links to Connecticut’s Upper and Lower Paugussett State Forests,” the brochure states.
Copies of the brochure are available in the Land Use Office at Newtown Municipal Center, 3 Primrose Street.
Mr Hovious had said that his commission has been working on “property consolidation, meadow clearing, trails,” and more.
According to the brochure, some of the geologic features at Pole Bridge include glacial till soils, rock outcroppings, wetlands, streams, vernal pools, charcoal mounds, forests and meadows. It sits within the Housatonic River Watershed and is less than one mile from Lake Zoar. More than 80 percent of the property drains directly into Pole Bridge Brook, a Class A-rated watercourse.
The trees and vegetation offer a variety of hardwood and softwood forests. Among them are hemlock, black, red and white oak, black birch, white ash, hickory, sugar maple, red maple, bigtooth aspen, and black cherry. The diverse understory includes tree seedlings, hay-scented ferns, arrowwood, green briar, and several invasive species.
Wildlife includes fox, coyote, white tail deer, skunks and rabbits, red-shouldered hawks and other raptors, short-eared owls, savannah sparrow, chickadee, cardinal, tufted titmouse, northern flicker and junco as well as Eastern box turtle, salamanders, and native brook trout.
Purchased in 2002, Pole Bridge was a prioritized parcel obtained under Newtown’s Open Space Acquisition Program. This land has a history of multiple uses such as agriculture, poultry and cattle farming, mineral and fossil prospecting, charcoal production, and firewood harvesting.
The full preserve, dedicated on May 31, 2003, includes 34 Pole Bridge Road (20.9 acres), purchased from the Aragones family by the town with help of a 50 percent matching grant from the state; 52 Pole Bridge Road (22 acres), obtained by the town as part of the Fox Hollow Lane development in 1979; 15 Bristle Lane (4.8 acres); and a 3.8-acre parcel off Jeremiah Road obtained by the town as part of the Feather Meadow subdivision in 1987-89.
The best way to access the preserve is to walk up the old woods road off Pole Bridge Road. There is also access from three neighborhoods: a marked narrow right-of-way easement off Fox Hollow and Bristle Lane cul-de-sacs, and a pedestrian easement off Brandywine Lane.
Conservation Commission members reminds visitors to respect homeowners’ property lines.