Log In

Reset Password

Reestablishing An Iconic View: Nettleton Preserve Memorial Tree Project Reclaims Natural Beauty



Text Size

Visible from Old Castle Drive is a panoramic view looking down on the flagpole, church steeples. and rooflines along Main Street. Sitting just off the curb and facing this iconic scene is a small bench perched at the top of a rise that was once a sweeping meadow, but in more recent years has become a home for overgrowth and invasive species.

Newtown Forest Association (NFA), a private land trust, which acquired the 26-acre parcel through the estate of Arthur T. Nettleton in 1973, has begun reclaiming fields and a flowering fruit tree orchard choked by 35 years of unchecked growth. Residents driving up Castle Hill Road toward Old Castle Drive will see an abundance of trees cleared in an effort that began in late 2014.

The Nettleton Preserve Memorial Tree Project aims to “reclaim meadows, orchards, and vista the property now has from overgrowth of dead and storm-damaged forest with specific tree and invasive brush removal,” according to a project overview prepared by NFA President Bob Eckenrode and Stewardship Chairman Dan Dalton. The effort includes exposing old stone walls, removing overgrowth, and providing new trail space and “places for walks and contemplation.”

Standing onsite and looking down toward Main Street in late December, Mr Eckenrode said, “It’s probably the biggest project we have taken on.” He welcomes the opportunity to “preserve the view.”

With recent holiday cheer still in the air, NFA Treasurer Guy Peterson said in a recent e-mail, “We got some good news over the holidays.” The NFA received a $10,000 grant from the Iroquois Pipeline Gas Operating Company’s Community Grant Program to supplement the privately funded project. Funds come through both donations and grants.

“Every donation will help and this project is going to be an expensive project.” Mr Peterson said that once completed, that both the NFA and the community will be proud of it. Nettleton Preserve will be “a place people will visit and take in the spectacular view.”

Mr Eckenrode did not disclose the project’s full costs, but added, “A very generous longtime member and supporter has made this latest project happen. Their generosity made it possible to transform a well recognized portion our historic Nettleton Preserve along Castle Hill Road into The Nettleton Preserve Memorial Tree Project.”

NFA members plan to plant new fruit trees alongside an existing orchard and native trees already there. “Existing fruit trees will be saved, trimmed, and pruned where possible to maximize their health and appearance,” as stated in a nine-page document detailing the preserve and the current restoration. Planting is scheduled for the early spring.

Taking On Invasive Species

In past years, and one volunteer effort at a time, “Invasive species that had taken hold were gradually cut back. As this ongoing project progressed, the long-forgotten orchard began to show itself again,” the document explains. Through its property stewardship program, the NFA members had in the past identified areas in need at Nettleton. According to the document, invasive removal, trail enhancement, and the orchard and native tree expansion are the areas of focus.

In this document, an overhead photograph from 1970 reveals a plot of open meadow, while 20 years later the land is covered with trees. By 2013, the trees cover is more thorough and mature.

Mr Eckenrode said, “This property was once primarily farmland and grazing meadows at the turn of the [20th] century. This natural open space got its very beginning many years ago as a forest, then was adapted to farmland. Since then we have managed with trails and seasonal mowing for migrating song birds and butterflies.”

Roughly four years ago, NFA members began planning with “a basic inventory and brief but informative assessment of the property with a walkthrough with state forester Larry Rousseau.,” he said.

The project will leave a partial tree canopy of native species in place in the lower meadow, the document states, adding, “All trees and debris will remain onsite and be recycled. Abutting wetlands will be buffered. Chips will be shredded for paths and some brush piles for wildlife will be created.”

Mr Eckenrode said, “As part of our plan, 100 percent of all organic materials such as trees, invasive plants, and woody scrubs have been repurposed and recycled onsite.” Trees have been cut into logs for firewood and woody brush is being saved for “wildlife friendly brush piles as well as mulched for future trail maintenance,” he said.

Existing fruit trees will be pruned and 26 new fruit trees will augment the existing orchard in the spring.

Mr Eckenrode credits the work done by Bartlett Tree Experts. He said, “With the expert help, planning, and site supervision from local resident Dave Boyle and Brian Roe from Bartlett Tree Inc, the results have been amazing.”

According to the document, the end result will leave “multiple spaces for walking, relaxing and quiet contemplation.”

Upon completion, the portion of the property along Castle Hill Road will be “visually opened, providing dramatic views into the preserve from both the bottom of the hill, as well as from the top.”

Planting An Orchard

As pruning and clearing started in late 2014, the new year will see plans continue. By spring or early summer, Mr Eckenrode and others who gathered at the property in a cold rain in late December are eager to see new orchard trees planted.

The men gathered at noon on December 30 for a picture of the preserve and its vista behind them.

Despite a bitter wind and freezing rain that day, they were all able to smile while sharing their thoughts for the improved and repaired future landscape.

“We’ve improved on Newtown’s most iconic view,” said NFA member Harvey Pessin.

Bart Smith, NFA vice president, is “excited about the view from [Castle Hill Road] as you come up the hill. It will be beautiful and impressive,” he said.

With a quick last word before weather drove them out of the cold, Mr Eckenrode said, “I am thrilled with the results so far. The project is going so well.”

David Boyle, with the Bartlett Tree Experts — the company working on the project with the NFA — said, “It’s important to be part of a community reclamation project.” As a resident, he feels “blessed to contribute” to the restoration.

Since then, NFA member Aaron Coopersmith offered his thoughts: “The Nettleton Preserve offers so much for the people of Newtown. To some it is secret sunset spot, the location of that memorable scenery where old friends meet and new relationships begin. To others it holds a hidden treasure trove of berries and endless beauty.”

He continued, “The Newtown Forest Association is excited to share this special place, please join us on one of our many hikes as we explore the nature of the town, the flora, and fauna and interesting history and stories.”

Gathered around a bench at Nettleton Preserve, which offers one of Newtown’s most notable and highly photographed views of Main Street’s flagpole and steeples, are Newtown Forest Association members who met to talk about an ongoing restoration project there. From left, back row, are NFA President Bob Eckenrode, Vice President Bart Smith, and member Tim Gagne; front row, David Boyle with Bartlett Tree Experts, the company that has provided planning, site supervision, and more for the Nettleton Preserve Memorial Tree Project, and NFA members Harvey Pessin, Guy Peterson, and Aaron Coopersmith.
Comments are open. Be civil.

Leave a Reply