Enjoying Autumn–In Perpetuity!
Photo: Brian E. Hagenbuch
To date, Steep Rock Association has preserved over 5,200 acres of land in and around Washington, CT, in perpetuity. Walking our trails this month, I realize that the beauty and splendor of the sights, sounds, and smells of autumn that greeted indigenous cultures thousands of years ago are now preserved by Steep Rock for thousands of years and hundreds of generations to come. Once we acquire land, though, the hard work begins to protect and maintain its conservation and recreational value, in perpetuity. With the ever-present threat of a rapidly changing climate, the remnants of bygone practices, and increased use by visitors, Steep Rock assumes a dual role in sustaining the ecological integrity of our preserves while ensuring safe and enjoyable recreational opportunities for our visitors. In our October issue, we highlight some of our recent efforts to conserve habitats, protect the Shepaug River ecosystem, improve our trail system for everyone’s enjoyment, and provide healthy food to our neighbors in need. For more about how Steep Rock was able to accomplish these goals over the past century, we invite you to purchase our just-published book, The History of Steep Rock Association: The Jewel in the Crown, which is available at local shops and on our website. Thank you for your support of our efforts.
See you on our Trails!
Brian Hagenbuch, Ph.D., Executive Director
“The History of Steep Rock Association:
The Jewel in the Crown”
Photo: Carol Santoleri
Steep Rock Association is excited to announce the publication of The History of Steep Rock Association: The Jewel in the Crown. Written by local author and landscape historian Carol Santoleri, the book chronicles the evolution of Steep Rock’s preserves from the original purchase by famed architect Ehrick Rossiter in the late 1800s through today.
The History of Steep Rock Association is part history book, part coffee table book, and part trail guide. Among the over 150 illustrations are historic photographs from the collection of Washington Connecticut’s Gunn Historical Museum brought to life with colorful photographic recreations of sites found ‘then and now’ along the land trust’s trails.
Those with holiday lists can give The History of Steep Rock Association to a hiker, historian, nature enthusiast, photographer, or anyone who has walked along some of SRA’s 40+ miles of publicly accessible trails in the Steep Rock, Hidden Valley, or Macricostas Preserves. In return, you will have the pleasure of supporting one of the oldest and largest land trusts in Connecticut!
The History of Steep Rock Association: The Jewel in the Crown is available at The Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot and J. Seitz & Co. in New Preston, CT. The book can also be ordered online from the Steep Rock website (www.steeprockassoc.org). We thank the author and our retail partners for graciously offering to forgo income from book sales. All funds from sales go directly to support Steep Rock Association.
Stewardship in Our Preserves:
Your Donations at Work!
Photo: Michael Giapponi
Before and after photos of the Macricostas Boardwalk. The new boardwalk features the SRA logo, which staff hand routed into the decking.
Recently, SRA staff replaced a deteriorating section of boardwalk near the Macricostas Preserve main parking area. The new boardwalk, measuring over four feet in width and featuring an earth and dirt ramp on either end, provides improved access into the Preserve. SRA staff took great care to design and build the boardwalk using sustainable, locally sourced materials. The red cedar mud sills that support the structure and the tamarack boards that comprise the curb were all harvested from our Preserves and milled by staff using a chainsaw. The decking was sourced from a local sawmill and is primarily black locust, an invasive tree renowned for its rot resistance. Stay tuned for exciting new developments later this year, including a rebuild of the Macricostas Viewing Platform!
Busy Beavers in Macricostas Preserve
Photo: Rory Larson
Beaver families are right on schedule having recently resumed damming activity at Meeker Swamp in preparation for winter. Beaver dams increase the impounding of water, which results in greater potential for flooding. SRA is one step ahead of our rodent friends this year. We installed a water level control device that enables us to prevent flooding of the boardwalk while still providing suitable conditions for continued beaver occupancy. Take an early morning or late evening hike for a chance to see these amazing creatures in action, and learn about beaver and our management approach from a new sign installed at the site.
Stabilizing Riverbank Along the Shepaug
Photo: Rory Larson
The riverbank along the Shepaug River at our SR2 Campsite in Steep Rock Preserve had seen better days before Fall 2020. High water and the forces of nature had progressively eroded away a considerable portion of the bank. The alarming loss of bank structure undercut a vital maple tree that, if lost, would exacerbate the problem and accelerate the loss of more riverbank.
To address the issue, SRA harvested a 40-foot long white oak log from the nearest hillside to serve as a foundation. The log was positioned on the bank toe so that it spanned the entire eroded area with one end wedged beneath the undercut rootwad. Boulders were meticulously placed to secure the log and deflect high water away from the riverbank. The previously eroded away bank was strategically filled to withstand flood events and promote revegetation, and stone steps were built to provide users with safe and sustainable access to the river.
Photo: Denise Arturi
Two generous residents opened their orchards to Judea Garden volunteers to pick apples for our neighbors. We had so much fun that before we knew it, we had almost 400 pounds of beautiful, juicy fruit. That should keep the doctor away for a while. A special thank you to the Holcombe/Spencer Family and the Breakstone/Garfunkel Family.
StoryWalk® at Macricostas Preserve