Exploring trails less traveled with Avalonia Land Conservancy
For the past several weeks I have been exploring land trust properties throughout The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. I’ve shared some of those experiences in previous columns. Today I want to share with you two Avalonia Land Conservancy preserves.
Founded in 1968, Avalonia’s mission is to preserve natural habitats in southeastern Connecticut by acquiring and protecting lands and communicating the value of these irreplaceable resources. They currently conserve 4,000 acres of land in Griswold, Groton, Ledyard, North Stonington and Preston. The trails on their preserves are maintained by volunteers for passive enjoyment including hiking, birdwatching, nature study and photography. Educational activities and scientific studies are encouraged on Avalonia preserves.
For more information about Avalonia, how to get involved as well as maps of their hiking locations check out their excellent website at Avalonia.org. Recently, I hiked two Avalonia locations — the Preston Nature Preserve and the TriTown Forest in Griswold, North Stonington and Preston. These locations offer something for all audiences from active hikers looking for a multi-mile challenge to families with young children.
TriTown Forest: The TriTown Forest is 527 acres and is Avalonia’s most ambitious conservation effort to date. I absolutely love this property and plan on returning when I can spend a whole day exploring. There are four parking areas for accessing TriTown Forest, and I used the one on Miller Road in North Stonington. There is a helpful information sign and the trails are very well marked. I would recommend downloading the trail map and printing it out.
There are three main trails with varying degree of length through exceptional forested habitat. The red trail starts from the parking area and is only about a mile up and back for on easy hike. It intersects with the longer and more challenging blue trail and moderate yellow trail with both offering a variety of loop sections for an interesting and varied hike.
What struck me when I hiked TriTown Forest is the amazing intact forest habitat that is part of a huge area of connected and conserved land. You can find more information about the TriTown Forest Preserve and its natural features by going to this link: https://avalonia.org/key-features-of-tritown-forest-preserve/
Preston Nature Preserve: Where the TriTown Forest Preserve is very large with over 500 acres, the Preston Nature Preserve is much smaller with only 55 acres. It has forestland, a swamp and pond, fields and pasture, scrubland and a wildflower meadow. The varied habitat is great for those interested in birding. There are two trails about a half-mile in total length. For more information on the Preston Nature Preserve habitat check out the website link to the Avalonia blogspot High Summer in the Meadow. Reading the article with its beautiful photographs leads me to think my next trip to the preserve will be in August when the wildflowers are blooming.
Hike and Seek: One of the ways Avalonia Land Conservancy is engaging kids of all ages is their “Hike and Seek” program. This is a fun activity that encourages exploration and observation with a scavenger hunt format and the use of technology in simple positive ways to learn about nature. Each of the 27 Avalonia properties has several “targets” for you to look for and to share with photos. There are links related to each of the targets with information about the natural world. Here is the link to the Hike and Seek program. https://avalonia.org/hike-and-seek/
The Avalonia Land Conservancy is doing great work conserving land here in The Last Green Valley. I hope you’ll take time to look through their website, plan an outing soon and discover how you can get involved with their important work.
The Last Green Valley (TLGV) is doing a series of short virtual programs and we plan to feature the many miles of trails in the National Heritage Corridor. Our first program is on our YouTube Channel now and features Old Furnace State Park in Killingly. We will be posting videos highlighting some of the lesser known trails on land trust properties soon. With more than 500 miles of trails there is no reason we can’t all be outside safely.
We recently hiked TriTown Forest with two key Avalonia volunteers, Sue Sunderland and Chuck Toal, to learn more about the natural history of that property and its unique characteristics. The film will be available on TLGV’s YouTube channel and other social media platforms in the near future. We also filmed at the Preston Preserve and that video will be available soon, too.
This spring has been unusual to say the least. Despite these difficult times my hikes and rambles remind me that every day is precious. To witness the cycle of the spring season is to experience life renewed. From warm soil it rises again each spring in green tendrils to bloom in wildflower meadows. It arrives on migrant wings to sing again from the tree tops.
We live in a beautiful place called The Last Green Valley. Our region’s land trusts help conserve the special places where we can experience the wonders of nature, it’s indescribable, endless beauty, and deep immense joy. I hope you’ll join me and others as we care for it, enjoy it, and pass it on.
Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for 35 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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