BETHLEHEM — The Covid-19 pandemic may have put a damper on a lot of plans this past year, but the Bethlehem Land Trust has been moving forward with new land acquisitions and upgrades to existing properties. More acquisitions and upgrades are planned for 2021.
Bethlehem Land Trust President Stuart Rabinowitz spoke recently about all the land trust has been able to accomplish this year. It acquired a 12-acre parcel on Magnolia Hill Road in October and is in the process of trying to purchase a 14.5-acre parcel on the northeast side of Long Meadow Pond.
The parcel on Magnolia Hill Road, to be known as the Anni and Peter Bergman Preserve, is located adjacent to the town-owned Swendsen Farm Preserve, making it an ideal location for hiking trails.
The parcel on Long Meadow Pond could also be a nice spot for hiking trails as it is adjacent to a 25-acre piece known as the Schwartz Preserve.
The Bergman family wanted to preserve the land on Magnolia Hill Road. The land trust would like to acquire the property on the pond not only to preserve the land, but also to preserve water quality. The pond serves as a headwater for the Pomperaug River.
Purchasing a piece of property and saving it from development is not all that the land trust does. Some parcels come with buildings that need to be maintained, if useful, or demolished, if not. The land itself needs to be managed, and trails need to be created and maintained.
One of the trust’s most important properties is the Bellamy Preserve, 81 acres of land located right in the center of Bethlehem. “The Bethlehem Land Trust’s Central Park,” Mr. Rabinowitz called it.
The trust is doing a lot of trail work on the parcel and will attempt to enhance informational signs posted along the trail. Using a grant from the Ferriday Fund, the land trust renovated the two buildings known as the “chicken coop” and the “sheep shed” at the Bellamy-Ferriday Preserve this spring and summer.
The sheep shed was removed and will be reconstructed, and the chicken coop was restored. The buildings will be used to present educational programs in the future, when Covid is no longer a concern.
The field behind the barns has a lot of milkweed in it, Mr. Rabinowitz said. That attracts Monarch butterflies. Plans are in place to enhance the field and to become a member of the Monarch butterfly watch, something White Memorial Preserve did this past year.
There is also a new rain garden at the Bellamy-Ferriday Preserve, located right next to the barns. Mr. Rabinowitz explained, “Rain gardens help to prevent flooding by keeping water in the rain garden and allowing the water to slowly seep into the ground.
“It stops the water from just flowing uncontrolled on areas and allows it to slowly dissipate into the ground. It also gives us a wonderful garden to look at, with plants that like to have ‘wet feet’.”
The rain garden was a community project, completed with the help of the Bethlehem Land Trust, the Northwest Conservation District, Northeast Excavating and Garden Paths Landscaping. There are plans in place to dedicate the rain garden to a past president, Mary Hawvermale, who served in that role from 2007 to 2016.
None of this work comes without a price. The land trust was not able to hold its annual dinner and auction this year, so it came up with an alternative, a cow chip raffle, where a field is marked off in squares, and a cow is turned loose to graze.
Ticket holders hope the cow “blesses” the individual square that matches the ticket they are holding. The event proved very popular even though members were not able to sell tickets by sitting outside stores in a pandemic environment. There are already plans in place to continue with the raffle this coming year.
Winners of the first-ever Cow Chip raffle were: first, $2,000 cash, Christine Vogel; second, Weber grill, Holly Hughes; third, truckload of firewood, Matt Rimbocchi; fourth, fuel oil/propane Bantam Wesson; Rob Stephen, and fifth, $200 gift card to New Morning Market, Michael Hiles.
Guiding the land trust’s efforts are a volunteer board. The land trust recently welcomed three new board members: Walter Brackett, Michael Carbonneau and Thomas Brayton.
According to the land trust’s website, which does not yet include the Bergman property, “The land trust holds 359 acres in permanent preservation. Of these, 17 parcels are owned by the trust and seven parcels are held in conservation easements.
“The Bellamy Preserve, at 81 acres, has trails that wander throughout the property. Access and parking are located on Munger Lane in the center of Bethlehem. Two Rivers Preserve, 11.4 acres, has a scenic path along the river from the parking area. It is located on Route 132, approximately 1.5 miles west from the center of Bethlehem.
“Long Horizon, 4.1 acres, has a trail that meanders along a ravine, around the field and through a young arboretum. It is accessed through the town-owned Swendsen Farm Preserve or from Long Horizon Road.
“B. Earl Canfield, Jr., Preserve, 31 acres, is on the southeast side of Still Hill Road, downhill from the last house; there is parking at the bottom of the valley. Trails coming soon.”