It has been almost exactly a year since Avalonia took ownership of the Copps Brook Preserve in Stonington, part of a larger block of protected area that was mostly untouched forest land and wetlands.
One hundred acres were purchased by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to become part of the Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge. More than 20 acres were purchased by an adjoining landowner to be protected by a conservation easement. The remaining 120 acres are now under the protection of Avalonia Land Conservancy and the Aquarion Water Company. The property is located just north of 115 Al Harvey Road.
Because this property surrounds and protects the Copps Brook which flows directly into the reservoir serving Stonington and Mystic, the Aquarion Water Company was a major stakeholder and contributed to the purchase that connects Avalonia land to the many acres they already protect in the watershed. Additionally, Stonington First Selectman Danielle Chesebrough supported the purchase using some of the town’s Open Space Fund.
In June of 2022, we began the process of exploring our new acquisition. A team from Aquarion created a bridge to span a small brook and an extensive wetland corridor. Additionally, a small bridge was created this spring by a craftsman builder over another seasonal stream. A bridge over Copps Brook was already in place and in good shape.
The western portion of the property had some trails already established. We created a loop trail that is contained within the Avalonia land but connects to trails that go farther onto the property of the Great Thicket Refuge. The Avalonia trails, out and back, are about four miles long.
The eastern portion of the property, along Al Harvey Road, was formerly grazing pasture. A parking area has been created at the entrance with two accessible parking spaces for people with disabilities. Plans are in place to create a sitting area and a walking path around the paddock that will be easily accessible to all visitors.
The main portion of the pasture area will be maintained as meadow habitat, with an emphasis on native pollinator plants. The berms around the parking area will also feature native grasses and plants.
We plan to offer guided hikes in late summer and into the fall. Please check our website and social media for updates. Temporary hiking maps are located on the property, indicating a shorter yellow scenic loop, and a longer blue-blazed trail that includes the bridge over Copps Brook.
We would like to thank all those who worked on this project: the Town of Stonington, Aquarion Water Company, the Trust for Public Land, the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, the Bafflin Foundation, many generous individual donors, and a determined group of volunteers.
Photos by Gail Kahover