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Land trust opens Randall’s Farm Preserve

The dedication last Friday of the 34-acre Randall’s Farm Nature Preserve in Easton to the Aspetuck Land Trust safeguards a piece of local colonial history dating to 1671 and assures a scenic expanse of meadows, small ponds, forested wetlands and hardwood forest will remain public open space in perpetuity.

Once a working dairy farm operated by the Randall family, the property on Sport Hill Road (Route 59) was acquired by Mrs. Henry B. duPont III of Southport in 1983 and donated to the land trust in late 2011.

The donation includes two leased residences. The rent from the residences will go toward the expense of maintaining the preserve.

Ms. duPont, a member of the Wheeler family who settled the region during colonial times, has fond memories of growing up on Hayes Road in Easton.

“I grew up in this area,” said Ms. duPont, “and I have long enjoyed the beauty and serenity of farmland that is now becoming scarce. I am very pleased to be part of establishing a nature preserve like this which future generations can enjoy.”

She said her family was originally interested in using the site as a possible town center, like Weston’s. “But knowing some people didn’t want it, we never took it to a town meeting,” she said. “I’m happier to have donated it as open space. My family has always supported land preservation.”

Signage for the Randall’s Farm Nature Preserve directs the public to a small parking area on the west side of Sport Hill Road roughly midway between Adams Road and Westport Road.

Bruce LePage will serve as the official Aspetuck Land Trust steward for the preserve. He will do the mowing with a tractor donated by Melissa Newman, daughter of Paul Newman, who had it on his property in Westport. Mr. Newman was a champion of open space and the Aspetuck Land Trust.

Princie Falkenhagen, president of the land trust, thanked Mrs. duPont for her generous donation, which she said would be a reminder that this beautiful piece “of our farm heritage will always be protected from development. In concert with our organization’s open space conservation mission and regulations, a network of trails is now available to the public to walk across and enjoy forever,” she said.

Ms. Falkenhagen has worked hard to preserve open space in the region and was instrumental in preventing Trout Brook Valley from being developed.

The property, which boasts magnificent views, connects with the 35-acre Gilbertie’s Farm, giving it additional value as a habitat refuge due to its large size, Ms. Falkenhagen said.

Opening day activities featured remarks by Aspetuck Land Trust leaders and Ms. duPont and a ceremonial ribbon cutting moment officially opening the trail network to the public. Mr. LePage led a guided hike through the preserve.

Aspetuck Land Trust maintains 44 trailed nature preserves on more than 1,700 acres in Easton, Weston, Westport and Fairfield. A recent survey of 645 members and supporters found the five most popular activities at its preserves were (in order of popularity) hiking, dog walking, getting children outdoors, bird watching, and photography and painting.

In addition to those activities, horseback riding will be permitted at Randall’s Farm Nature Preserve if advance permission is obtained from the land trust.

“Tax-deductible donations of land over the 46-year history of Aspetuck Land Trust have created a valuable resource for all to enjoy,” said David Brant, executive director of ALT. “We are always pleased to talk with landowners about whether land they own meets our criteria for open space conservation and the related tax advantages of donation.”

ALT is a local non-profit land conservation organization founded in 1966 to preserve open space in the towns of Westport, Weston, Fairfield and Easton.

The land trust maintains nature preserves and other conservation-only properties on more than 1,700 acres of land. The land trust has more than 1,000 local members who support it through annual membership contributions.

For more information, visit aspetucklandtrust.org.

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