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OCC– Spring is on the way

As snow once again blankets Orange, the Orange Conservation Commission (OCC) is looking forward to springtime in Orange’s Open Spaces. With nearly a thousand acres of open spaces in Orange, the OCC is planning activities to enhance the accessibility and sustainability of our open spaces (Paul Ode Nature Trail at the High Plains Community Center, Howard Brooks Conservation Area off Mapledale Rd, Wrights Pond on Old Grassy Hill Rd, Housatonic Overlook at Cedar Grove Rd/High RidgeRd, Racebrook Tract on Racebrook Rd, Fred Wolfe Park off of Hollow Road and Ewen Farm Preserve on St John’s Drive and the Turkey Hill Preserve on Derby-Milford Road). These open spaces represent Orange’s investment to protect the resources, plants and animals of our Town while simutaneously fullfilling its commitment to provide open space for passive recreational use and enjoyment on the properties.

 Heading the list of these activities, a Conservation & Management Plan for Turkey Hill Preserve was recently developed and presented to the OCC. This Plan identified conservation strategies and adaptive management actions to allow Orange to carry out its stewardship goal of maintaining the Turkey Hill Preserve (THP) in a natural state that balances the need for protection and for passive recreational uses. The study identified a very diverse collection of habitats, plants and animals present in the THP. THP contains high quality headwater streams that drain into Turkey Hill and Little Turkey Hill Brooks and into the Wepawaug River – very important to the fish population in these downstream habitats. In addition, the THP contains a number of wetland areas with vernal pools left after the snow finally melts. These pools are important to the development of plant and animal life that works its way up the food chain. So how do we protect these wetland areas while still enjoying a woodland walk? Stay on the trail! Blazing for blue trail at THP was recently enhanced to enable hikers to easily follow the loop that starts at the parking lot off of Derby-Milford Road (at the intersection of Turkey Hill Road). Future articles will identify what to be on the lookout for as you hike the trails at THP and other Open Space areas.

 In the spirit of Spring cleaning, the OCC will have a “workday” at 9:00 am on Saturday, March 29th at the Housatonic Overlook, parking is at the end of High Ridge Road. We will be cleaning up the trails, clearing brush and fallen branches and enjoying being out of doors in this beautiful spot in preparation for a Connecticut Trails Days event at this site on June 7th. You don’t have to wait until March 29th to participate in cleanup activities. As you walk any of the Open Space trails, pick up any trash you may find and deposit in appropriate trash cans at the entrances.

 Lastly, Orange is very fortunate to have these Open Spaces available to our residents. Our Town leaders have exhibited great forethought in acquiring these properties for us and our children to enjoy. It is now up to us to step forward and accept responsibility for stewardship of this land.

The OCC needs more volunteers to help maintain trails and care for the land on all open space properties for which the OCC is responsible.  We are seeking highly motivated individuals or families who regularly use the trails and want to give something back to the town. Training in basic trail maintenance skills can be provided. The OCC is especially interested in retired persons looking to stay physically active, young adults looking for a challenge, students who need to fulfill community service hours for graduation, families with older children who enjoy working together in the outdoors, owners of properties in the vicinity of town-owned land who would personally benefit from good stewardship practices nearby, amateur or professional naturalists, people who have or would like to develop leadership skills and/or those experienced with hand tools, painting, carpentry, or landscaping. If you are interested in helping the OCC in this way, please contact OCC commission member Sharon Ewen at sme71@yahoo.com . Aside from being a great way to provide community service, trail maintenance can be very rewarding!

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