Native Meadows -- a preserve in the making
Wild migratory birds and native wood ducks are among the wildlife finding a home at Native Meadows, a wildlife preserve being created near Veterans Memorial Bridge in New Milford.
The 25-acre stretch along the Housatonic River begins at the intersection of routes 7 and 202 and runs north along Kent Road (Route 7).
The site was purchased in 2010 by the Northwest Conservation District.
On completion, by 2016, the preserve will be donated to the town of New Milford.
"Sharon Audubon did a bird study and count for us from March to June 2011," said Michael Morin, manager of the Nature Meadows project. "It's an important migratory site with swampy areas that fill at times with water.
"In the spring there were wood ducks spotted. We may install wood duck boxes in the wet area to encourage nesting."
The land was purchased with funding administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Department -- part of the Natural Resources Damage Fund, which was created to restore the Housatonic River from PCB contamination by General Electric operations in Pittsfield, Mass.
A USDA Natural Resource Conservation service grant is covering the cost of eradication of invasive species.
"This is another example of the marvelous gifts we have right here in our community," said town councilman Peter Mullen, a former chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission. "And when managed by people who know what they're doing, it can be a wonderful preserve."
Dr. Mullen said he is not surprised at the time line given for completing the project. Such a reclamation can take generations of native plant and animal species reproducing, he explained.
In 2011, a cutting and herbicide treatment of invasive Phragmites Australis was conducted at the site and will be repeated this year, according to Jean Cronauer, executive director of the Northwest Conservation District, with offices in Torrington.
Two years of such treatment is recommended to remove the growth, she explained.
Two acres of cottonwood trees were cut in the spring to six inches in height to encourage a thicker stand of the trees, an act designed to attract bird species.
The cuttings were used to create eight brush piles that will serve as habitat for chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits -- which in turn would attract hawks to the preserve, Mr. Morin explained.
A bat habitat may also be created with the installation of bat houses.
"The preserve will serve as a visually attractive wildlife environment for the New Milford community," said Mr. Morin, who added trails for walking may be developed, too.
"An entrance may be created right after you walk off [the bridge] for intrepid birders," he concluded, "and such willing to wade into chest-high grasses."