Roxbury: Bronsons donate 14 acres to land trust

Howard and Cathleen Bronson, of Maple Bank Farm in Roxbury.

Howard and Cathleen Bronson, of Maple Bank Farm in Roxbury.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

ROXBURY — Howard and Cathleen Bronson of Maple Bank Farm have donated 14.01 acres of forested land off Good Hill Road to the Roxbury Land Trust (RLT). The RLT, which announced the gift of land last week, said the donation was made in honor of Cathleen Bronson’s family and the property will be known as the Hurlbut Woods Preserve.

The Hurlbut family has farmed and stewarded the land continuously in Roxbury since 1730, the announcement said. Cathleen Bronson’s parents, Lewis and Ethel Hurlbut, and her aunt and uncle, Elinor and Alden Hurlbut, started a roadside stand in 1963 to sell poultry and fruit from the farm. The stand, which became known as Maple Bank Farm, was enlarged through the years by the Bronsons as it became a Roxbury landmark and destination offering fruit, vegetables, and plants, with sheep and cattle grazing nearby, the announcement said.

“RLT is honored to accept this generous gift from the Bronsons,” said Julie Steers, RLT’s president. “Farming families such as the Bronsons are uniquely aware of the importance of preserving their farms including forested areas for generations to come.”

According to Cathleen Bronson, in the past, trees from this woodlot were made into lumber to build farm buildings; split into rails for fencing; and used to heat homes. The Hurlbut children enjoyed watching the wildlife and exploring the forested trails. “It is with great joy that the Hurlbuts: Lewis, Ethel, Gaylord, Garry, Henry, David, Linda, Carolyn, and Tom as well as Howard and I, donate this land to the Roxbury Land Trust for all to enjoy,” said Cathleen Bronson.

Consisting of a diverse mix of hardwood species as well as some large oak and hickory mast-producing trees, the property contains intermittent streams, quartz outcroppings, and vernal pools. RLT looks forward to a time when the trails can be reopened.

“This property also serves as a wildlife corridor between existing conserved land,” noted Ann Astarita, executive director of the land trust. The Hurlbut Woods Preserve connects private conserved lands via a conservation easement to the south and extends just north and east with the Gavel Family Farm Preserve across Good Hill Road.

Having celebrated its 50th year in 2020, the RLT preserves just under 4,000 acres of farmland, woodlands, wetlands, watercourses and open space in Roxbury and neighboring communities. It maintains 33 preserves with more than 30 miles of hiking trails and three active farms, as well as offering educational programs. Governed by a volunteer board of directors, the nonprofit organization is supported by membership dues and charitable contributions. The land trust does not receive monetary support from the town, state or federal governments and relies on the support of its members for operations and stewardship. For more information, visit www.roxburylandtrust.org, email ann@roxburylandtrust.org or call 860-350-4148.