This is the second in a two-part series by GLCT President Sarah Williams, on Westwoods and the Guilford Land Conservation Trust’s current 17 acre, $300,000 acquisition at its center. It was originally published in the Guilford Courier.
Once the Westwoods trail system opened in 1966, Guilford residents visited the area in large numbers. Letters in the paper expressed residents’ gratitude for the trails and awe at the spectacular natural place they could now visit. Many of the same individuals who helped start the Guilford Land Conservation Trust (GLCT) in 1965 also took charge of the trails and, in February of 1967, the Westwoods Trails Committee became a formal subcommittee of GLCT. Today, under the leadership of Paul Proulx, this open committee continues to meet and welcomes new volunteers. In the beginning, some trails in Westwoods had been permitted across private property so, in 1967, GLCT created a list of priority properties for acquisition in order to protect the core of the forest and the integrity of the trail system. Within two years of the creation of this list, one of these properties became available. It was a small parcel near where the kiosk stands on Dunk Rock Road. Because of its existing holdings in the forest, the State seemed the logical entity to purchase it. However, there was an expected delay of 15 months before such a purchase might happen. The Shoreline Times headline on December 12, 1968 read: “Land Conservation Trust Launches Fund Drive to Purchase West Woods Property.” The three-year-old Guilford Land Conservation Trust answered the call of the community to keep this forest, and its beloved trail system, intact: 4.5 acres for $15,000. Where did that money come from? Individual donations from the people of Guilford. Today, GLCT has completed over 25 acquisitions in Westwoods to protect more than 700 acres in the area. With the donations of Guilford residents and the major gift of land by Effie Good, Westwoods represents both forward-thinking conservationism and potent community spirit.
In 2012, there is a new but familiar headline: “Land Trust Raising Funds to Protect Heart of Westwoods.” While impressive amounts of open space have been protected in the Westwoods area, the work is not done. In May of 2012, GLCT entered into a contract to buy 17 acres, at the center of the remaining private inholdings, for $300,000 over three years. GLCT made the first payment of $100,000 on July 30. The property under contract is one whose owners permitted trails when the system was first created so users of Westwoods have crossed it on the White Circle and the Red Triangle trails since the 1960s. The property contains a variety of habitats from upland hardwood forest to wetlands to early successional forest and is home to an array of wildlife, including endangered species. Water from this property drains into Lost Lake, through Guilford shellfish beds, and into the Long Island Sound. Westwoods is doing its job as a watershed, a refuge for wildlife, and a place for recreation and study for the people of the shoreline. It is up to those of us who care about Westwoods to ensure its survival. GLCT must raise $200,000.
More information about Westwoods and other properties maintained by the GLCT can be found in the Properties section of this web site.
If you would like to join or donate to the GLCT, you may do so on-line or by mail to:
Guilford Land Conservation Trust
P.O. Box 200
Guilford, CT 06437