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Harrison Smith Preserve


Harrison Smith Preserve

The Harrison Smith Preserve combines the beauty of the New England Woodland with historical glimpses of Wilton in a bygone era. Created in 1974 when the Smith family generously donated the land to the Wilton Land Conservation Trust. The northernmost section of the Smith Preserve borders Quarry Head. Smith Preserve and Quarry Head together, give citizens of Wilton a combined area of nearly 60 acres of open space, with interconnecting trails for passive recreation and spiritual refreshment. 

    The Preserve, like Quarry Head, contains numerous rock outcroppings and cliffs, albeit less imposing in character. The property is part of the same geological formation as those in Quarry Head, being composed of medium to coarse-grained gneiss, that extends back to the Devonian Period (about 400 million years ago). In the Harrison Smith Preserve with the rock formations exposed only at lower elevations, commercial grades of rock were undoubtedly wanted. The limited quarrying that can be seen suggest only use for local building needs such as barn foundations and bridge footings. Other past uses of the land included farming, particularly the raising of livestock. Many pasture and pen enclosures formed by stone fences attest to a once open landscape where now exists deep forest. Still in existence along the Preserve's eastern boundary is a natural spring which more than likely provided reliable water for grazing.

    The mixed hardwood forest of today is everywhere evident with several species of oak, maples, birch, ash, and beech predominating. In rough terrain where grazing and/or wood cutting were restricted, very large trees may be seen. Near the main cliff ramparts to the northeast, for example, magnificent specimens of tulip poplar, white ash, red oak, and sugar maples are almost an overwhelming sight. The different habitats throughout the preserve such as wet areas bordering different streams and low spots, well-drained slopes, and dry crests support numerous species of understory shrubs, small trees, ferns, and wildflowers. Diversity of life abounds in this very special area of the town.


History:

In 1974, the Smith family kindly donated the 23-acre property to the Wilton Land Conservation Trust. The northern section of the preserve borders the state run property of Quarry Head, and the two interconnected preserves total to 60 acres of land and trails open to the public. Scattered throughout the lower elevations of Harrison Smith are exposed rock outcroppings dating back to the Devonian period (400 million years ago). These rocks were mined for local use as building materials for barns and bridges. Remnants of the rock walls that once enclosed old pastures and grazing areas for livestock can still be seen from the trail.


Directions:

From Wilton Center, go north on Route 33 (Ridgefield Road) for ± 3 milesto Keeler's Ridge Road. The park entrances are found off the south end of Keeler's Ridge Road and just north of the northern Keeler's Ridge Road entrance on the entrance.

Acreage:

 ± 23

Parking:

On Keeler's Ridge Road; from Quarry Head.

Access:

Best through Quarry Head; off Ridgefield Road and off Keeler's Ridge Road.

Trails:

Scenic woodland trails and beautiful boardwalks for hiking



Ownership:

Wilton Land Conservation Trust


Kiosk and Trail Map

Map of Harrison Smith Preserve




Photos from Harrison-Smith

Beautiful Milkweed growing along the trail path. Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on only Milkweed which makes this plant unique. Since Milkweed has “weed” in the name, it is commonly confused as an invasive or pesky plant but it is the exact opposite! Milkweed is a native plant and provides for a number of species because they use the nectar and some will even eat various parts of the plant.

Fungi decomposing a fallen tree.

Black Cherry tree blossoms.

History Continued (2012)

 Before

A former field in this preserves became completely overgrown with invasive plants, shrubs and trees, and the trail was impassible in places. Generous neighbors contributed funds to the Land Trust to hire professional help to clear the field. Then neighbors and Land Trust volunteers, including 60 ninth graders organized as Project 2012.

 After

Thanks to a wet summer, careful mowing and occasional removal of stubborn vines, the meadow has flourished, and the trail has been re-created. The meadow allows for an uninterrupted view from Quarry Head State Park at the north end through all of the preserves's open fields to the south.