Schenck’s Island — which is not really an island at all — is a seventeen acre parcel in Wilton Center situated east of the Norwalk River and west of the railroad tracks. It spans the distance between the “Bridge to Nowhere” and Ogden House along River Road. The southernmost three acres are owned by the Land Trust and were dedicated the “Richard E. Wheeler Nature Preserve on Schenck’s Island” on May 3rd, 2008. Richard was an early member of the Land Trust who worked tirelessly at Schenck’s Island to remove invasives long before our current program to create a meadow.
History: In the 1920s and 30s, the “island” was part of the Schenck estate, devoted to hay fields and an occasional corn field. There was a swimming hole near the southeast end and a low dam on the Norwalk River (fragments of which still exist across the street from The Gap) created a small pond for boating. Over the years the Schenck estate was sold off and broken up into properties that now contain condominiums, the Avalon apartment complex, the Executive Campus and Stop & Shop. The island was eventually purchased by the town and considered for a number of uses, ranging from a post office, low income housing to athletic fields. As time has passed and as Wilton Center has developed into a busy commercial area and a population center with close proximity to the school complexes, it has become apparent that Schenck’s Island is the perfect place to provide the town center with an attractive green space along the Norwalk River.
Restoration Plan:: The Land Trust has long exercised an interest in restoring this property and has undertaken a ten year plan, in partnership with the Town, to clear the invasive growth and create a largely self-sustaining and replicating savannah-like terrain with trails and places for benches and tables. No new parking or active use is planned.
The rich river bottom soil of the island has, since the end of agricultural use, provided an ideal environment for a wide variety of invasive plant life to take over, crowd out native species and disrupt natural succession of field to forest. There have been many attempts to “clean up” the island, but each clearing just prepared the land for the next spring invasion of new seeds coming down the river. A “quick fix” won’t work. It will take a comprehensive plan and sustained execution of that plan.
In developing the plan for the island, the Land Trust has worked with the town’s conservation director, Pat Sesto, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, Trout Unlimited, the Norwalk River Watershed Association and many other individuals and organizations who have provided their expertise, advice and commitment to this project.
While there is heavy work to be done in removing trees and stumps, much of the work is well suited to volunteers with small hand tools. We hope to enlist the help of the residents of Wilton Center, the center businesses, service clubs, youth organizations and the public at large. If you wish to become a Schenck’s Island volunteer please contact me at the email box shown below.With your help, Schenck’s Island will become Wilton’s Central Park.
Directions: From Wilton Center go south on Old Ridgefield Road 0.3 miles to River Road. Turn left (east) and cross the bridge. Park entrance is south of the bridge.Schenck’s Island
Acreage: ± 17.366
Parking: At north end of Island, south of bridge.
Access: From parking lot and from footbridge at River Road.
Trails: ± 1 mile for hiking.
Ownership: ± 14.3 66 acres Town of Wilton & ± 3 acres Wilton Land Conservation Trust
Land Trust Contact: Wilton Land Conservation Trust