Conservation land trust that bought area in Monroe seeks approval to build hiking trails

The land, located on 38 Guinea Road, is surrounded by other undeveloped areas and contains a pond.

The land, located on 38 Guinea Road, is surrounded by other undeveloped areas and contains a pond.

Aspetuck Land Trust

Land trust advocates in southwest Connecticut have acquired a small tract of land in Monroe to preserve its biodiversity and are asking town officials to let them build hiking trails in the surrounding area.

The Aspetuck Land Trust paid $20,000 to buy the 7.8 acres from the Boy Scouts of America’s Connecticut Yankee Council last month. The regional council previously kept the land as unused space, according to spokesperson Bob Brown. The council sold Camp Pomperaug in Union earlier this year to help pay its assessed share of a $850 million sex abuse settlement to settle tens of thousands of abuse claims against the national organization, and another camp in Killingworth to fund activities that include hiking and boating, Brown said.

The purchase is Aspetuck Land Trust’s first in Monroe since it merged with the Monroe Land Trust and Tree Conservancy last year. The merger has expanded the conservation group’s work, which has primarily been in Fairfield, Westport, Easton and Weston. 

Last year, the Connecticut Yankee Council asked Aspetuck Land Trust if they wanted to buy the parcel, said Barbara Thomas, a board member with the land trust. Adam Goodman, the group’s land protection specialist, said that the land — located at 38 Guinea Road — is surrounded by other undeveloped areas.

“When you connect a bunch of open space together, you preserve a bigger area of open space,” Goodman said.

Goodman added that the land is beautiful too. “It has a little pond on there, there’s some really cool topographic ridges, some nice rock walls," he said. 

The land trust wants to build hiking trails on its new property, but it is only accessible through land owned by the town of Monroe. So the group has met with local officials to get permission to build hiking trails in the surrounding areas to lead into its newly acquired land. 

“We wanted to work with them to get the public in there to hopefully enjoy this property,” Goodman said.

Monroe residents would be able to volunteer to maintain the trails and remove any invasive plants that grow in the area, said Thomas.

“If we do put trails eventually in that property, that does tend to open up more opportunity for invasive plants to come in because people unknowingly track in seeds on their shoes,” Thomas said.

The land trust has yet to conduct a survey of the area’s wildlife, but Goodman said the land’s pond, wetlands and surrounding woodlands allow for plant species and animals to thrive in the area.

“There’s a lot of different environments going on, all in a small area. And all of that helps with biodiversity and wildlife habitat,” Goodman said. “A duck would like a pond, but a snake would like the woods, all of the different things help together.”

Monroe First Selectman Kenneth Kellogg said his administration plans to work with the land trust to develop a proposed agreement for the town council to approve to allow the group to build hiking trails.  He said officials don't yet have a tentative date set for that vote.

Andy.field@hearstmediact.com, @AndyTsubasaF