Schenck's Island walkers remember town's rural past

Members of Stay at Home in Wilton listen to land trust executive director Donna Merrill during a walk through Schenck's Island. - Debbie Louis photo
Members of Stay at Home in Wilton listen to land trust executive director Donna Merrill during a walk through Schenck’s Island. — Debbie Louis photo

Twenty-five people joined Stay at Home in Wilton for a guided plant walk around Schenck’s Island on May 31 with Donna Merrill, executive director of Wilton Land Conservation Trust.

She noted that, “many Wilton seniors are land trust members and recall the founding of the organization in 1964 when the character of our town was still defined by the wooded acres and pure streams of our rural past.”

Schenck’s Island is one of 11 meadows the land trust protects, helping to preserve the town’s insect and songbird population.

Jackie Algon, Wilton Pollinator Pathway Steering Committee member, gave an example of the decline in insect populations when she said the monarch butterfly population is 10% of what it was in the 1970s. She emphasized the need to establish pollinator-friendly habitats and food sources for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and the other pollinating insects and wildlife in town.

Residents can do their part, she said, by planting a window box or container garden; they can also contribute by reducing the chemicals sprayed on their yards and by using native flowers, shrubs and trees. Native plants provide a natural habitat and food source for wildlife while invasive plants threaten the environment and can be linked to endangered species like the monarch butterfly. If Wilton preserves early succession habitats such as leftover farmland, and residents help by participating in the pollinator pathway principles, then the town’s natural habitats and wildlife are protected.

Several seniors on the walk were early residents of Wilton and remember the farmlands, forests and wetlands. Anne Goslee Jovovic lived at 6 Godfrey Place in 1948 and said, “We kids all learned how to swim in the Norwalk River directly at the end of Godfrey Place.” She remembers when the Ogden House location was called the “pine forest” and Stop & Shop was farmland with a large barn and farmhouse owned by Mr. Husted.

Ernest Schenck owned a large farmhouse and property nearby that he and his wife Grace purchased in the early 1900s for farming and grazing livestock. They owned the property until the town purchased the “island” in 1961.  

Karen Birck, new to Stay at Home in Wilton’s Board of Directors, said “Schenck‘s Island is one of Wilton’s treasures.” A popular place for walks, hikes, and fishing, it supports three ecosystems: meadows, forests and wetlands. All are within walking distance of Wilton Center, and all are connected by walking trails.

Stay at Home in Wilton organizes monthly walks all year long at no charge. Coming up are walks on  June 28, July 19 and August 16. To join in, call Janet Johnson at 203-762-2600.