CLINTON, Conn., Jan. 22, 2024 — The Bethany Land Trust and Connecticut Water Company ensured 20 acres of land along Route 63 on the Bethany, Naugatuck and Prospect border will remain in perpetuity protected open space available for the public to enjoy.
Nestled in the woods across the street from the Naugatuck State Forest, the Land Trust created the Three Sisters Preserve after finalizing the acquisition with Connecticut Water in late summer and immediately embarked on improvements to open the space up to the public.
“We’re thrilled to know this property will remain protected open space for the public to enjoy under the direction of the Bethany Land Trust, who have already shown to be dedicated land stewards,” Connecticut Water President Craig Patla said. “The work the Land Trust has done so quickly is impressive
For more than 20 years, Connecticut Water has worked with Save the Sound on ways to protect open space, particularly through the donation or bargain sale of water company lands that are no longer needed for company purposes.
Through this partnership, in 2022, Connecticut Water finalized agreements with the Borough of Naugatuck, the Town of Prospect, the Killingworth Land Conservation Trust, and the Bethany Land Trust to transfer a total of six parcels, no longer needed for water supply purposes, to be permanently preserved as open space. The parcels, ranging in size from eight to 19 acres for a total of about 82 acres, are intended to provide for passive public recreation including hiking, running, and birding, depending on the location.
The Three Sisters Preserve is the first of the parcel transfer agreements Connecticut Water finalized. Connecticut Water recognized the environmental safeguards and public benefits of the property transfer, so if the Land Trust was able to raise just one third of the property’s appraised value, then the company would donate the remaining two thirds as part of a bargain sale. The Land Trust found a donor for their portion of the funds and finalized the acquisition in early fall.
The preserve contains a variety of interesting features including a meandering trout brook, steep escarpments and the remains of an old mill. The Land Trust enlisted the help of an Eagle Scout to create a .5-mile hiking trail loop that winds throughout the property. After rains, water cascades down through rocky outcroppings en route to the stream, creating a relaxing, tranquil spot to soak in natural beauty. As Land Trust members continue to learn more about the property and its history, the more they fall in love with it, Bethany Land Trust President Carol Lambiase said.
“With a Class III trout stream, striking geology, and historic significance to Native Americans, we are very grateful to be given the opportunity to preserve this remarkable property,” Lambiase said.
Beyond the natural beauty, the property also contains a wealth of local history, which Land Trust members learned during the acquisition process. The Three Sisters name comes from a long-gone large, three-trunked chestnut tree that stood on the property. The tree served as a reference point for Native Americans, and later, the colonies.
While walking the trail recently, Lambiase pointed out a curving stone wall, which researchers say was likely built by Native Americans since the shape resembles a serpent, in contrast to straight-line stone walls seen scattered throughout New England forests built by colonists.
Elsewhere on the property sit stone markers with several letters and numbers chiseled into them. According to Lambiase, in 1673 the New Haven Colony and the Milford Colony disputed the boundary and agreed to settle the dispute through physical combat, which apparently ended in a draw. Today, the stones mark the former location of the Three Sisters Tree, which the colonists used to designate the boundary between Bethany, Naugatuck and Prospect.
In addition to the trail, the Land Trust created steps leading down from Route 63 to the stream. Visitors can access the property by parking along Route 63 in the area of 1154 Amity Road. Across the street, yellow signs mark the beginning of the trail near the steps leading down to the stream. Currently, a series of stones is the best way to cross the stream, but can be difficult when rain makes the stream swell. The Land Trust plans additional improvements in the future, including devising new ways to cross the stream. Anyone interested in volunteering with the land trust’s efforts can contact Bethany Land Trust Board Member Bob Harrison at 203-506-5888 .
Connecticut Water hopes to finalize transfers on the other parcels in the agreement in the near future.
“We look forward to working with our community partners to continue protecting open space and providing recreational opportunities,” Patla said.
Trail Map: https://www.bethanylandtrust.org/Maps/ThreeSistersPreserve.pdf