SOUTHINGTON — The former site of the Mount Vernon Songbird Sanctuary has been donated to the Southington Land Trust, which plans to maintain it as a wildlife habitat and add walking trails through the property.
“We’ve got to do some cleaning and clearing — there’s invasive plants growing on there just like everywhere else and we try to keep them under control,” Land Trust President Val Guarino said.
The property — located at 1030 Mount Vernon Road — is made up of two adjacent parcels totaling 4.5 acres and contains a shed and a non-functional chimney, both created for birds to roost.
Since the property abuts large tracts of land owned by the Southington Sportsmen Association and the water department, Gaurino said it was ideal for preserving as a habitat for birds which require large woodlands.
“A lot of birds need big habitat. You know these broken up bits of small woodlands, they work for certain birds, but other birds need deep woods,” he said.
Seeing that the land continued to support wild birds was important for Jayne Neville, who founded the Mount Vernon Songbird Sanctuary over 23 years ago and lived in a home next door. She tried to sell both the home and the property to someone willing to take over her sanctuary work, but that proved impractical so she donated the land to the Land Trust.
Since the land trust had been a longtime supporter of the sanctuary — even awarding her a grant to purchase some additional land — she knew it was the best organization to donate the land to.
When the land trust can find volunteers to make improvements to the site and clear some trails through the woods, Gaurino said he hopes the trust is able to open the land up to the public for hiking and bird watching.
“We've got work to do and at some point we’re thinking that might be a nice place for people to visit,” he said.
Those interested in volunteering can contact the land trust through its website or Facebook page.
Land trust receives second donation of former farm
The Southington Land Trust also received a donation of an old farm totaling around 100 acres near Spring Street. Much of the farm was used to develop Interstate 84, including the spot where the old homestead once stood.
“That’s an interesting property, it's the remains of a 100-acre farm...the people who donated it bought the land in I think it was 1930,” Gaurino said.
The property also includes a stretch of the Farmington Canal, which has eroded to little more than a ditch running through the land. Gaurino said he’s looking into grants to clean up and restore the property as well as adding more walking trails through that property.
A volunteer-run organization with limited resources, Gaurino said the land trust has been successful with working with the community to secure donations of land to preserve in town.
“Two big donations like that are a big thing for us and we’re a small organization, we really don't have much money … so we rely mostly on donations,” he said.