Wildlands & Woodlands Website

Highstead works to inspire curiosity and build knowledge about plants and wooded landscapes in order to enhance life, preserve nature, and advance sound stewardship practices.


Redding, Connecticut

Our Community > Redding, CT

Map of Open Space Redding Connecticut

Redding Open Space - More related maps

Revolutionary War Cabins Putnam State park

Remains of Revolutionary War Cabins Putnam State Park

Colonial and Land Use History

First European Settlement

Although colonists began surveying the forested landscape of Redding as early as 1675, it wasn't until 1714 that the first settler, John Read (for whom the town is named) established his "Lonetown Manor," just 1/8 mile northeast of Highstead's current property line. Read purchased his land from a prominent Native American chief, Chicken Warrups, whose village "was on the high ridge a short distance southwest of the residence of Mr. John Read," perhaps the site of Highstead's north meadow.

Revolutionary War:

At the end of the 18th century, Redding's drumlins and rocky outcrops, which provided views of Long Island Sound to the south and Danbury to the North, would serve an important role in the War of Independence. To defend the Hudson Valley from British attack, General Putnam established 3 winter encampments in Redding in 1778-1779 , one of which sits an 1/8 mile to the northwest of Highstead's property boundary on TNC land. Remnant fireplaces ("firebacks") of the soldier's quarters are still visible amidst a maturing forest that researchers at Highstead study

Mid-Settlement (1800-1860)

By the early 19th century, Redding's burgeoning population had cleared 80-90% of the landscape for agriculture and had begun intensively logging the remaining woodlots for charcoal and wood products. Highstead's oak forest was cut heavily to fuel the largest lime kiln in CT, located a short distance to the Northwest on present day Lime Kiln Road. The completion of the Danbury and Norwalk railroads in the early 1850's opened a spate of inexpensive Midwestern produce and contributed to a decline of local farming and the beginning of large-scale agricultural abandonment.

Redding Ridge 1902

Late Settlement (20th century)

By 1915 about 45% of Redding's less productive farmland had been abandoned and was succeeding back to forest. More productive lands including the eastern half of Highstead's lands, however, remained in agriculture into the mid-century and beyond, greatly influencing the modern vegetation composition of these lands. Today perhaps 65-70% of the town is forested again, and many of the largest open fields, as at Highstead, occur on the drumlins.

Conservation

Water Company Land

As farmland was being abandoned in the late 19th and early 20th century, the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company (now the Aquarion Water Company ) purchased large parcels of land in the Saugatuck and Aspetuck River Valleys of Redding and Weston. In 1942, it completed construction of the Saugatuck Reservoir -- by far the largest body of water in the town of Redding. Today, in partnership with CT DEP and the Nature Conservancy, it conserves 2800 acres in Redding, the largest protected land base in the town

Redding Conservation Commission

In the mid 1960's, the municipal Redding Conservation Commission was founded in response to the rapid rate of subdivision and development in the town. By 1975, it had purchased and set aside 13 parcels, totaling 1300 acres, including the 150 acre "Stormfield" (Mark Twain's former property) and the 318 acre Saugatuck Falls Natural Area. Highstead collaborates with the RCC by conducting ecological studies on several of its properties including the Gallows Hill Tract that abuts Highstead to the west.

Redding Land Trust (RLT)

Founded in 1965 to offset the high rate of development in Redding, the RLT is one of the oldest land trusts in Connecticut and owns or holds conservation easements on 1600 acres of land in the town. Highstead collaborates with the RLT by hosting its annual meeting and by conducting ecological research on one of its parcels (Yovan Tract) that abuts Highstead land.

Connecticut DEP

The state environmental protection agency manages in cooperation with TNC and AWC the 15,000 acre Centennial Watershed State Forest in Fairfield County and owns two large parcels in the northeast corner of the town: Huntington and Putnam State Parks. Huntington is the largest protected parcel in Redding, and Putnam Park is the largest of 3 Revolutionary War Encampments in town. Highstead conducts research on both of these properties and other CT DEP properties in surrounding towns.

The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy owns the Devil's Den Tract in Redding and Weston - the largest privately-owned tract of protected land in Fairfield County -- and has partnered with the CT DEP and Aquarion Water Company to protect over 15,000 acres of forestland in Fairfield County. Highstead collaborates actively with TNC on its ecological studies.

Wildlands and Woodlands

Established in 2005 by ecologists, foresters, and conservationists from Harvard Forest and the University of Massachusetts , this proposal and working group aims to protect 50% of the state's forestlands in working woodlands and reserves. The plan was conceived to mitigate the recent downward trend in the state's forest cover resulting from subdivisions and urban sprawl. The Wildlands and Woodlands plan has subsequently grown to include all of southern New England and has become an important focus of Highstead's conservation program.

Redding Trails

Redding has over 60 miles of hiking trails that pass through and connect many of the large conservation parcels in town. Most recently, the 6 mile Aspetuck Valley Trail of CT DEP's Centennial Watershed State Forest was opened in June 2007. This trail passes through Redding, Easton, and Newtown in the 15,000 acre Centennial Watershed State Forest.