The Steep Rock Association has been awarded a couple of open space grants to expand its 676-acre Hidden Valley Preserve. $166,500 will be used to protect 31 acres of Bantam Preserve and the Shepaug Forest Block Important Bird Area in the Town of Washington.
$376,000 will protect 65 acres of Cook Preserve in Washington directly contiguous to the Steep Rock Association’s Bronson Fields parcel. A section of the dismantled Shepaug Valley Railroad runs through the site creating a flat, easily accessible hiking trail for the public. Much of the site contains USDA Prime and Statewide Important Farmland Soils.
The goal is to connect Hidden Valley Preserve to Mount Tom State Park and Wyantenock State Forest north to the blue-blazed Mattatuck Trail. The Steep Rock Association plans to install a 2.1-mile spur trail from the existing Mount Tom State Park trail system.
Steep Rock Association has also been awarded $193,500 in state open space preservation grant money to protect 73 acres adjacent to Mount Tom State Park. The property contains 7 acres of wetland soils and 52 acres of core forest. It also protects two GAA-drinking water wells at nearby Rumsey Hall School. Approximately 1,480 acres of protected open space exist within, or interest, a 1-mile buffer of the property and it is located within the 13,000-acre Shepaug Forest Block Important Bird Area.
The property forms the uphill border of Romford Road which directly borders the Shepaug River. It is largely mountainous and contains four subpeaks (990’, 1040’, 1060’, 1090’). Forest types include Central Appalachian Dry Oak-Pine Forest, North-Central Interior and Appalachian Rich Swamp.