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History of Old Field Preserve

Old Field Preserve
By Jim Nordgren

With over two miles of well-marked hiking trails, the Old Field Preserve on Mead Street makes a terrific autumn destination. Dogwood trees and blueberry shrubs turning a deep scarlet color dot the older fields–there are seven fields in total–while golden little bluestem grass and white asters grace the younger meadows. Walk all the way to the east end through mature woodlands and get a glimpse of the Wolf Conservation Center and sign up online for one of their visitor programs. Or if you’re up for a long hike, continue south along the trail that connects across Route 35 to miles of trails at the Town Park and the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.

Speaking of Route 35, it’s hard to imagine that as late as the 1970’s it was closed twice a day so that cows could cross at Mead Street to go to pasture and back. And it was around that time that the last haying was done at the Old Field Preserve. While the cows and hay are sadly gone, the meadows at Old Field are a living reminder of our agricultural past. Because these fields were abandoned at different times, vegetation has grown up in different patterns, creating a beautiful mix of plant, bird and butterfly species. The oldest fields are now young forest, the middle-aged fields are shrub land and the youngest fields are tall grass and it is this variety of plant life that leads to the abundance of bird and butterfly species there today.

We learn more each day about the tragic loss of birds, butterflies and other pollinators and all across Westchester homeowners are responding by planting native plants to create ‘pollinator pathways’. Old Field Preserve is more aptly described as a pollinator superhighway. Not only do the fields support great varieties of butterflies, dragonflies and other pollinators, but the entire Preserve-all 111 acres–acts as a vital wildlife corridor connecting Mountain Lakes Camp with the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. This swath of woodland allows animals–and plants–to move about freely in a 6,000 acre expanse of unfragmented habitat in the midst of suburbia. These unfragmented, connected blocks of habitat are necessary for biodiversity to flourish, and as biodiversity flourishes, so does human health.

Some may forget that in 2003 this preserve was slated to be a large subdivision. With Waccabuc resident Susan Henry in the lead, the Lewisboro Land Trust, then a chapter of Westchester Land Trust, over one hundred neighbors along with the Town of Lewisboro, the County and the State contributed funds to buy the land from a developer – permanently protecting it for hiking, wildlife and water protection. And the work did not end there, the Lewisboro Land Trust created an educational trail and a popular Meditation Garden there in 2015. The Lewisboro Parks & Rec Department and volunteers from the Open Space/Preserves committee keep the trails mowed and clear. The Lewisboro Land Trust runs guided hikes, nature walks and other family programs at the preserve.

Old Field Preserve is located on Mead Street at the intersection of Schoolhouse Road in Waccabuc and is owned by the Town of Lewisboro and Westchester County. Visit www.lewisborolandtrust.org for upcoming programs at the Preserve and get outdoors with us.