It's About the Land 5-20-2011

Totoket Times May 20, 2011

The North Branford Land Conservation Trust, Incorporated
It's About the Land

Rain did not dampen our bus tour of Lake Gaillard and the Tilcon Quarry of May 4th. RWA's Whitney Water Center bus and driver, three scientists from the Connecti­cut Agricultural Experiment Station, the Atwater Library community room made available for the lunch break pre­sentations, and the interesting drive through the quarry in the afternoon, saved the day.

Driving on an unpaved road of nearly 7 miles around the reservoir we saw vestiges of barn foundations and over­grown cellars of farm houses, a lilac bush tucked in the woods, and other reminders of past land use when the landscape of the basin, now filled with water, was open farmland. Going north along the easterly side, we saw an old building in the middle of the woods made of field stone, referred to as the "Ice House". Here, I was told by water company old timers of the 1960's that ice, harvested from a mill pond on Roses Brook, was stored and insulated from summer heat with sawdust. About a quarter mile further, we crossed Roses Brook where it discharges into the reservoir. Vestiges of an old mill pond dam are barely visible. Along the east side of the reservoir the land was well timbered with an open understory, the effects of too many deer browsing plants and natural seedling trees. There are, however. curious and unusual green "mounds” in the understory. The green mounds are the thorny shrubs of Japanese barberry an invasive that escaped from Landscape plantings decades ago that are beginning to take over the forest floor.

The Community Room at the Atwater Library was a welcome respite from the rain. A sandwich lunch was served after presentations by Dr. Kirby Stafford Ill, Vice Director of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station who spoke about the black legged (deer) tick, its habits and relation­ship with the organism that causes Lyme disease. Dr. Ward also presented some of his and Dr. Scott Williams' research findings about how Japanese barberry provides shelter for mice and other small mammals from coyotes and raptors, increasing their numbers and potential as carriers of the Lyme disease organism. Also, the barberry creates a "humidor" climate that allows ticks to survive.

The landscape of the afternoon portion of the tour at the Tilcon quarry, led by David Blifford, a very knowl­edgeable Tilcon employee, was in extreme contrast to the morning tour. It is claimed that the North Branford quarry has the longest quarry face in the world. Here we viewed how rock is blasted from “lifts” above the quarry floor, the blasted rock is scooped up by very large front­end loaders onto huge trucks for transportation to the crushing plant where the rock is processed into different sizes of stone for aggregate used in concrete and asphalt. Much of the processed stone is transported via the Branford Steam Railroad to Tilcon's Pine Orchard docks in Branford for loading on barges where it is shipped to other ports on Long Island Sound and beyond. Before the recession, as many as 14 train loads ran daily from the quarry processing plant to the docks. That's a lot of truck loads!

Our NBLCT annual meeting will be held Wednesday June I, 7:00 pm at the Atwater Memorial Library. During the business meeting, we will be discussing the Regional Water Authority's proposed 60+ acre land sale. Guest speaker will be Meg Kilgore, president of the Branford Land Trust. The Branford Land Trust has established a standard of excellence in land conservation, education, and passive recreation. I hope to see you there-refreshments will be available.

Otto Schaefer, Acting President