Column: Close to Home: Easton’s Open Spaces

Rows of town houses, one indistinguishable from the other, stretched as far as I could see from the road. Along the border of the development, a shopping center brooded like a castle atop a massive retaining wall.

“Check out the name on the sign,” my sister said, her voice conveying disgust.

“Ellis Preserve,” I read aloud.

I am so grateful to those who had the foresight to set aside these beautiful open spaces, and to zone wisely. My thanks also to those who continue the work of maintenance, oversight, vigilance, and enforcement that protects the natural beauty and character of our town.

“Yeah. Some preserve. That was all woodland, and they cut down every tree.”

The name seemed a sick joke by some perverse developer, and my sister was bitter. Over a decade ago, she moved with her family to what was countryside until recently. When I was a child there, we drove past woods, fields, and farms to visit our grandparents. Most of that land has been developed now, seemingly without thought to greenways, setbacks, traffic patterns, and emergency access. My sister and I have had many conversations about zoning, and the difference between her area and Easton.

Paine Open Space: view from the parking lot. — Lea Sylvestro Photo

On this lovely October day back in Easton, I met my friend Joanie at Paine Open Space. For over an hour, we shuffled through leaves, admired patterns in the twisting roots, squatted down to inspect toads and mushrooms, and gazed skyward at red, yellow, and orange leaves against blue sky. We were delighted to see ducks swimming in one of the ponds and kept an eye out for turtles. Paine Open Space is located at 212 Maple Road.

After leaving Joanie, I drove back toward home, reflecting that I must never take my surroundings here for granted. Stone walls, swamps, historic homes, and trees brilliant in their autumnal show remain not by chance. Our town boards and commissions, and organizations like Citizens for Easton and Aspetuck Land Trust have worked tirelessly for decades to preserve the natural beauty and sense of history that we have here.

Elevated walkways traverse the wetlands, home to rare wildflowers and breeding habitat for amphibians. — Lea Sylvestro

Not quite ready to return home to laundry and bills, I decided a stroll through Samuel P. Senior Memorial Park would be the perfect procrastination. This unique little park, with its network of boardwalks spanning streams and wetlands is snugged into the woods, invisible from the road, directly across from Town Hall on Center Road. It takes about 20 minutes to walk through, and it is a gem.

Samuel P. Senior Park: bench in a pine-scented grove. — Lea Sylvestro Photo