Protected Wetlands and Public Access Expanded in Lyme
The Hewes Brook conservation easement follows the path of Hewes Brook on the west side of Route 10 and along Shoestrap road. The wooded hillside is laced with recreational trails that are open to the public and a unique stream that falls over the oddly shaped rocks and ledges in the ravine. Originally protected in 1999, The Hewes Brook property was conserved to ensure that the land would remain undeveloped, to protect the habitat which includes rare and endangered plants and wildlife, to protect Hewes Brook and its associated wetlands and riparian areas, and to preserve the land for potential recreational and educational public uses.
Shortly after the property was conserved, Crossroads Academy purchased the property to expand the school while preserving the integrity of the conservation easement. Twenty years later, Crossroads Academy has added 16 new acres of land to the original easement, bringing the protected property to 98 acres.
This addition of land protects 3.2 new acres of important wetland and water resources and almost two thousand feet of additional stream frontage along Hewes Brook. These additional wetlands are habitat to Appalachian Barren-Strawberry, a rare plant that had been confirmed in this location. In addition to the new land, a 50 foot riparian buffer provision was added to the original easement land to better protect the riparian zone either side along the brook and the edges of wetlands. Riparian zones are an important conservation tool for protecting water resources and related habitat from disturbance. They often limit cutting of trees and brush, and do not allow structures, livestock grazing, the use of pesticides or herbicides, or any other kind of disturbance of the vegetation or soils.
There is a popular trail through the newly added acreage, a section of the Hoopes Loop trail, which connects to the trails on the previously conserved property and is a popular community trail. Because of the addition of land to the conservation easement, the trail is now permanently protected, ensuring continued public access. To further increase permanent public access to the trails, Crossroads Academy is also granting a parking area and right-of-way on their non-protected land.