Interpretive/Nature Trails

Get To Know: Orchard Hill Nature Center On Huntingtown Road

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Published: Apr 06, 2021 10:27 AM

The Newtown Bee’s “Get To Know” series looks at local buildings and properties. Is there a building or property you would like to “get to know?” E-mail eliza@thebee.com with suggestions.

This week, we focus on Orchard Hill Nature Center, on Huntingtown Road. Newtown Parks and Recreation Director Amy Mangold contributed answers and information posted at the site was also used.

In what year was it purchased or established? 1976. According to information posted on the property, “In 1976, the people of Newtown purchased the property, which is administered by the Parks and Recreation Department. It is here for our enjoyment. Hopefully the people who went before us would be pleased with this development in the story of their land.”

Who or what entity owns or oversees the property? Newtown Parks and Recreation oversees the property for the Town of Newtown. The Lions Club is a steward to the land for us and helps maintain the property with volunteer work groups at least two times per year. The Town & Country Garden Club has identified plants for an interpretive trail and co-hosted nature walks with the Lions Club, Newtown Parks and Recreation, and the Girl Scouts. Many Scout groups also help with projects and maintenance at this park.

How large is the property? 25 acres.

Are there notable sights? If so, where? Yes, by the mill and on the kiosk at the parking area.

How long is the trail/are the trails? Orchard Hill Loop is a 0.8 mile

What is one interesting fact about the trail/land? That it was a very productive mill. It produced lumber, cider, cardigan wool, and flour. Also, according to information posted on the property, before the 1700s the land was most likely a hunting ground for the Pootatuck. Then, “Beginning in the 1760s the Nichols family lived here. Peter was a Captain in the Revolutionary War. His sons built the dam and mills. His grandson and his bride, Polly Blackman, built their own home on the property. Apparently, multiple generations lived here at the same time. This was not unusual in those days. Early records describe the sawmill for developing lumber, a grist mill for grinding flour, a cider mill for pressing juice from apples, and a wool carding mill for making yarn. The Newtown environs supported a large amount of sheep farming in those days.”

What should visitors know? Park hours are 9 am until sundown. No alcoholic beverages permitted in the parking area or park. No roaming dogs. Dogs must be kept on leash. No campfires or overnight camping. No littering! Assist in keeping the Nature Center clean… take trash when you leave. Please report lost articles or any damages to the Parks and Recreation office.

What is the most common question you are asked about the property and the answer? Are dogs allowed? Yes, they are but need to be on a leash.

What are the biggest challenges for this property? Invasive species growth. We are thankful for the Lions Club, who have adopted it and help maintain it.

A bridge spans the Pootatuck River at Orchard Hill Nature Center.—Bee Photos, Hallabeck

A field opens along a trial at Orchard Hill Nature Center.

A sign at Orchard Hill Nature Center greets visitors with park hours and more.

Birdhouses, like the one on the left, stand along the trails at the Orchard Hill Nature Center.

A bridge over the Pootatuck River along a trail at Orchard Hill Nature Center, as seen through a misshapen tree.

Foundation rocks, left, remain along one side of the Pootatuck River at Orchard Hill Nature Center.

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