OLD LYME — Hiking trails in the McCulloch Family Open Space will open on June 6, which is National Trails Day.
“The bullfrogs are out there. There’s a blue heron that flies over there head constantly and we put a beautiful bench in the meadow. It’s just a great place to hang out, said Amanda Blair, co-chair of the Open Space Commission, by phone Friday.
The McCulloch property has three trails. The Tree in the Gap trail and Yellow trail are accessed from Whippoorwill Road. Red trail begins on Flat Rock Hill Road.
“With these trails that connect to the Ames Open Space and the Lay Preserve a cross-town trail is being created,” said Blair. A missing “link” of the cross-town trail is located between the Lay Preserve and the Upper Three Mile River Preserve.
In September 2019, the Town of Old Lyme purchased the 300-acre McCulloch parcel for $600,000 using Open Space acquisition funds. Residents unanimously approved the purchase at the town annual budget meeting in May 2019. The acquisition created an area for public use and recreation spanning over 700 acres.
The 450-acre farm was established by the McCulloch family in 1927 and has been protected by a Nature Conservancy easement since 1999.
The purchase price included about $100,000 for two three-acre “building envelopes” designated for single-family affordable housing off of Flat Rock Hill Road. The lots abut land that owner David McCulloch previously gave the town for affordable housing. If affordable housing is not created within five years, the town’s two lots will revert to open space.
Blair said the McCulloch property was always on the “dream list” of the Open Space Commission, which was started in 1997.
“It was almost two years ago when David McCulloch came to our meeting and said he’d like to sell the farm, would you like to come out? And the rest is history,” she said.
Mike Kiernan of the Old Lyme Land Trust mapped the trails. Wayne Abrahamson and Jim Mildrum are the property’s land stewards.
Mildrum, for whom Jimmy’s Pond is named on the property, said he borders the McCulloch Farm and has been working to keep the brush back and has removed fallen limbs from the trails.
“I’ve been here since I was 15 years old, associated with McCulloch Farm,” he said by phone on Friday. “I think open space is a good idea.”
Blair said it was important for the public to “respect the land and pick up what you take in,” including dog waste, and to stay on the trails because the parcel is in between private properties.
“We’re all trying to coexist and we can really coexist better if people just pick up after themselves,” she said. “These are old wood roads that are cut into the land, surrounded by ferns, stone walls, rays of sunshine, jack-in-the-pulpits, ramps. You’ll be blown away by the beauty. Be a good land steward and just enjoy.”
A downloadable map of the McCulloch Family Open Space with a QR code is now available on the town website.