Sanctuaries & Preserves
Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust holds in trust more than 2,100 acres of open space in Woodbury, Bethlehem, Southbury and Middlebury, Connecticut, including seven nature preserves and sanctuaries. From a photo trek across a sunny meadow to a cross-country ski adventure on a snowy, woodland trail, the passive recreational opportunities on Flanders’ land are as diverse as the settings. Each of the properties has its own character and attributes, from historic buildings, stone walls and marked trails to expansive vistas of woodlands, lakes, ponds, streams, fields and a bog. These pristine, undeveloped areas offer moments of reflection, relaxation and recreation.
Take a hike on Flanders’ trails! For trail maps, click here.
Van Vleck Farm and Nature Sanctuary
The Van Vleck Farm and Nature Sanctuary, located at the corner of Flanders and Church Hill Roads in Woodbury, Connecticut serves as a nature Sanctuary and the main teaching campus of the lively Flanders Nature Center, hosting a variety of educational programs drawing children, adults, families and school groups from throughout the region.
With an abundance of seasonal activities such as hiking in the fall, maple sugaring in the winter, field trips in the spring, and camp in the summer, the Van Vleck Farm and Nature Sanctuary is a prominent community resource. The pastoral landscape is marked by dry-laid stone walls and many architecturally significant buildings, including an historic farmhouse, a post-and-beam studio, a new sugar house and several classic barns, most of which house the educational facilities and administrative offices of Flanders Nature Center. The natural habitats of the Sanctuary, including fields, meadows, forests, wetlands, marshes, streams and ponds, support a great diversity of wildlife species.
A network of well-marked and maintained trails on the Sanctuary land are open to the public from dawn to dusk, year-round, providing exhilarating recreation, including hiking, cross-country skiing, nature study and photo and artistic opportunities.
In 1965, Flanders Nature Center signed a lease with the J.H. Whittemore Corporation for the use of 686 acres of land off Route 64 in Woodbury, just a short distance south of Quassy Amusement Park. For 35 years, Flanders managed the open space property, until the organization was able to raise the funds to purchase the property that is known today as the Whittemore Sanctuary. Its extensive 8-mile trail system, open to the public, winds through a wide range of ecological habitats, including woodlands, streams, ponds and a large bog. The bog and wetlands support endangered, threatened and rare plants. The forest on the property is, historically, one of the oldest privately managed forests in Connecticut, containing planted white pine, regenerated oak and several large laurel and tulip tree stands.
Flanders became one of the first official land trusts in the region in 1973, when it was deeded the 6.5 acre Manville Kettle property on Judson Avenue, located in a residential neighborhood of Woodbury, close to the town center. This tract was the first property held in trust by Flanders that was not part of the Van Vleck or Whittemore Sanctuary properties. The property is known as a “kettle” because geologists believe it represents the remains of a depression formed during the last ice age and filled with water from melting ice. Identified by a Flanders Nature Center sign near School Street, the property contains an open field, mixed trees and a swamp.
Flanders holdings as a land trust expanded when the Hetzel family contributed approximately 54 acres to the organization, beginning in the mid-1970s. Located in Middlebury, Connecticut, the land is bordered to the north by Middlebury Land Trust property, bringing the protected open space area to nearly 95 acres. Containing diverse types of vegetation, the Refuge includes woodlands, hayfields, conifer plantations, swamps and several man-made ponds, all of which provide a haven for wildlife. Access to the property, containing an excellent trail system, is from Breakneck Hill Road in Middlebury.
Frederick W. Marzahl Memorial Refuge
Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust was deeded the first parcel of the Refuge in 1986, with the remaining land deeded to Flanders by the Anne Marzahl Estate in 1999 and 2000. Flanders was entrusted with the management of the property as a nature preserve to retain its natural, scenic and open condition. Located to the east and west of Weekeepeemee Road (CT Route 132) in Woodbury, the Refuge encompasses a scenic waterfall and open or semi-open fields, providing natural habitat for different bird and animal species. Access to the Refuge is available through an unimproved, old logging road from Route 132, marked by a Flanders Nature Center sign.
In 2000, developers of an upscale residential enclave in Woodbury offered Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust more than 126 acres of land with the intent that Flanders preserve the property as open space. Adjacent to the 25-lot development, the property forms a linkage with other protected open spaces, has significant value as a wildlife habitat and contains former logging roads that have been developed into a low-impact trail system. Access to the land is from Pilgrim Trail and the Leavenworth cul-de-sac, with primary usage coming from the nearby residential homeowners.
Fronting on Cowles Road in the north central area of Woodbury, the 28.5 acre Fleming Preserve is under the protection of Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust, in cooperation with the Town of Woodbury. The former land-owner, John Fleming, was one of the first organizers of the process and public presentation of maple sugaring at Flanders. The original Flanders Sap House and maple sugaring operations were located on the Fleming Preserve, which consists of forest land, containing sugar maples, meadows, an overlook, a former apple orchard, stone walls, and a short, but beautiful, hiking trail, among other natural attributes.