Monday, November 14, 2016

Middletown Conservation Commission to Hold Autumn Hike on Saturday, November 19

Please join the Middletown Conservation Commission for a hike at the Guida Farm Conservation Area on Saturday, November 19, 2016, with a rain date of Sunday, November 20. The hike will begin at 9:30 am at the intersection of Coleman Road and Round Hill Road. The parking lot is directly across from the T-intersection with Coleman Road.

Hike leaders will be Kim Antol, a biology teacher, and Elisabeth Holder, a retired earth science teacher and a member of the Conservation Commission. The two led an informative walk last spring, discussing the natural history of the area. Some of the spring sightings included frog eggs, a wood frog, an owl pellet, a sputnik-shaped fungus called cedar-apple rust, and several bird species.

The fall hike will highlight seasonal changes that can be seen along the trails. Fall topics will be adaptations of trees to the coming winter, how animals prepare for the cold, the foods available to animals, and uses of different plants by Native Americans. Wild animals and birds may show up for everyone’s enjoyment. Who knows what we might see!

Geologically, the property is notable for its exposed Jurassic conglomerate, a rare ancient rock that looks like concrete. It formed at the same time as the Portland brownstone. When dinosaurs roamed the Connecticut Valley, this location was the site of a major fault. The valley was dropping to the west and swiftly-moving streams drained from the highlands to the east into the valley. These rapidly-moving waters left behind the pebbles that are now encased in the brown conglomerate.

For several hundred years, this land served as a grazing area for cows belonging to a succession of family farms. The most recent family to farm here was that of Alexander and Mary Guida, who immigrated from Poland. They ran a highly-successful farm–Sunshine Dairy–from the late 1920s until around 1990. Today their heirs continue to operate the Guida Dairy business. Evidence of the Guida’s former grazing land can still be seen in old strands of fencing in some places. Turnips, corn, potatoes, and other food crops were also grown in the flatter fields.

Anthony and Joseph Guida sold a substantial number of acres to the City of Middletown in 1991 to be preserved as open space. Subsequent additions of land from the Makuch and the Cassa families completed the approximately 100-acre preserve. The Guida brothers continued to mow the open areas after the dairy closed, and Joe, now in his late 90s, continues to manage the hay fields.

Because some of the fields have reverted to woodland, this site presents many opportunities to see how this process takes place. Certain trees and shrubs appear in the old fields. Other species follow in a fairly predictable pattern. There is also abundant evidence of invasive, non-native species, including Japanese barberry, oriental bittersweet, and multiflora rose.

The hike will be suitable for all ages, from school-aged children on up. Participants should wear sturdy shoes, long pants, warm jackets, and be sure to bring a water bottle.

The Middletown Conservation Commission welcomes input from the public regarding its open space properties. We will use information about people’s experiences to continue our stewardship these properties.

At the beginning and the end of the walk, copies of the updated Middletown Trail Guide will be available for purchase at a cost of $10.


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