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The Saunders Preserve ... a “Geologic Gem” 


We are happy to announce that we have completed the acquisition of the Saunders property after reaching our fundraising goal - with many thanks to our donors and with grants from the State of Connecticut's Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant, the Connecticut Land Conservation Transaction Assistance Grant program, and the Eightmile River Coordinating Committee. 

Join us at the Saunders Preserve parking area on Honey Hill Road on September 10, 2023, at 10 am for the first public hike at this new 69-acre preserve. (see map)

It's a “geologic gem,” according to distinguished geologists Dr. Phillip G. Resor, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Wesleyan University and Ralph S. Lewis, Connecticut State Geologist (Retired). They believe the Saunders Preserve is highly significant geologically after their inspection revealed evidence of 2-3 ancient terranes, or bedrock units of different origins, straddling the Honey Hill Fault. This fault which cuts through the Property is where the Putnam-Nashoba/Merrimack and Avalon terranes were crushed together during the Acadian Orogeny around 400 million years ago.


The northern section of the Property shows evidence of the Putnam-Nashoba/Merrimack terranes - two formations of marine sediments deposited in an ancient ocean approximately 420 million years ago that were subsequently compressed and metamorphosed by successive tectonic collisions. These collisions were associated with the formation of the Appalachian Mountains between 400 and 250 million years ago. This area of the property has glacial boulders deposited by the south-flowing Wisconsinan glacier and highly foliated bedrock outcrops, exposed by the glacier, that show evidence of both folding and faulting.


The southern section of the Property features bedrock from the Avalon terrane - the remains of a chain of volcanic islands formed approximately 590 million years ago that was also compressed and metamorphosed by subsequent collisions associated with the formation of the Appalachian Mountains. Avalon terrane bedrock tends to be lighter and less foliated than the Merrimack bedrock found in the northern section of the property. In one area of the southern section, one can see glacial boulders from both the Putnam-Nashoba/Merrimack and Avalon terranes and how they differ from each other.


Fault rocks on the property also include pseudotachylyte, a relatively rare rock created with the
friction, heating, and local melting associated with slip during ancient earthquakes.





A Watershed Protector.


The Saunders Property has at least two vernal pools and two cold-water streams, one feeding the Roaring Brook watershed and an intermittent stream that feeds the Eightmile River watershed. Protecting the water clarity of these watersheds helps protect the water of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. The Eightmile River and Roaring Brook watersheds are identified as a high priority for conservation in the East Haddam Plan of Conservation and Development and the Lower Connecticut River Valley Plan of Conservation and Development.




A Habitat Protector.


The property consists of mature forest (including oaks, beech, birch, maple, hickory, tulip, and sassafras), shrubby understory (blueberry, winterberry, mountain laurel, spicebush, maple leaf viburnum), and forested wetlands. A sliver is in the Audubon Connecticut’s Lyme Forest Block Important Bird Area (IBA), 60,000 mostly forested acres in East Haddam, Salem, Colchester, Lyme, Old Lyme, and East Lyme that is critical habitat for overwintering and migrating birds. However, all of the property is important bird habitat, whether in the IBA or not ... birds don't observe human-made boundaries.

The vernal pools and forested wetlands on the property allow amphibians and other wooded wetland species a safe, undisturbed place to live.

Adds to a Large Greenway.


The property is adjacent to the 230-acre open space easement surrounding Fox Hopyard golf course and will become part of a large greenway that includes the Town of East Haddam's Lena Reserve, Devil's Hopyard State Park, and the Nature Conservancy's Burnham Brook Preserve. The Saunders property is also within a mile of the Town of East Haddam’s 98-acre Roaring Brook Reserve, and less than a half-mile from Lyme Land Trust’s Johnston and Honey Hill Preserves. (see map)


The Saunders Property acquisition was made possible by grants from the State of Connecticut's Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant, the Connecticut Land Conservation Transaction Assistance Grant program, and the Eightmile River Coordinating Committee, and the generous donations of our members and supporters.

Acquisition of this property was also supported by:

  • East Haddam's Conservation Commission, Open Space Committee, Planning and Zoning Commission, Inland Wetlands Commission, and Board of Selectmen,

  • the Eightmile River Wild and Scenic Watershed,

  • the Lower Connecticut River Land Trust

  • Lyme Land Trust,

  • the Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments,

  • State Representative Irene Haines,

  • State Senator Norman Needleman,

  • and geologists Philip Resor and Ralph Lewis.

The trails allow you to test your geological sleuth skills and listen and watch for the birds and other wildlife that frequent the area. Or you can simply enjoy hiking, snowshoeing, and other passive activities there.

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