Brett Woods Conservation Area
Location and Access
The 186-acre Brett Woods Conservation Area is the largest open space property and the only Town-owned open space area in the northwest part of Town. About 2/3 of the area is in the Sasco Brook watershed; the northern third drains to the Aspetuck River. Brett Woods has always been called a “conservation area” because of its nearly unbroken forest cover which makes it unique among Town open spaces in terms of the wildlife habitat it provides.
This part of Town is zoned for two-acre residential lots and the conservation area is surrounded by single-family homes. To the west is Gilbert Highway and the Westport-Easton Turnpike (CT Route 136); to the north is the Fairfield/Easton town boundary; to the east is Redding Road; and to the south is Catamount Road. (See Map 14.)
From the west, the main points of access to Brett Woods are off of Gilbert Highway at North Street west and Treasure Road. The principal access from the east is off of Redding Road at North Street east. North Street once passed through the open space but now stops at the area’s east and west boundaries. There’s room for a few cars to park at each of the main access points. These points are also used by horseback riders, most of whom live near the conservation area. Due to the parking limitations, only a few horseback riders bring their horses to Brett Woods by trailer, but some trailers can be parked on the cul-de-sac at the North Street east access point.
In addition, visitors can walk into the conservation area from Judges Hollow Road, Fogg Wood Road, and the intersection of Mulberry Hill Road and Fallow Field Road. Parking is not recommended at these locations which are used primarily by neighborhood residents.
Much of Fairfield’s interior lands, including Brett Woods, was once considered commons belonging to all of the original settlers of the Town. Many thousands of acres of common land were divided and conveyed by the Town government to Fairfield residents between 1662 and 1671. The greatest amount of land was conveyed in 1671 in the form of “long lots.” In northern Fairfield, the long lots were not immediately settled and the stonewalls used to mark their boundaries were not constructed until the early 1800’s. Today, three existing sections of long lot stonewalls form portions of the conservation area’s boundaries and one long lot wall is in the interior of the area.
A number of other stonewalls in Brett Woods indicate more recent land divisions and past agricultural uses. The walls reveal much about the settlement and early history of the Town and the constraints of ledge and swamp on historical land use.
Unlike other parts of Town, there have been few significant land-use changes in Brett Woods since the long lot stonewalls were built. Creation of the conservation area began in 1941 when the Town received a gift of land from the heirs of George P. Brett. Thirty years later, the Town began to acquire other parcels utilizing funds provided by the Connecticut Open Space Land Acquisition Assistance Program. The end result was establishment of the conservation area (formally dedicated in 1986) and preservation of the area’s unique environmental setting and natural forest values.
Today, Brett Woods supports a number of recreational uses including hiking, horseback riding, camping in a designated area with a permit from the Conservation Department, fishing, and wildlife observation. In addition, Brett Woods provides significant opportunities for educational use. The relatively undisturbed environment provides an outdoor classroom for the study of vegetation and wildlife as well as the land’s natural features.
In 1992, the Conservation Commission prepared and adopted the Brett Woods Conservation Area Multiple Use Management Plan which includes management provisions to guide the beneficial use and conservation of the area.
The topography of Brett Woods is characterized by a southwest to northeast-oriented ridge and valley system of glacial origins. There are two significant ridges: the East Ridge and the West Ridge. They have generally moderate side slopes but there are also numerous ledge outcrops and rock faces throughout the conservation area.
Significant drainage corridors are found in the long, narrow, and flat-bottomed valleys between the ridges. Elevation changes within the valleys are gradual and extensive wetlands have developed on the valley floors.
Elevations in the conservation area range from a high of about 345 feet above sea level to a low of 184 feet. The highest elevations are on the western ridge; the lowest are in the northern part of the area near Route 136.
South of the two ridges, and occupying much of the southernmost part of Brett Woods, is a large wooded wetland known as the Catamount Swamp. The eastern and western wetland corridors flow south into the swamp.
Another significant landscape feature is the Brett Woods Pond which is north of the power line right-of-way that cuts through the center of Brett Woods in an east-west direction. The pond is located to the northwest of the watershed divide and flows in a northerly direction into the Aspetuck River.
Vegetation and Wildlife
The name Brett Woods is very descriptive since practically the entire area, except for the pond and the power line right-of-way, is forested. A good part of the forest consists of upland deciduous vegetation, including oak and beech forest communities. Hemlocks and red cedars are scattered throughout the area and mixed coniferous species have been planted on the east and west sides of the pond. There are also dense thickets of mountain laurel, maturing beech stands, and black birch saplings.
In addition, there’s significant wetland vegetation associated with the wooded and shrub swamps, wet meadows, wetland fringes, and ponded mudflats.
Wildlife is abundant on the open space area and includes many species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Among the small mammals found in the area are the red fox, raccoon, red squirrel and eastern cottontail. White-tailed deer are common and there are also several species of turtles, snakes, frogs and salamanders, along with wading birds, song birds, raptors, turkeys and other birds.
The deciduous forest that covers much of Brett Woods contains nut-producing trees that are very beneficial to wildlife. In addition, the large shrub swamps provide significant food, cover, and nesting habitat for songbirds and waterfowl. There have been repeated sightings of the pileated woodpecker in the vicinity of the Catamount Swamp.
The most significant wildlife habitat resource in Brett Woods is the large, unbroken expanse of forest that’s especially valuable for interior forest bird species that require a certain amount of forest land to support their breeding populations.
There’s an extensive trail network throughout Brett Woods. Many of the trails follow the contours of the land, roughly paralleling the ridge and valley system. In some instances, however, the trails cross directly over the ridge line as does the trail that follows the old North Street roadbed. Surface conditions on the trails include bare mineral soil, wet or moist soil, loose gravelly surfaces, ledge outcrops, and grassy areas. The trails vary in length, condition, and degree of difficulty so take care when hiking.
The yellow perimeter trail is almost two miles long. The red trail cuts diagonally across the property and is about 1¼ miles long. The blue trail is shorter at about a ½-mile and passes through the camping area. No sanitary facilities or drinking water are provided at the camping area.
You must obtain a permit from the Conservation Department (203 256-3071) to camp, and everything you bring in must be carried out with you.
Scroll below to view photographs of the Brett Woods Conservation Area: