Most residents of the greater Branford area are familiar with the Supply Ponds. This popular recreation area is heavily used by walkers, runners, mountain bikers, fishermen, bird watchers, and those just seeking respite. With this new age of global pandemic, social distancing, and sheltering-in-place, the Supply Ponds have become more popular than ever. On many days, it is even difficult to find available parking. The vast majority of visitors rarely venture beyond the most popular and heavily-used trails immediately surrounding the ponds and marsh area. Few visitors fully appreciate, or are even aware of, the true scope and beauty of the entire open space area.

It’s been 51 years since the Town of Branford purchased the Supply Ponds from the New Haven Water Company. Numerous adjoining parcels of land have since been acquired by the town and/or the Branford Land Trust with financial assistance from the State of Connecticut. Today, the original 330-acre purchase has grown to encompass approximately 1,100 acres of protected open space. Stretching from I-95 to the border with North Branford, the area is more aptly referred to as the Supply Pond and Pisgah Brook Preserves. Yet most activity still occurs in the original 330 acres.

Open space preserves of this size in a densely populated, suburbanized area is a rarity. Centrally located in the middle of Branford, the area is a prime recreational and an important economic asset to the Town It has become a desirable destination for people throughout New Haven County. In addition to helping boost overall property values, the Supply Pond and Pisgah Brook Preserves are an important quality-of-life asset for attracting businesses seeking to locate in the area. However, the demand for recreational use needs to be balanced with maintaining and improving the ecological health of the Preserves.

Equally important, perhaps even more so, is the role the area plays in the preservation of natural resources. Forested expanses in southern Connecticut are a valuable commodity. With the advent of climate change and increasing annual temperatures, open space preserves play an increasingly important role in managing carbon emissions and providing critical habitat for both flora and fauna. In addition, the Pisgah Brook watershed is an important resource in protecting valuable inland wetlands and providing clean water to the aquifer and Long Island Sound.

As the size of the Preserves have grown and public usage has steadily increased, the ability to properly manage and maintain this resource has become much more difficult. The primary entrance to the Preserves remains at the parking area off Short Rocks Road and Chestnut Street. The main trails around the Ponds are heavily impacted and become muddy ruts in wet weather. Many sections have become a labyrinth of short-cut paths detracting from the beauty and sense of “being in the woods.”

Further north, the greater Pisgah Brook Preserve is being severely damaged by the illegal use of motorized dirt bikes and ATVs. The damage is immense and growing in scope each year. These vehicles are intimidating to hikers, and they are destroying the trail systems, making them effectively unusable. These motorized vehicles disturb wildlife, and are causing extensive damage to the wetlands throughout the area. New rogue trails are being established with an ever-increasing number of ATV riders going “off-road.” The situation also presents a potential liability to the Town in the case of an injury. Use of motorized vehicles are specifically prohibited by the State of Connecticut and other organizations as a condition for receiving funds for the purchase of the property.

The Branford Open Space Authority and the Branford Land Trust manage the collective properties comprising the Preserves and are aware of these challenges. Steps are being taken to address and remedy these issues. The primary goal is two-fold: first, to manage, and ideally reduce, the concentrated over-usage of the Supply Ponds area and minimize the environmental impact; and second, to increase usage of the Pisgah Brook area by pedestrians and mountain bikers while preventing the illegal use of motorized vehicles as a way to begin to restore the extensive damage such usage has caused.

The steps needed to accomplish these goals can be summarized as follows: 1. Increase awareness of these Preserves, 2. Improve the infrastructure, 3. Increase accessibility, and 4. Eliminate illegal ATV use.

Work has already started in accomplishing the first three steps.

  • Approximately 17 miles of hiking and biking trails throughout the Preserves have been reblazed and remapped.
  • A recently updated, accurate, and easy-to-read trail map is now available to visitors.
  • An entirely new access point with parking is soon to be constructed on Laurel Hill Road off Brushy Plain Road.
  • Two new kiosks have been built and are being installed in key areas providing trail and background information.

Within a few weeks of implementation, these initial steps have had a very noticeable and positive effect. There has been a marked increase of people utilizing the newly blazed Red and White Trails immediately south of the Supply Ponds as well as on the Green and Blue Trails to the north. The focus now will be on improving conditions in the northern portion of the Preserves.

With the “shelter-in-place” edict in effect and warmer spring weather upon us, this is a perfect time to rediscover and explore new areas of the Supply Pond and Pisgah Brook Preserves. Turn off the TV, turn off the internet, reduce your stress and anxiety, and get some exercise. It is very easy to practice Social Distancing when there is no one else around. Get away from the congested areas surrounding the Ponds and explore what the area has to offer. It is truly a treasure hidden in plain sight.

CLICK HERE to download a map now!

For more information, contact Richard Shanahan, Branford Parks & Open Space Authority,

Submitted by Richard Shanahan, Branford Parks & Open Space Authority

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