Family, land
trust partner
to protect
POMFRET CENTER --- A remarkable collaboration concluded in May when the Wyndham Land Trust protected 227-acres of Townshend family land off Ragged Hill Road in Pomfret. The partnership started in 2000 with the family donating 2.6 acres to the Land Trust. The final result, 24 years later, is protection by the Land Trust of 1018 acres of valuable habitat for plants and animals, including extensive wetlands. The property also contains miles of hiking trails for the community to enjoy.
In the late 1950s, Henry “Harry” Townshend was looking for a place where he could enjoy his passion for hunting and fishing, and he and his wife Deb accrued the Pomfret land. The property soon became a cornerstone of their family, where their five children spent many happy hours exploring the woods. The family kept horses and rode on the extensive trail system that was created to support dog field-trials.
“Dad loved the outdoors and his hobbies of hunting, fishing, and field-trials,” said Nancy Townshend-Vess speaking on behalf of the family. “But I think the biggest reason he liked the outdoors was the solitude it brought him. The properties he bought in Pomfret were all places of solitude.
“The Townshend family is very pleased with all of our transactions with the Wyndham Land Trust over the past few years. Land manager Andy Rzeznikiewicz eased us over the process and took the time to thoroughly explain our options. The family feels that their land has passed over into good hands and will be meaningfully sustained for the community for generations.
“I’m glad we were able to fulfill, not only Wyndham’s Land Trust’s goal, but also our family’s wish to memorialize our parents. Our parents loved nature and history, both of which are bountiful on this property. Every person walking along the trails, taking in the beauty and grace of the fern-covered forest and babbling brooks, is paying homage to Harry and Deb Townshend who so loved their land.
Residents of the Town of Pomfret also appreciated the value of the new parcel to the community and voted to provide funding towards its protection.
“The Town of Pomfret is fortunate to partner with the Wyndham Land Trust for the acquisition and preservation of our open space,” said first-selectman Maureen Nicholson. “Together we have, and can continue to make, significant progress in keeping Pomfret green, beautiful, and a great place to live. Maintaining the quality of life and our exceptional dedication to preserving the natural environment for generations to come is best accomplished collaborating with the great stewards at Wyndham Land Trust.”
The Townshend family supported equestrian events on their property, and the Land Trust will continue that tradition. Treasurer Penny Foisey is organizing the second annual Ride for Open Space on July 21, and the seven-mile ride will weave its way along existing trails in the Nightingale Forest.
“The protection of the final piece is a culmination of one of the Land Trust’s long-range plans,” said Foisey. “It’s a great accomplishment we are all very proud of, and we’re extremely grateful to the Townshend family. You’ll find a vast network of trails that will delight those who venture out on foot or horseback.”
The acquisition was made possible by generous donations from Land Trust members and by grants from the State of Connecticut DEEP Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program (OSWA), the Bafflin Foundation, the Summerhill Foundation, the Connecticut Land Conservation Council (CLCC) and the Town of Pomfret.

(map): The Wyndham Land Trust Nightingale Forest stretches from Pomfret to Woodstock and protects almost 1500 acres, including the former Townshend family property

Open woodlands in the Nightingale Forest provide valuable early successional habitat for threatened breeding birds

Harry and Deb Townshend in 1965
Photos courtesy of the Wyndham Land Trust and the Townshend family.


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