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Land Preserve Is Newman's Own

Aspetuck Land Trust executive director David Brant wants to complete the only public tribute endorsed by Paul Newman's family by the fall. With approval from Westport's Conservation Commission last night, he is one step closer.

"I think a nature preserve is something he would have liked," said Brant. The Newman/Poses Nature Preserve will be built on land donated to Westport by both the late actor and the family of philanthropist and attorney Lillian Poses. The 38-acre preserve will consist mostly of trails winding through wooded areas and a large meadow.

The land trust will do a minimal amount of cutting to establish the trails. The goal, according to Brant, is to set the paths and let foot traffic from visitors keep the ground tamped down and free from overgrowth. He said the fear of ticks will help keep most visitors from wandering off the trails.

To help minimize the impact to the property, the plotted paths will follow deer trails when possible. "There is a fair amount of wildlife in the area. We're harnessing deer power," joked Brant in the lobby.

Parts of the trail were rerouted on advice from the Conservation Commission to avoid wetland areas. Brant said no heavy machinery would be used for any of the work on the preserve. Maintenance of a meadow area will include sporadic mowing, as little as once every two years. Signs will be put up to warn visitors not to wander off-trail, into wetlands or too close to neighboring properties.

One of the biggest challenges will be installing a raised boardwalk that will connect a planned gravel parking lot to the trails. While local Boy Scouts will help with the construction, only hand tools can be used. "A chainsaw counts as a hand tool," said Brant.

Because the boardwalk is over a wetland section, the commission requires it be constructed only during a dry season. To make the projected fall timetable, they need to start by the end of July. But the land trust also needs approval of the full RTM, which won't meet again until July 12. "I don't think there will be any problems. We're doing this in partnership with the town and they've already given their approval of the preserve," said Brant.

There will be no fees attached to visiting the Newman/Poses Nature Preserve, which will be open to the public. Funds from the land trust membership will help maintain the property. The land trust doesn't even need to worry about raising money for legal fees associated with representation before town boards and commissions. Attorney Eric D. Bernheim of Halloran & Sage is doing the work pro-bono, unless the occasional container of fresh blueberries Brant picks from other Aspetuck preserves counts as a fee.

Brant doesn't expect the preserve will draw much attention. Hidden away on Coleytown Road, it won't be heavily advertised. "It will probably mostly be a place where neighbors come to take a walk," he said.

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