Darien's preserves get a sprucing ahead of Earth Day

DARIEN — With Earth Day this week, volunteers were plentiful to assist the Darien Land Trust with cleaning and sprucing up their preserves over the weekend.

The Darien Beautification Commission is hoping to have the same luck next weekend with its communitywide cleanup.

Darien Scouts helped clean up graffiti, and students from St. Luke’s School and from Ecocitizens club at Darien High, as well as residents and Land Trust volunteers, spent their weekend removing debris and garbage from the trust’s preserves.

Selleck’s Woods & Dunlap Woods Nature Preserve — a combined 50-acre parcel at the end of Parklands Drive, off Old Kings Highway North — enjoyed some grooming, fresh wood chips and the care of more than 20 volunteers.

“We’ve been at this for 20 years now,” said Chris Filmer, president of Friends of Selleck’s Woods, which works in cooperation with the Darien Land Trust.

The trust officially oversees the 22 acres owned by the town, while the other 28 acres are under the auspices of the friends, Filmer said.

“The birds don’t know the difference and I don’t know the difference,” he said.

But the historic work put into rejuvenating the parcel, which he said had gone into disrepair by the 1980s, continues under his leadership.

“We’ve come a long way from when there weren’t trails like this,” he said, explaining that dirt bikes used to monopolize the preserve, which is now a go-to spot for families and nature lovers.

“It’s also a chance to introduce people to the woods,” Filmer said of the cleanup event.

“You never regret a day out here,” said Barnaby Taylor, of Darien, a board member of the friends group, who came out to pitch in.

“Plenty of Sunday mornings I regret sitting on a couch watching TV,” he said, but visiting this preserve is always a good choice.

“It’s good to be outside and it’s good to be with other people,” he said.

Volunteers pushed wheelbarrows full of wood chips along the trails, dumped them and then raked the contents across the paths for uniformity. They also got busy removing ubiquitous growths of garlic mustard along the trails, which Filmer said is a non-native species that continues to overrun the preserve.

“I walk my dog here all the time, so I just want to pay back,” said volunteer Tammy Hawkins.

This Saturday, the Darien Beautification Commission is holding its annual Earth Day cleanup event after last year’s was canceled due to the pandemic.

Juliet Cain, acting commission chairman said the group “is very happy” to be able to hold its annual cleanup this year.

“While we will ask volunteers to mask and to distance from non-family members, it feels good to be getting people back together for this event,” Cain said.

Cleanups will be held at Pear Tree Point and Weed Beaches, Woodland Park, the Darien and Noroton Heights train stations, Tilley Pond Park and Cherry Lawn, and will run from 8 a.m. to noon.

Volunteers are welcome come at any time between these hours.

The commission will have some bags available but volunteers are encouraged to bring a bag to ensure supplies are adequate and should also bring their own gloves.

Those interested in volunteering can either email member Elizabeth Hall at evjoneshall20@gmail.com, or simply show up that day. The commission asks that groups of volunteers stay distanced and within their own “pod.”

The Darien Nature Center is also holding an Earth Day party in the park on Saturday, where families are invited to learn about sustainable living.

Two sessions are 10 a.m. to noon or 1 to 3 p.m. Space is limited and and walk-ins are not permitted. Tickets are required and can be purchased here.