SHERMAN — Standing at Deer Pond Farm where Kathy and Walter Wriston once lived, the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Cathy Hagadorn explained how the late couple fell in love with maintaining the more than 800 acres.
“A lot of people think ‘What could we do?’ when looking at land, but the Wristons said, ‘What should we do?’” Hagadorn said. “They really wanted to make sure they could preserve this so people could enjoy it as much as they did.”
It was this philosophy, she said, that also dictated what the couple decided to do with their weekend and summer home once they both died. The Wristons donated Deer Pond Farm to the Connecticut Audubon Society to be made into a preserve for the public.
After a year of preparing the site, its 10 walking trails and 388 acres on the Connecticut side of the border — another 447 acres on the New York side will open soon — officially opened to the public on Saturday. The preserve had previously been open at limited times for guided walks, but will now stay open from dawn to dusk year-round for public use.
The preserve includes a memorial pollinator garden dedicated to the Wristons and is home to diverse plants and over 100 species of birds.
“This property is just amazing, and we are just getting started,” CT Audubon Executive Director Patrick Comins told the crowd Saturday. “We want to be good stewards and keep it as beautiful or more beautiful as it is today, but more importantly, make it better and better for birds and other wildlife.”
Hagadorn said the year of preparation for the preserve’s grand opening included more than 1,000 hours of volunteer work. The staff and volunteers mapped the trails created by the Wristons, put up signs and readied the parking lot and kiosk.
During the limited openings, people would come from across Connecticut to hike the trails, she added.
Among the dozens of people who came Saturday to walk the trails and watch the ribbon cutting were members of the the Wristons’ family. Kathy’s sister-in-law, Jeanne Oliver, who is the local Audubon board’s chairwoman, said the couple would work on the land every weekend and that Kathy died from an accident on Deer Pond Farm.
“It is a special place,” Oliver said. “I know Kathy would be very happy (today) and extremely happy that Connecticut Audubon is here to oversee her and Walter’s dream for Deer Pond Farm.”