Migration Pit Stop Available

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Photo by Lester Smith

A row of big boulders runs a third of a mile across the Suffield/Southwick sanctuary for grassland birds, marking the state boundary, but migrating birds don’t seem to care about which state they choose.

As part of Connecticut’s effort to preserve our state’s natural beauty and generally keep Mother Nature happy, the State has been trying to compensate for the natural environment’s degradation as population encroaches on essential habitats. Recognizing the importance of large expanses of grassland to many bird species, Connecticut and Massachusetts got together and decided to acquire and protect the old Culbro tobacco plantation on the state line east of Babb’s Road, which no longer grew tobacco and was very suitable for residential development.

In 2007, the plantation’s 200 acres in Suffield and 250 acres in Massachusetts were purchased for $3.1 million by the Conservation Fund, which then turned the land over to the two states at the same total price, creating an immense expanse of ideal sanctuary as the desired mix of grassland species took over.

It took a few years for the State to remove what environmentalists like to call the “built landscape,” including a home on Babb’s Road, the farm’s substantial administration building and other support features, and about two dozen big tobacco-curing sheds in a long row. The State has been renting a narrow strip across from Babb’s Park for farming, perhaps as a buffer zone for the sanctuary.

More recently, in about 2015, several hundred large boulders were brought to the site and set down in a nearly straight row. The boulders extend about a third of a mile easterly from the patch of second growth woodland near Babb’s Road to the woods on the low ridge east of the grassland. (On the other side of that ridge is another large, open area along Warnertown Road, still being farmed.) The boulders run generally along the state boundary, presumably inhibiting disallowed motor vehicles and clarifying which state has the responsibility to patrol and enforce the rules for human behavior.

Surprisingly, hunting is allowed. Off-season, it seems a great place for hiking and long dog walks. Even short dogs. One hiker encountered by this photographer said he was returning from a hike across the grassland, then south on a trail in the shady woods all the way to the Markowski Christmas tree farm.

 A small parking lot is hidden at the end of a short lane off Babb’s Road just south of the state border. For several years, there was a roadside sign for the preservation area, but it’s gone now. 

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