Oldfields vs. Forest Succession
Sustained within Saugatuck Falls Natural Area are several exam ples of an ecological anachronism-open places formally known as “post-agricultural oldfields," relics from an earlier time when most of Redding was farmland. As the early farms were abandoned or acquired by non-farming folks, old fields and pastures slowly reverted to woodland through the process of natural succession.
Here, along the Old Field and lower Falls trails, one can see some of these venerable openings in the woods, dotted here and there with eastern red cedar (in this part of the world, one of the first tree species to lead the woodland's attack on open turf). Left to its own devices, nature in time would reinforce red cedar with such other pioneers as poplar, sumac and gray dogwood; and by and by, give or take a half-century, the fields would be looking pre-colonial rather than post-agricultural, with oak and maple and hickory lording it over all.
Thus, in order to "freeze" these fields at a red cedar-stage of succession, to provide some small measure of historical perspective on "lost" landscapes and to enhance the opportunity for biological as well as visual diversity in our open spaces, it has been the policy of the Conservation Commission (and of the Land Trust elsewhere) to mow these fields periodically, lest succession convert them over time into forest, of which this natural area is in no short supply.
In 2001, the Conservation Commission, with funds from a grant, reclaimed about three acres at the start of the Saugatuck Falls Trail from spindly second growth trees and opened the landscape up for the enjoyment of hikers and the benefit of various birds and beasts. An additional two acres were so reclaimed along the Old Field Trail. ❧