You Nied This Place in Your Life
South Windsor: Frank Niederwerfer Wildlife Sanctuary
~2 miles, June 2017
There are five trailed properties on my South Windsor town trails list. I had this idea to just bundle them all together when I write them up because really, I think we can agree that South Windsor’s town trails aren’t exactly clickbait pages.
Then I hiked one. And then another. And another. And they worthy of separate pages.
So here we are. Frank Niederwerfer Wildlife Sanctuary!
By the time I made my way to the extreme northwest corner of South Windsor to walk this property, I thought I was fully done being surprised by the town’s trail systems.
This is the town’s outdoor crown jewel in my opinion. Courant writer and friend Peter Marteka agrees:
These natural worlds in areas where one doesn’t expect to find them really shouldn’t surprise me anymore. But earlier this week it was South Windsor’s turn to fool me at a place known as the Frank Niederwerfer Wildlife Sanctuary.
You know I could borrow from Peter often, but I don’t. However, sometimes he comes up with a line that makes me jealous… like this one:
While some may think Evergreen Walk is a hike among pine trees, this 159-acre sanctuary in the northeast part of town near the border with Ellington and East Windsor is the real thing.
Nice work, brother.
(I don’t want to ruin the joke, but for those of you not getting it, Evergreen Walk is South Windsor’s “outdoor mixed use shopping mall” type thing.)
The Niederwerfer Sanctuary is named after Frank Niederwerfer. The parking lot for it is on Niederwerfer Road. Frank Niederwerfer lived on Niederwerfer Road because his parents were awesome enough to have the road named after them.
While the younger Niederwerfer was still alive (he passed away in 2003), his Idlenot Farm up on the hill along Niederwerfer Road was overseen by the Hartford Audubon Society. He was responsible for the town of South Windsor buying the land that would later bear is name. He took care of it too, from Marteka:
A plaque honoring Niederwerfer and his wife, Alice, reads: “For their special efforts in promoting and conserving this area as a natural resource for our community.” An unofficial game warden, Niederwerfer kept an eye out for motorcycles and hunters while planting hundreds of white pine, larch and white birch trees. These groves can still be seen during walks through the preserve. He also blazed trails, mowed the fields and kept the birds fed.
“I like to do it because I like to see this kind of area kept open,” he said in a 1985 Courant article. “People like this. They want to get out and walk.”
Y’know, that’s kind of beautiful. People DO want to get out and walk. (Though I saw exactly zero people on a lovely Saturday in June.) At least they SHOULD want to.
There are a few loop trails here; all very well maintained as I’ve found all of South Windsor’s trails to be. One section took me through a pine plantation (Niederwerfer’s doing), one took me along the Dzen Christmas Tree Farm, and others shuttled me through lovely meadows and former farm fields.
But the focal point of any trip to this place has to be the top of the meadow at South Windsor’s highest point (at a whopping 420 feet.) Yes, this western valley view is in South Windsor:
Needless to say, I was (once again) stunned that this stuff can be found in towns that aren’t known for such things. At least I know that locals are aware of the Sanctuary. When I posted the above picture on Twitter – a guy that lives in San Diego who grew up in South Windsor commented, “That’s that Audubon place with the sledding hill, right? I loved that place as a kid!”
And I loved it as an adult.