New Canaan Land Trust, New Canaan
This is not a property to properly hike in an real sense. It’s a relatively small field in the middle of New Canaan, just a stone’s throw from the country club. And if this were a land trust holding in almost any other Connnecticut town, I’d most likely ignore it.
But not in New Canaan. Land is at a premium here, and I like to highlight the work the New Canaan Land Trust does in the face of development pressures. Although, it must be nice to be the NCLT and know that if the day comes when they are strapped for cash, this field, situated at a corner on residential streets, would probably make them financial solvent for decades if it were to be sold. Let’s look at what I’m talking about… here’s where it’s located:
See those two typical New Canaan single family homes just north of the property? Nice digs. Walking distance to the boys over at the country club. And heck, they get to share snow plowing costs! And that savings will surely be helpful after plunking down the deposit on one of those houses. I just looked one of them up:
New Canaan is a magical place. Hoang and I had just visited Eliot Noyes’s house down the road and I was itching to… um… walk across a field and back. So that’s exactly what I did. I can’t imagine too many people from out of town come here to do this.
And the NCLT knows this, even though they’ve written several paragraphs about the field on their website.
In 1975, Kenneth and Anne Hannan donated a 4.4-acre field to NCLT, with the intention that the land be kept in its natural state as a preserve for wildlife. The following year, Andrew and Anne Eberstadt donated an adjacent 1-acre parcel of woodlands, bringing the total acreage up to 5.5 acres. The original appraisal describes the land as “…most attractive, being mostly open level field ringed by mature trees to the east and south. To the west and north is an exceptionally well-finished stone wall which appears to have been built more recently than most in the area. In fact, the beauty of this parcel has long been a topic of conversation with local people, particularly because of its high visibility.”
Hm. Usually these things contain the phrase “in perpetuity.” But it has remained a field now for almost as long as I’ve been alive, so that’s something. The land trust takes care of the field; removing invasives, pruning trees, and mowing the path. They also take care of the stone wall which seems to be of particular interest to the Trust – even though it was built in the 1930’s rather than the 1730’s.
But the Trust did something else here in 2020 that drew me to the field. Perhaps knowing that walking across a field isn’t the most exciting outdoor activity in lower Fairfield County, they partnered with the local Carriage Barn Arts Center to install art and sculpture at a few of their properties to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day.
The exhibition was all over town, and featured eight juried sculptural installations at six New Canaan Land Trust preserves, the front lawn of the New Canaan Town Hall, and the courtyard of the Carriage Barn Arts Center.
Here, at Hannan Field, the installation was called “Passages” Thomas S. Berntsen. Seven translucent 10-foot tall acrylic panels, each with different patterns and colors, were placed along the trail through the meadow. Berntsen will explain it to you in a YouTube video if you’re interested.
Many of you know I love my outdoor art installations – and the panels here were really cool. It was heavily overcast and drizzling during my visit, so I was left curious how differently the colors in the panels would have looked on a sunny day. I like art that is temporal like that – or art that presents differently in different conditions.
I appreciate the the NCLT gussied up the field for my visit. After all, it’s not every day I get to explore the lesser-explored areas of this part of the state. As for you, the art installations are gone and it really is just a small field surrounded by massive homes and a country club. But that in itself makes its very existence interesting.