Whispers in the Forest
Newtown Forest Association
Connecticut's Oldest Private Land Trust
On August 20, 2009, the family of Anne Hadley Howat graciously donated to the Newtown Forest Association, Inc. (NFA) a 68 acre conservation
easement over the family’s homestead in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown. Locally known as Snake Rock Farm, the protected land lies along
scenic Zoar Road, extends to properties on Lone Oak Meadows Road and connects with other NFA property in the Cobbler’s Mill subdivision. This
gift increases other protected land in that area.
The original house on the property dates back to 1767, and the land has been in the Hadley and Howat family since 1889. With this easement the
Howat family ensures that this property is preserved from development in perpetuity. The conservation easement eliminates the possibility that this
property could ever be subdivided, and gives the NFA the rights and obligations to monitor and prevent development of any kind, and to ensure the
property is preserved in its current condition.
The NFA has worked with the Howat family over the last few years to explain how a conservation easement works and could serve to preserve the
family homestead, as well as provide possible current tax benefits, similar to cash donations. Bob Eckenrode, NFA’s President says “We are very
grateful to the Howat family for the passion that they have shown for their property. Their desire to protect this special property with great wildlife
habitat and natural character will ensure that it will be protected forever with an easement.” Eckenrode added, “With a conservation easement in
place for this property, it is our hope that neighboring property owners will also consider their land holdings for additional conservation easements or
donation for the benefit of future generations.”
The NFA specifically views the acceptance of this conservation easement critical to the protection of a diverse ecosystem that directly abuts 33
acres of NFA property that it already owns and protects from prior donations. The NFA’s property also abuts approximately 16 acres of Town owned
open space. On a combined basis, the Howat conservation easement now provides for a 120 acre tract of land that will forever serve as both a
wildlife refuge with diverse habitats and a reminder of the Town’s agrarian history. The Howat property includes forestland, meadows and wooded
wetlands that ultimately drain into both Lake Zoar and the Pootatuck River. This is a critical watershed headwater property that feeds the Pootatuck
Aquifer whose preservation aids in the protection of the drinking water for a significant portion of Newtown’s population. The preservation of the
meadows provide important habitat to ground nesting birds and butterflies and is of critical importance, as it one of the fasted depleting habitats due
to development and reforestation. The mixed hardwood forest, which dominates the site, contains numerous mature white oaks which have
exceptionally high conservation value and support a wide diversity of birds and other wildlife.
Unlike other property that the NFA owns, property preserved under conservation easements are most often not widely open to the public for passive
are based primarily on the wishes of the donor. Similar to most conservation easements, the Howat property is not open to unfettered public use;
however, the NFA has been granted limited rights to conduct guided tours of the property for its members.
The Howat property also includes some historic structures that exemplify the evolution of plumbing and man’s attempt to capture and direct water.
The farm house was first plumbed sometime during the 1890’s and has historically obtained all of its drinking water from the Snake Rock Farm well.
The family dates the well back to the 1700’s and buckets retrieved from the well’s bottom was dated between 1800-1820. The remainder of the
home’s water supply came from wetland springs that bubble up from the upland portion of the property. From where the spring arose, a stone
foundation was laid; upon which, once stood a spring house to keep the water clear of debris. The only evidence of the spring house is the
remaining foundation which still holds back a head of water creating a very small and pristine pond. The spring house also used water power to
pump a day’s supply of water into a tank in the home’s attic. Not far from the spring also remains a beautifully maintained old water tower that
replaced the original tower that was burned to the ground after having been struck by lightning. The original water tower, according to family lore,
was acquired from one of the local railroads when it went out of business. The water tower was also once fed from the spring house by a water
driven pump (specifically a hydraulic ram) and stored up to a three month supply of water. Around 1920 the water powered pump was s
supplemented with a gas engine but remained in use through the late 1960’s. Stories documented by the family speak of the family’s vigilant efforts,
and that of a local plumber, to frequently repair the variety of pumps through the years and patch the cracks, most often believed to be due to
In the future expect to see some photos of the property.
The NFA is Connecticut’s oldest private land trust and a 501(c)3 charitable not-for-profit organization. We are not a town or municipal entity, and
receive no direct government financial support. We are a private landowner just like you. Since the NFA’s formation in 1924, it has protected over
1,030 acres through land owned and preserved over 90 acres under conservation easements. These preserved properties provide some of the
most spectacular views of Newtown’s landscape and they also serve to preserve our natural resources for the perpetual benefit of wildlife species
and neighbors like you and me.