Wadsworth Mansion Vernal Pool Project

In 1995, the 80th anniversary of the Middletown Garden, the club undertook an important civic project: restoring Colonel Wadsworths pond. The pond (vernal pool) and its surrounding woodland are nestled on the Eastern slope of the Long Hill Estate off Wadsworth Street in Middletown. The pool, sited on a map prepared by the Olmsted firm in 1901, was a source of drinking water for the animals on the estate. The garden club incorporated our knowledge of the Olmsteds Brothers Landscape firm in our design for a natural park setting.

Dead shrubs and trees and entangling vines were cleared. Stones and dead logs were repositioned around the perimeter of the vernal pool to encourage the return of wildlife. The woodland setting provides a good demonstration garden for the citizens of Middletown to learn about native herbaceous perennials, shrubs and trees that are appropriate for a naturalistic setting. The club continues to rid the area of invasive plants and continues to maintain the plants and trees.

One Man's Vernal Legacy - from the Middletown Press

Col. Clarence S. Wadsworth would have been pleased.

The late Mr. Wadsworth was the scion of a prominent family. His elegant 1907 Middletown mansion was the subject of a successful $5 million restoration by the city four years ago. His pedigree notwithstanding, Mr. Wadsworth was a philanthropist and environmentalist in his own right. The grounds of his 104 acre estate reflect his love for nature. Shaped by the Olmstead Brothers of Massachusetts and New York landscaper Charles W. Leavitt, the property has sweeping vistas and unusual specimen trees. Considering the priority Mr. Wadsworth assigned to his gardens, those involved in the continuing renovation at Long Hill Estate say the landscaping is as much a part of the estates architectural and historical value as the house.

Lately, the Middletown Garden Club uncovered a feature of the landscape just east of the mansion: a vernal pool. Thanks to the clubs efforts, the pool is adorned with wildflowers, trees and other plantings. A trail leading to the pool is named in honor of the Olmstead brothers.

This latest discovery has already been the focus of some student field trips for good reason. Although long dismissed as puddles, vernal pools have come to be appreciated as occupying an important place in woodland ecology.

These pools are seasonal, filling up in spring and during hot summer months, drying out. Ecologically, thats one of their most important features. Because these pools dry up, they are unable to support fish and other predatory aquatic species. That makes them ideal habitats for water beetles, fairy shrimp, snails, dragonflies, damselfly nymphs and other insects. Vernal pools also serve as breeding grounds for amphibians salamanders, wood frogs and toads, to name a few.

As an environmentalist, Mr. Wadsworth would surely have appreciated this natural nursery.

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