Location: Northern New Canaan, between Wellesley Drive and West Road
Access: The main parking area and access point for the Watson-Symington Preserve is located along Wellesley Drive, just north of Sherwood Lane. This access point can accommodate multiple cars, and provides the best access to the preserve’s main trail system. A secondary access point is located along West Road between addresses 226 and 246. Please do not park here, and use this as a walk-in access point only.
Date Protected: 1984 and 1996 Acreage: 46 Trail Length: 1.6
Visitation Hours Dawn to Dusk Dogs Allowed? Yes. See leash policy, below.
History: The Nancy Watson-Symington Woodlands is a magnificent 46-acre property generously donated in stages with a final parcel received in April 1996. As you walk the trail, you’ll be enjoying land that was once owned by the likes of the Amos Pennoyer in the early 19th century that established “Orchard Farm” (still visible and under conservation easement near the NW corner of the property), S. Bayard Colgate, Arthur K. Watson, Senator Stuart Symington, and eventually the family of Nancy Watson-Symington, by whom the final gift of land was given. Along with the adjacent 4-acre Lancaster property donated to NCLT in 1969, the contiguous protected area is NCLT’s largest.
Recreation Opportunities: Called the “crown jewel” among the Land Trust’s nearly 70 holdings, this extraordinary preserve may be one of New Canaan’s best-kept secrets. NCLT has established, and continues to maintain an extensive walking trail at the Watson-Symington Preserve. The scenic trails meander around wetlands and through hardwood forests that change in composition and structure with the topography. Some of the largest naturally growing trees in New Canaan can be found on this property, with the largest Tulip Poplars having diameters of over 4 feet.
The Watson-Symington Preserve is also home to a permanent land art installation, which was part of the 2020 New Canaan Sculpture Trail. A stone labyrinth, designed by artist Christopher Kaczmarek, can be found off-trail, near the center of the preserve. We encourage visitors to wander through the labyrinth and use the space to reflect, meditate, and ponder.
Dog Policy: Dogs are welcome at the Watson-Symington Preserve. We allow dogs to be off-leash from sunrise to noon, provided that dogs are under strict voice control, stay on-trail, and stay within 25 feet of their human. Leashes are required from noon onwards. Note that this policy applies only to the Watson-Symington Preserve: dogs are required to be leashed at all times on all other Land Trust trails. Commercial dog walkers are prohibited at all Land Trust preserves, and we ask dog owners to bring no more than 2 dogs with them to the preserve.
Land Stewardship: NCLT’s ongoing conservation efforts look to restore a diversity of habitat for wildlife, reduce the prevalence of invasive species (grapevine, winged euonymus, bittersweet, etc.), and maintain open trails for use by neighbors and the broader community.