65 acres owned by the
Shelton Land Trust
Easy trails through an old farm,
and a Scout camp
Trail length: There are several miles of trails.
Description: Nicholdale Farm is unique among open spaces in Shelton and often overlooked. Some sections of this old farm are still open meadow, and the trail there consists of a delightful grassy path mowed up to eight feet wide. Shortly after leaving the parking area the path crosses a picturesque Nicholdale Brook and the trail splits. Go straight to take the main loop, or turn right to follow the shorter side trails along the brook.
The main loop heads out across the meadow, where you can glimpse the heights of the White Hills in the distance. This is a very pretty area and unique among trails in Shelton. After a while the trail heads into the woods and you’ll walk through a camp created by Boy Scouts, complete with a giant fire-ring, benches, tables and outhouse. This is the sort of place that makes adults wish they were kids again. The camp is open to youth groups (see below). The trail is somewhat hard to follow in a few spots after the camp because the woods are so open, but if you keep an eye out for the orange tree blazes you should be able to find your way. The woods change into a cedar thicket, giving the trail an entirely different mood. This area is a great example of a field-to-forest succession. The area was once open field, and the cedars sprouted up as the field was abandoned.
As you leave the cedars, keep your eye open for wolf trees. Wolf trees are much larger that the surrounding trees because they once grew in open fields. Their branches spread out horizontally while the other trees around them grow straight up to compete for sunlight. You’ll also pass an old apple tree that used to be surrounded by field, not forest.
When you get done with the main loop you can follow the much shorter but very pretty brook loop. The trail here is once again mowed grass. You’ll follow Nichols Brook for a ways and then cross it via a wooden bridge. After the bridge you can follow the trail back to the parking lot or take a left and explore the newer section of the park.
Tick alert: Because of all the grass and wildlife, there are a lot of ticks here during tick season (summer).
Directions: Google location map & driving directions
From downtown Shelton follow Howe Avenue/R110 west towards Monroe. The road name for Rt 110 changes to Leavenworth Road. After about three miles you will pass the White Hills Shopping Center on your left. At the traffic light there, set your odometer at 0.0. Go another 1.1 mile on Rt. 110 (up a long hill and almost to the bottom of the other side) and the parking area for Nicholdale Farm will be on your left. The parking area is very easy to miss, even if you’ve been there before. It may be easier to look for Nicholdale Road on your right and make a U-turn there. Once you make the U-turn, Nicholdale Farm will be immediately on your right. To get a map and door-to-door driving directions click here and type in “#322 Leavenworth Road” for your destination (that’s the house closest to the park).
Note: if you are coming from the other direction (from Jones Tree Farm or Monroe) you may see a large sign for the park on your right. The parking area is about 0.1 mile after the sign on your right.
Camping: The camp is open to youth groups such as Boy and Girl Scouts. Description below courtesy of the Land Trust:
* The Camp Site is located at the far end of the property, just stay on the main trail, straight in and you’ll find the Camp just inside the woods
* The Camp site can comfortably accommodate 20 to 30 campers.
* There is a fire ring within the Camp site – all fires must be contained within the fire ring.
* There are no leanto’s in the Camp site – only tent camping is allowed.
* There is a “Two Holer” outhouse in the Camp site – each side has it’s own door for privacy.
* You need to bring your own water supply for drinking, cooking and fire extinguishing use.
* We expect your use to abide by the principles of “Low Impact Camping” – (see reservation form).
* The Camp site is available for Shelton Youth Group Camping on a first come basis (with reservations).
* All requests for you should be directed to Bob Wnek at the Land Trust. He maintains a log of available / reserved dates. Usually only one group is allowed to camp on the property at a time.
* He will respond to your request with a confirmation, if the property is available for your requested use date and send you a Camping Permit form to be completed and returned to him via E-mail.
* Bob will notify you if property conditions change – eg – mud, access, safety, forest fire conditions, etc. as soon as he becomes aware of these condition changes.
* Included on the Camping Permit form are the names / e-mail addresses / phone numbers of four Shelton Land Conservation Trust members who you can contact if you have a problem during you camping experience.
* Frequently a Land Trust member will stop by to visit you during your campout.
* You can volunteer to perform a “service project” while camping on the property – contact Don Pendagast.
* See reservation form.
Park Background: The following are excerpts from a Bridgeport Post article published in 1991:
Within six months, officials say, ownership of the Nichols farm will be transferred to the Shelton Land Trust. The 52-acre property on Route 110 will become the trust’s largest holding, a conservation area and a refuge for hikers and photographers.
“Everyone is pleased at the fact that this land is going to be preserved,” said Bruce Nichols, whose grandfather, Frederick, purchased the property in 1905.
Nichols, an employee of Gordon Rubber in Derby, said the activity is an answer to “the quiet desire I’ve had for a long time to see (the land) remain undeveloped, rather than becoming condos or an industrial park or something like that.”
Nichols and Jeanette LaMacchia, president of the Shelton Historical Society, provided a scant history of the property. Details were recounted by Edward Nichols Coffey, Bruce Nichols” cousin. A Monroe resident, Coffey is the Nichols family genealogist and a history teacher at Fairfield High School.
During the 1700s, the land was considered part of Stratford. By 1733, Huntington center was being established and the land belonged to James Shelton, a member of the wealthy family of merchants for which this city was named.
The land was next owned by Lucias Peck, who built the main farmhouse there about 1828. Peck used the property to raise livestock, probably sheep, Coffey said.
A Bidwell family owned the land until Frederick Nichols bought it in 1905. Until then a Monroe resident, the elder Nichols wanted the farm here so he could be close to his grandparents, the Hubbels, who owned a nearby farm.
Since the advent of railroads and refrigeration had made dairy farming lucrative, Frederick Nichols so developed the land, which came to be known as Nicholdale.
“My grandfather had almost 150 head of cattle at one time,” Coffey said. “It was one of the largest dairy farms in the area.”
In 1935, Route 110 was built, running through the midst of the property.
“Many of the (area) families were upset,” including his grandfather, said Coffey. But Nichols continued to use his property mostly for dairy farming until “the late ’40s or early ’50s,” when he was growing old. Frederick died in 1962 and subdivided the land, giving half to his son, Stanley and half to his daughter, Lillian Nichols Saldamarco.
“Since then, the property has remained with the family, but not actively farmed,” said Nichols. Thus, much of Nicholdale has returned to wildland, he added.
It is being purchased through an unprecedented partnership between the Nichols family, the city of Shelton, Iroquois Gas Transmission System, Shelton Land Trust, Conservation Commission and the Jones Tree Farm. The group has dubbed itself “Partners in Protection.”
After Iroquois announced in 1990 plans to run its pipeline through Shelton, the company set aside $972,000 in a Land Preservation and Enhancement Program to compensate the city with funds for the purchase of open space, said program director Gary Davis.
The idea for the city to purchase the Nichols farm with that money was the brainchild of Terry Jones and his father, Philip, owners of the Jones Tree Farm, which is adjacent to the Nichols property.
“The challenge was getting everyone together to facilitate the purchase, Terry Jones said. “I kept track for a while. It took 500 hours just in the winter and early spring.”
While Iroquois is paying the bulk of the cost, some $358,000 more had to be gathered for the purchase.
Terry Jones initially contacted Shelton Land Trust president Marybeth Banks with the proposal. “This situation is unique. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Banks said.
Jones orchestrated the recruitment of other partners for the plan, among them John Cook, director of the city Conservation Commission; and Mark Johnson, a Shelton resident and representative of Bridgeport Hydraulic Co., which owns land adjacent to Nicholdale that also will be used for the pipeline. The Shelton Law firm of Winnick, Vine, Welch and Donnelly is donating its services.
The conservation commission donated $100,000 for the purchase. The Joneses, Bridgeport Hydraulic and land trust are giving a total of $333,000 in money Iroquois would have paid them for right-of-way and easement rights through their properties.
“All that is allowed on our properties is hiking and picture-taking,” Banks said. She added that a provision might also be made to allow local boy or girl scouts to camp on the land. Boy scouts will be contacted to upgrade and maintain trails on the property and encourage growth in the area as a service project, she added.
Hydraulic company employees also have agreed to patrol the area.
The park grew by another 13 acres in 1999 when the Land Trust acquired a neighboring property known as the Crown Tool piece. The $160,000 price tag was met by obtaining donations from local businesses and grants from organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation.