Washington Spotlight: Steep Rock Association

Welcome to our new series recognizing the wonderful local nonprofit organizations that play such a major role in contributing to the wellbeing of our Washington community.

One of Washington’s most beloved organizations is the Steep Rock Association, which preserves and manages four nature preserves and over 47 miles of recreational trails in Washington. The preserves, which are open to visitors in every season, include incredible scenery, splendid natural elements, and panoramic views for thousands of visitors each year.

 

About Steep Rock Association

Steep Rock Association is a nationally accredited land trust whose mission is to conserve ecologically and historically significant landscapes and riparian corridors in and around Washington, Connecticut and to enhance the community’s connection to nature through outreach, education, and passive recreation.

 

“Steep Rock is proud of our long history in Washington, and we continue to embrace and contribute to the bucolic charm, rural character, vibrant culture, and timeless quality of this wonderful community.”
– Brian Hagenbuch, Executive Director of Steep Rock Association

 

The history of Steep Rock began with the renowned American architect Ehrick Rossiter, who became incredibly fond of the natural landscape of Washington and purchased 100 acres of the Steep Rock reservation in the spring of 1889. After 36 years of ownership, Rossiter then donated the land to a carefully chosen group of trustees in 1925 to ensure the preservation of the land that he became so fond of.

In 1961, Steep Rock was formally incorporated as a land trust and increased its property to about 650 acres. Over time, more land and elements were added to the land trust, including the Hidden Valley footbridge, the boardwalks and trails of Macricostas Preserve, the Judea Garden, and more. Today, the Judea Garden, supported by dedicated volunteers, grows thousands of pounds of produce each season for those in need. Most recently, the Steep Rock Association acquired the Johnson Farm Preserve consisting of 52-acres of agricultural fields, sunny meadows, open forests, and 1.25 miles of hiking trails. Today, Steep Rock Association’s preserves include over 2,800 acres of land, with an additional 2,700 acres held in easements.

 

“Thanks to the vision of our founders, the work of our predecessors, and the efforts of our current supporters, we are pleased to have helped protect the forested hills, pastoral landscapes, and scenic rivers that have shaped and defined Washington’s sense of place, conserved critical habitats and wildlife species, offered thousands of acres for public recreation and enjoyment, and contributed to the economic vitality and quality of life in our community.”
– Brian Hagenbuch, Executive Director of Steep Rock Association
Ehrick Rossiter, 1927. (Gunn Historical Museum)
Photo by E. Winthrop Rossiter ‘Shepaug River’ circa 1932 (Gunn Historical Museum)

The Preserves

Today, Steep Rock Association oversees four unique preserves and over 47 miles of hiking trails for all to enjoy. Learn more about the features of each of the preserves below:

Hiking in the winter by @hanvansickle

Steep Rock Preserve

The Steep Rock Preserve is located at 2 Tunnel Road in Washington Depot and features:

  • The Railroad Tunnel, a 235-foot curved tunnel constructed in the 1870’s as part of the Shepaug Valley Railroad
  • Holiday House, a grand summer house in Washington on a hillside overlooking the Shepaug River
  • Steep Rock Summit provides a breathtaking view overlooking Shepaug River Valley at an elevation of 776 feet, gifted to the Board of Trustees in 1925 by Ehrick Rossiter
@leahshiloh

Hidden Valley Preserve

The Hidden Valley Preserve is located at 198 Bee Brook Road in Washington Depot and features:

  • The Lookout, a semi-circular terrace providing scenic views of the valley to the west
  • Quartz Mine, which once helped support a small mining industry in the 19th Century
  • The Henry Thoreau Bridge, a suspension bridge spanning 134′ across the Shepaug River
  • The Pinnacle, a panorama of one of Washington’s Historic Districts
@christopherivey

Macricostas Preserve

Macricostas Preserve is located at 124 Christian Street in New Preston and features:

  • Judea Garden which provides fresh produce for members of our community with limited financial resources
  • Wararamaug’s Rock is a spectacular overlook providing panoramic views of Lake Waramaug and the surrounding countryside at an elevation of 1,250 feet
  • Meeker Swamp includes a viewing platform among the wetlands and agricultural fields and one of the last significant calcareous ecosystems in the Northeast Hills
  • Macricostas Lookout offers a welcome resting spot with a scenic view of the hayfield adjacent to Meeker Swamp, home to myriad varieties of songbirds, butterflies and other wildlife
@steeprockassociation

Johnson Farm at West Mountain Preserve

Johnson Farm is located at 37 West Mountain Road in Washington and features:

  • The Pasture Oak Picnic Site which provides breathtaking views of the adjoining farm fields as well as the surrounding hillsides of Washington, Woodbury, and Bethlehem
  • 52-acres of agricultural fields, sunny meadows, open forests and 1.25 miles of hiking trails crisscrossing the landscape

Judea Garden

Judea Garden is half an acre of gardens filled with tomatoes, beans, squash, potatoes and more, all grown with the help of an amazing team of volunteers and supporters. The garden will be entering its 14th season and produces thousands of pounds of produce for members of the community each year.

“Judea Garden is half an acre of gardens filled with tomatoes, beans, squash, potatoes and more, all grown with the help of an amazing team of volunteers and supporters. The thousands of pounds we produce each year, about 3700 pounds this past season help feed 150 local families.”
– Denise Arturi, Judea Garden Manager and Head Gardener of Steep Rock Association
Volunteers at Judea Garden
Judea Garden
“What we didn’t realize when we first started, was how so many lives would be changed – not just the lives of the recipients, but the lives of the volunteers as well. Working as a community and sharing the labor made everyone richer in spirit. Judea Garden is a magical place and truly a Giving Garden in so many ways.”
– Denise Arturi, Judea Garden Manager and Head Gardener of Steep Rock Association

 

Upcoming Events

Steep Rock Association hosts many interesting events for the community throughout the year. Here are a few upcoming events:

 

 

Get Involved

The Steep Rock Association’s preserves are open year-round. To learn more about the Steep Rock Association’s latest news and events, visit steeprockassoc.org and follow them at @steeprockassociation.

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