Town Preps Parking Area as Bristow Nears 100-Year Celebration


Credit: Michael Dinan

The New Canaanite 2024 Summer Internship Program is sponsored by Karp Associates.

Did you know New Canaan has the third oldest bird sanctuary in the United States? 

This year that bird sanctuary turns 100 years old. 

The centennial anniversary celebration of Bristow Bird Sanctuary is slated for this coming September, marked by five years of significant restorations to the park. 

Starting five years ago, in collaboration with the Friends of Bristow volunteers, donors, and the Town of New Canaan, improvements have been made to the park with a focus on public accessibility. Restorations include updated senior and stroller accessibility, improved bird habitats, and native plantings. 

“The restoration project began back in 2019 when the park responsibility for the Bristow Park was transferred to the Conservation Commission,” Former Conservation Chair Chris Schipper said. “We felt like if there was going to be a centennial, the park should be upgraded or restored to be in great shape so that it set the tone for the next 100 years.”

Director of Public Works Tiger Mann said that the town now is “in the process of putting in a pull off parking area and a sidewalk that leads from Bristow to Park Street so that the park is now connected to our sidewalk network.”

Currently, the park’s restoration is in its final stages. 

Schipper said: “The clear goal of the restoration program was to restore and improve the bird habitat and visibility within the park, but also to improve the accessibility of the park – accessible meaning all the way to senior and more stroller friendly access.”

A comprehensive list of improvements are as follows:

  1. Deer fence surrounding the preserve repaired and raised
  2. The Pond and its surroundings have been dredged and armored
  3. Streams have been lined with boulders to limit erosion
  4. Pathways have been graded and surfaced with fine stone; walking trails have been cleared
  5. Historic Perambulation wall rebuilt
  6. Boardwalks have been raised across wetlands
  7. Bridges rebuilt across streams
  8. Granite steps laid
  9. Benches placed
  10. Native plantings that sustain local and migratory bird populations installed
  11. Fernery and pollinator gardens planted
  12. Two overlook viewing areas opened up
  13. A center crossing pavilion built suitable for education sessions
  14. A birdhouse education trail with information signage and photos created
  15. A wetlands bird blind installer
  16. A nature oriented lending library placed
  17. 20 native trees planted and tree identification markers place
  18. Francis of Assisi statue being replace
  19. Pollinator Pathway Garden installed by wildflower meadow, dedicated to the late resident, naturalist and volunteer Cam Hutchins
  20. New White Oak planted to replace the fallen Mighty Bristow Oak
  21. A four-car pull-off by the Old Stamford Road entrance under construction
  22. Senior and stroller friendly flexipave accessway from Mead Park is being laid in July
  23. The sidewalk will be extended from Park Street by September

Officials said they are hopeful that the restoration will be completed by Sept. 8, the day of the centennial celebration. Despite continued construction, the park is open to patrons, they said.

“Visitors can visit now because it’s open, but the overall work is slated to be done by September 8th for the grand reopening,” Mann said.

Schipper added that project is a “great” public-private partnership that includes landscape architects and the DPW. 

He added that “all the contractors who have been involved in it have done a great job.” 

“Most importantly is that it was brought in ahead of schedule and on budget,”Schipper said.

This September, town members will be able to get a guided tour to see the park’s improvements for themselves. 

“We have a wonderful event planned, with the first selectmen welcoming everyone, we have as a keynote speaker David Sibley, who is the recognized authority on bird life in our country and after that, we have a woodwind quintet playing music composed by a local composer,” Schipper said. The musical pieces have been dedicated to the nature of Bristow Park, he said.

The celebration does not end there, however. 

“There will be an unveiling of a Francis of Assisi (an Italian mystic and poet who often preached to birds) statue that replaced a previous one that got vandalized and removed, the New Canaan Madrigals will perform, and that will be followed by, cake and refreshments – we’re gonna make a cake in the shape of Bristol Park,” Schipper said.

As of now, the celebration most likely will be an open invitation to members of the town in the form of a registration list sign-up, likely beginning in August. According to Schipper, the celebration is expected to draw hundreds of people.

Beyond the celebration, there is more exciting news. During the event, the soon-to-be printed book “A Songbird Heaven” will be made available. The book recounts the 100-year history of Bristow Park, Schipper said.

Mann described Bristow as “a beautiful area for respite and relaxation and a nice way to reconnect with nature.”

“They celebrated over 120 bird species that they’ve found so far in the park,” he said.

The process of restoring Bristow Park is a testament to New Canaan’s efforts to preserve the town’s collective history, Schipper said.

“Restoring the park is a way to honor the fact that conservation in New Canaan began a hundred years ago – conservation is not a new idea,” he said. “A group of people got together back in 1920  and said we ought to do this. They raised money and created the third-oldest bird sanctuary in the nation. That’s really incredible.”

One thought on “Town Preps Parking Area as Bristow Nears 100-Year Celebration

  1. I have walked the trails which I call my meditation walks & to sit in silence. It’s a wonderful & beautiful space to reconnect with nature. New Canaan also has the Land Trust trails that serves the same connection
    With mind & body…
    Norm Jensen

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