May 26, 2017 — “Due to the very generous outpouring of donations from private citizens and businesses throughout the Southbury area and beyond, this spring we were able to paint our notably historic barn,” stated Leslie Kane, Center Director of the Bent of the River Audubon Center.
Kane stated that donations provided the funds for the Audubon center to hire the expert skills of General Painting of Danbury. “They went beyond the contracted job by sprucing up the sleighs once used by the previous property owners Howard G. B. and Althea Clark, plus our garden bench. They truly went well beyond their scope of work to make the Bent shine this spring. The newly-painted bright colors will welcome a host of migrant birds and visitors this spring.”
This historic barn and the more than 700 acres that comprise today’s Bent of the River Audubon Center were donated through the estate of Althea Clark in 1993. She and her husband, Howard G. B Clark, lived on the abundant property beginning in 1934. They bought the property, which consisted at that time of 350 acres, an historic brick house (now named the Clark House), and the barn. The purchase price was $15,000. Through the years, the Clarks and the National Audubon Society purchased hundreds of additional acres from neighboring farmers.
“The Audubon center’s barn dates back from at least the 1860s and parts of it likely date back to the 1830s,” stated Kane. Located immediately on the historic Rochambeau Trail that traverses through the center’s property, Kane remarked, “This barn is truly a wonder to behold with its remarkable chestnut beams and traditional barn structure. It is an exemplary barn for both its age and remarkable history.”
Through the ages, the barn has been used to house animals, hay, wagons, and even cars. Currently, the barn and its surrounding gardens, picnic areas, and bird-watching loft serve as a remarkable location for educational programs for school groups and summer campers as well as fundraising events and festivities throughout each year—including the Bent’s very popular family-oriented BentFest held each fall.
“Every generation of caretakers of this magnificent property, which is open to the general public year-round, has been trusted with the upkeep of all aspects of the property, including all buildings. Our staff, board of directors, and dedicated volunteers, plus remarkably generous contractors like General Painting of Danbury, are truly among the many honored caretakers of this barn and property,” stated Kane.
The mission of the Bent of the River Audubon Center in Southbury is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats. Located along the Pomperaug River and bordering Little Pootatuck Brook, the Bent of the River nature center and sanctuary is a private, not-for-profit organization that is part of Audubon Connecticut (a state office of the National Audubon Society) and protects numerous natural ecosystems, habitats, un-fragmented forest, grasslands, meadows, swamps, and a portion of the Pomperaug River.
There are more than 15 miles of hiking trails that traverse beautiful, varied terrain throughout the Bent. This sanctuary features many ecosystems including deciduous and coniferous forest, rocky ledges, grasslands, old meadows, vernal pools, red maple swamps, and river habitats. The Audubon center owns both sides of the Pomperaug River for almost 1 mile, which is an undisturbed and wild environment where beaver, muskrat, river otter, and mink can be found, and where Bald Eagles regularly fish.
The center attracts more than 170 species of birds and is recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) in Connecticut, protecting critical open land and wildlife.