Banks Farm South, 60 acres of meadows, wetlands and forest, hearkens back to Fairfield’s early farmland history.
Wedged between a golf course and a gated community on the Fairfield-Westport town line, the sanctuary was originally owned by John Banks in the seventeenth century and has been farmed almost continually since. Robert and Virginia Vanderbilt donated the land to Connecticut Audubon Society in 1998.
Our conservation biologists have been planning and carrying out a habitat restoration project on the property. Their goal is to transform an apple orchard and Red Cedar meadow, which over time became overgrown with invasive species, back into the spot that Robert Vanderbilt considered one of his favorite – an orchard-cedar complex both beautiful and rich in wildlife.
Through a partnership with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture), and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, we leveraged funding to restore this hillside to its former glory.
Over the past three years we have cut back infringing hardwoods, removed foreign invasives such as Japanese barberry, Autumn Olive and Multiflora Rose, and released some of the old apple and cedar trees that had been “buried” by canopy and Asiatic Bittersweet.
The native grasses and wildflowers, which seemed to have been extirpated, bounced back with the restored sunlight on the meadow floor.
It looks great but we are far from finished. Deer browsing continues to be a problem and invasive plants will need to be controlled. We are planning to add Highbush Blueberry and Red Cedar to complement the meadow.
All in all, we think Robert and Virginia Vanderbilt would be pleased with our conservation effort on their former woodland meadow.