Mountain Laurel Open Space Area
Location and Access
This open space area in the Mill River watershed is in the central part of Fairfield. It includes about 24 mostly forested acres south of the Merritt Parkway, just west of the Samp Mortar Rock Open Space Area and not too far from the Lake Mohegan Open Space Area. The river and Black Rock Turnpike are a short distance to the east. The area is surrounded by residential neighborhoods and its southern boundary adjoins Mountain Laurel Road.
The main entrance to the area is from Mountain Laurel Road where there’s space for a few cars to park carefully along the north side of the road.
Another point of access is from the Town right-of-way at the end of Holly Dale Road. There’s currently no parking here and this access is used by neighborhood residents.
This property was acquired by the Town in 1966 and dedicated for conservation purposes. It’s now managed by the Conservation Commission to protect its forest habitat and other natural values and to provide opportunities for walking and hiking and passive enjoyment of the natural environment.
The open space area is essentially a big ravine. An unnamed stream flows almost directly south through the center of the area, eventually draining into the Mill River. The land rises steeply on either side of the stream and there are several high, rocky overlooks affording scenic views of the forested landscape. The area’s highest elevations are between 200 and 250 feet above sea level on the western hillside.
Vegetation and Wildlife
The area is almost entirely forested with mature hardwood species including oaks, maples, and tulip trees with some birch trees mixed in too. The under-story is made up of mostly spicebush and dogwood along with some dense thickets of the open space area’s characteristic mountain laurel. The forest floor is composed of brier, raspberry, viburnum, and various herbaceous plants. There’s a small meadow near Mountain Laurel Road at the entrance to the open space area.
Buttercup, partridge berry, smartweed, pokeweed, bittersweet, and spotted touch me-not are among the wildflowers that you will see in the area.
The mountain laurel thickets provide winter cover for deer, turkeys, and song birds. Other mammals that frequent the area include squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, opossum, raccoon, and skunk. Some of the birds you’re likely to see include grouse, cardinals, oven birds, mocking birds, sparrows, and woodpeckers.
When you walk into the open space area, you can turn right or left to follow the “yellow” loop trail. Either way, you’ll soon be walking up onto the higher ground of the slopes that are found on both sides of the stream course. You can do a full loop of about 8/10 of a mile that will involve climbing and traversing some fairly steep slopes.
You can also walk directly north on the “red” trail that follows the floor of the ravine, alongside the stream course, for a distance that’s less than ¼-mile. Then you can turn around and walk back on the same trail or follow the yellow trail back. There’s also a shorter “blue” trail near the property’s eastern boundary and the entrance to the area from Holly Dale Road.
Use care when walking in this open space area because the trails are steep, their surfaces are generally rocky, and they’re often slippery.
Scroll below to view photographs of the Mountain Laurel Open Space Area: