In 2016, the Fox HIll Lake Association partnered with H2H*, the Housatonic Watershed Initiative and the Highstead Foundation of Redding, to begin the restoration of native plants around the lake. The goal is to create a riparian buffer zone along the Bennetts Farm Road beach. In September of 2016 volunteers gathered to prepare a 50-foot stretch of shoreline to complete what was the first phase of the project. This five year plan is called the Native Habitat Project. Since that time, several other plantings have taken place and things have taken root. We expect the plants to continue to grow and expand along the shoreline improving the quality of both the land and the water.
Geordie Elkins, Director of Operations at Highstead in Redding, is working with many lake associations throughout Connecticut on similar projects. He approached the Fox Hill Lake Association to speak about the proliferation of invasive species and what the association could do to improve the environment. The buffer was the culmination of many months of planning, permit applications, installation of silt fencing and volunteer work to prepare the 15x50 foot shoreline planting zone. Once ready for planting, members of the Fox Hill Lake Association and the board members of the neighboring Rainbow Lake Association were invited to hear Mr. Elkins Speak to the importance of our joint efforts.
Native sedges, shrubs and trees make up the riparian buffer. They encourage the return of native wildlife such as wood ducks and mallards to nest along the shore. They will also enhance habitat opportunity for the native invertebrates, frogs, birds and insect pollinators. These efforts will enhance the Fox HIll Lake community and improve the environmental quality of the Ridgefield Lakes area.
Eight additional selections of native grasses were chosen to line the narrow stretches of shoreline to preserve lake views, filtrate the road runoff and replace invasive plants.
The continued efforts to expand riparian buffers around both lakes will depend upon additional grants and donations. The Fox HIll Lake Association is a nonprofit 501c(7) organization whose members pay a voluntary donation to become a part of the association.
*The H2H was partially funded through a grant from the US Forest Service.
Ok, so let's first get out of the way how great those puns are.
Winter of 2014-15 was a rough one in the northeast. Long spells of bitter cold and snow storm after snow storm left Fox Hill Lake frozen solid. With no ability for sunlight to penetrate the snow covered ice the lake was unable to provide the oxygen content necessary to sustain the fish population. Unfortunately, there was a major fish kill with many casualties washing up along the shore. One of the species most affected were the grass carp stocked to help keep aquatic grasses from taking over the lake. These fish, weighing in excess of 20 pounds, need a lot of oxygen to keep their muscles supplied with enough energy to survive the winter. But here is were a sad story has a happy ending. Their demise provided much needed sustenance to the residents of the Wolf Conservation Center of South Salem, NY, a non-profit organization that "teaches people about wolves, their relationship to the environment and the human role in protecting the future." In April of 2015 we coordinated our efforts and FHLA members trudged through the still cold water to corral the carp for the Center to pick up. As one would imagine, wild animals, like wolves, don't like Kibble and Bits. Providing them these fish helps enhance their natural instincts. Let them eat carp!
In November of 2014, association members gathered together to execute a carefully planned repair of the dam along Bennetts Farm Road. Permits were pulled, silt fencing was in place and the bentonite clay, soil and sand were delivered. A 25-strong volunteer workforce arrived with wheelbarrows, shovels and pick axes ready to go. We were lucky to have a beautiful fall day and the hours of preparation the prior weekend paid off. We accomplished the goal of stopping the leaks in the dam. The bonus was that by doing the work ourselves we saved 75% of the potential costs!