Those who visit a 121-acre swath of open space in Colchester will get a good sense of who the late Ruby and Elizabeth Cohen were and what they meant to this town.
The Ruby and Elizabeth Cohen Woodlands on McDonald Road was purchased by the town in 2000. The parcel was owned by the late, longtime legislator Rubin H. "Ruby" Cohen. The parcel not only includes fields and woodlands, but also a large wetland known as Dutton Swamp, which is beautiful this time of year with the changing maple trees.
A number of trails snake through the parcel to the west of McDonald Road near the old Cohen family homestead. Cohen served 30 consecutive years in the state House of Representatives and was a resident of Colchester most of his life. Cohen was also well-known as one of the first owners of Harry's Place, a popular drive-up food stand in town.
Elizabeth was an avid walker and shared her husband's love of the land. She served as postmistress of the Colchester Post Office for 20 years and could often be seen walking the property. The family sponsored fishing derbies, weddings and large picnics on the grounds that was once known as the "Ruby Cohen Wildlife Sanctuary."
A small parking area sits in front of a pond where ducks and Canada geese float on the water or squat along the shore. A nice stand of white pine border the pond and a gazebo and scattered picnic tables invite visitors to bird watch or have lunch after the hike.
The main trail, marked with interpretive signs scattered throughout the preserve, travels into an area where a farm once existed. Be on the lookout for an old stone foundation where a barn once sat. The trail passes by old stone walls and apple trees peek through a young forest.
There are plenty of grasslands to explore and wildflowers to identify. The area drains to the Deep River and Salmon River watersheds, so there are large areas of wetland and marshes that draw a plethora of wildlife to the preserve.
The preserve is located on McDonald Road near the intersection with Dutton Road. Visitors should take Route 2, to Exit 18. Follow Route 16 west to Route 85. Take a right on Route 85 and follow to the junction of Route 354. Look for McDonald Road shortly on the right.
You can view Peter Marteka's videos online, along with his Nature's Path column, at www.courant.com/marteka. His column also appears in Friday's Hartford Courant.