Located on the West River in the Amity neighborhood of New Haven, this preserve contains 14-acres of forest, stream, and wetland. Today, the preserve is animated with the activity of fish, birds, and other animals, but it was not always so alive. The land that now comprises the nature preserve was a site of factories for almost two hundred years – and these factories were not always kind to the land.
In 1794, a dam was placed on the West River at what is now the preserve in order to power a grain grinding mill. This dam created a pond on the site that became the namesake of the preserve. A succession of different factories followed this first mill, and when the last factory finally left the site in the late 1970s, the area was highly polluted.
In 1995, the site was cleaned up and then donated to the Land Trust in 1996. In 2014, it was decided that the dam on the nature preserve should be removed to allow for migrating fish to swim up the West River to spawning sites upstream of Pond Lily and in order to reduce the flood hazard caused by a potential failure of the dam. This project was supported by Save the Sound and was completed in the spring of 2015.
Since the dam removal, the West River has begun to return to its natural flow and has drained the pond that used to be at this site. This has allowed for easier migration of fish native to the West River system, and has also allowed for increased recreation opportunities at the nature preserve.
We hope you come visit this beautiful space and see first-hand how dedication and hard-work can change a polluted former factory site into a beautiful nature preserve.
Dam Removal Project - see the latest press release on this project here
Learn more about how to help us document the changes here!
Rendering of river and site with dam removed:
A copy of the report evaluating the dam removal is avalible at:
37 Harrison St, New Haven, CT