Our History

Celebrating 50 years of outdoor education!

Woodcock Nature Center was founded by a former Ridgefield First Selectman: J. Mortimer Woodcock. Since 1972 Woodcock has grown to provide educational programming for over 4,000 learners of all ages each year including school field trips, our popular summer camp and enrichment programs, which support our educational efforts by immersing the community in direct experiences with nature. We partner with local organizations to present lectures, workshops, and films, and our guided hikes, child and caregiver classes and on-site animal encounters provide a means for the public to engage with and learn from our natural world.

Woodcock’s nearly 150 acres of preserve, originally inhabited by the Siwanog tribe and today owned by the state of Connecticut straddles both Wilton and Ridgefield. The preserve includes historic stone walls and stands of old maple, beech, oak and hickory trees, a pond, wetlands, vernal pools and nearly 4 miles of hiking trails which remain a resource for thousands of hikers, birders and outdoor enthusiasts. Woodcock’s trails, natural playground, nature center, and outdoor aviaries (where we care for ambassador animals including 2 non-releasable birds of prey and nearly 20 reptiles and amphibians) are publicly accessible year-round with no admission fee.

Woodcock Nature Center does not receive any funds from local towns or the state of Connecticut and fundraises privately for every dollar necessary to sustain its programs and facilities ꟷ in fact, 50% of our revenues are from these donations along with special events income. We depend on the generosity of private foundations, corporations and individuals to remain a resource to our community.

View our full organizational timeline here (pdf).

Woodcock acknowledges the indigenous tribes of the Siwanog, Ramapo and Katonah who were the first stewards of the land in Wilton and Ridgefield which we strive to continue to learn from, protect and respect.

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Help us celebrate 50 years!

Woodcock leadership is looking for stories to document and share about how Woodcock is shaping our community. Do you or someone you know have fond memories at Woodcock Nature Center when they were young? Did attending programs or working as a camp counselor inspire you to pursue a career in the environmental sector? Do you consider yourself a “Woodcock Kid”? If so, please get in touch by completing this form.

Additional photos and stories about the early years of Woodcock’s history are also encouraged to be shared by emailing wncboard@woodcocknaturecenter.org.

Woodcock Nature Center receives no government funding and relies on generous donations as well as program and event income for its continued success. Donations in honor of Woodcock’s 50th anniversary are welcome and can be made here.

Read our 50th Anniversary Press Release.

History of the Land at
Woodcock Nature Center

Ridgefield (64 acres of 150)

Wilton (89 acres of 150)

Pre-Settlers

Ridgefield 

Indigenous Tribes: Ramapo and Katonah

Wilton 

Indigenous Tribe: Siwanog - Members of the Siwanog tribe farmed, hunted, and fished in the fertile Norwalk River Valley in an Area they called Pimpewaug

1700s

Ridgefield

Alexander Resseguie - Frenchman who acquired farms on the Ridgefield side of the WNC Property around 1709. Probably Ridgefield's wealthiest settler

Wilton​​

Jonathon Wood - Wilton's first permanent English settler, moved to Wilton in 1706​

Ebenezer Smith​ - Owned Brimstone swamp (WNC Land) in 1717​

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CT was mostly forest before the settlers arrived

1800s

Ridgefield

1812 Spanish 1/2 Reale coin found on Ridgefield side of WNC Property

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Wilton​​

Wilton voted to separate from Norwalk in August 1801 and it was approved on May 20, 1802

 

Hiram Davis - Born in 1849 on Davis Family Farm (WNC Land). Served in the Civil War with 3 other brothers, one of whom never returned. Died in 1947 at 98 as one of the last 47 Civil War veterans in the USA​

1812 Spanish Reale Found near trails

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During the 1800s most of the land in CT was converted to farmland

Early 1900s

Ridgefield

From this period we found many shotgun shells and a 1942 Silver Dime

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The forest regrew around the stonewalls used to fence in sheep on the property

Wilton​​

Land still owned by the Davis Family Farm. There was lots of hunting on the property evident through shotgun shells found. Also the Wilton side of the property on the purple trail was used as dumping ground for car parts. You can still find those today.

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Late 1900s

Ridgefield and Wilton

1972: Former Ridgefield First Selectman J. Mortimer Woodcock (also known as Woody Woodcock) founded Woodcock Nature Center

More history coming soon!