The Easton Conservation Commission was constituted in 1970 with the responsibility of enforcing the state Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act. Under State Statute, the commission has the following additional responsibilities:
• To develop, conserve, supervise and regulate natural resources including water resources.
• To conduct research and provide recommendations into the actual and potential use of land areas.
• To keep an index of all open areas whether public or privately owned.
• To acquire land in the name of the town when deemed advisable.
Major land acquisition
In 1975 the town completed one of the largest land acquisitions in its history. At this time Conservation Commission members Alden Speare, Robert J. Nicola, Pauline S. Marks, Leslie B. Warren, Mimi J. Boyd, Jean Everett and Margaret Kerr made the recommendation that the town purchase 128 acres of land from Ralph D. Paine Jr. for what is known as the Paine Open Space.
The purchase was a collaborative effort with a total of $435,000 being raised. Half of the funds came from a federal grant, while the remainder was split evenly between the state of Connecticut and the town of Easton.
Paine Open Space
Easton owns the majority of the Paine Open Space, however, the Aspetuck Land Trust owns two adjacent parcels containing approximately 10 acres. Since the original acquisition, the Conservation Commission and the town have added an additional 15 acres for a total of more than 150 acres that will be preserved forever.
All parcels are interconnected with hiking trails that meander through different habitats from open meadows to woodland areas, as well as wetlands with a number of ponds and bridges. There is even an island that is connected by a bridge in one of the larger ponds.
The trails are great for hiking and horseback riding, as well as snowshoeing or cross country skiing in the winter. Many residents have enjoyed ice skating on one of the ponds in the colder months. There are 10 ponds of varying sizes on the property and seven interconnected ponds built by Paine. Go to eastonct.gov and enter Paine in the search section for a downloadable map of the Paine Open Space trail system.
We encourage all Eastonites, young and old, to explore this beautiful piece of town-owned land. The property is on Maple Road with two entrances. The main entrance, between #210 and #220, has plenty of parking while a smaller entrance further down the road, beyond #290, can accommodate a couple of cars only.
Since federal funds were used to cover part of the Paine Open Space purchase price, the following rules are in place:
• Open daily during daylight hours.
• No motor vehicles of any kind, including ATVs, are allowed except in designated parking areas and for maintenance and emergency use.
• No hunting or discharging of firearms.
• No fires permitted for any purpose.
• No smoking allowed.
• No cutting or felling of trees or removal of plants or plant material.
• Horses restricted to designated trails.
• No camping, swimming or picnicking.
• Dogs must be leashed.
Historic hay barn
A classic English hay barn on the Paine property was built in 1847. Today, only the stone foundation remains. Easton wanted to repair the barn and raised funds to do so, but since the building inspector wouldn’t let preservationists onto the roof for safety reasons, the restoration was never completed.
The barn was offered to the public, and John Baldwin of Canterbury was awarded the barn by Easton’s Board of Selectmen. Baldwin owns a home built in 1712, and he planned on rebuilding the Paine barn on the site of an old barn foundation is on his property.
Enjoyed by diverse groups
Many different groups have enjoyed the Paine Open Space over the years. In addition to visits by Easton residents, the property was used for a Sacred Heart University student film class project entitled, “Purdy’s Crossing” about the underground railroad.
The property was also used by Easton Woods and Fields (horse-riding group) for trail riding. Recently, the Easton Fire Department conducted a mock fire rescue at Paine Open Space.
Various Troop 66 Eagle Scout projects have been completed on the property. Anthony Battaglia and his team created a new trail that connected two existing trails. Dan Gonzalo and his team built and repaired several bridges. Other Scouts have helped with trail marking over the years.
Over the years there have been several acts of vandalism at the Paine Open Space. Though all residents are encouraged to use this wonderful town asset, everyone who visits should remember that Paine is a town park, for the use by the townspeople. Each of us should safeguard it as we do our own backyards.
Ralph D. Paine Jr.
Ralph “Del” Delahaye Paine Jr. was born March 31, 1906, in New Jersey and died January 12, 1991. He was the oldest son of author and journalist Ralph Delahaye Paine Sr. and had two younger twin brothers. Ralph Paine attended Yale University, where he was a member of Skull and Bones and graduated in 1929.
Like some other Eastonites, Paine was a Wall Street securities analyst after college. He became the business editor for Time magazine in 1933.
In 1938, he was the personal assistant to publisher Henry Luce, the co-founder of Time. During World War II, Paine was in charge of The March of Time newsreel series and the European operations of Time Inc. publications.
Paine served as managing editor of Fortune from 1941 to 1953 and following the departure of Charles Douglas Jackson, he was publisher from 1953 to 1967. During his tenure, the magazine created its famous Fortune 500 list. Paine also served as publisher of Architectural Forum from 1954 to 1963 and House and Home from 1962 to 1963.
Over the period of 1936 to 1941 the Paine family acquired the eight parcels of land that was to become the Paine Open Space.
In 1947, Paine married Nancy White, who at the time was associate fashion editor of Good Housekeeping and later became the editor of Harper’s Bazaar.
At the time of his death, Paine was president and treasurer of the Vermont real estate holdings company Barton Mountain Corporation.
Conservation Commission and Inland Wetlands Agency
As the Inland Wetlands Agency, the commission enforces the provisions of Connecticut’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act. In this capacity, it reviews applications for regulated activities, conducts site visits and if appropriate, holds public hearings prior to approving or denying a permit.
The Conservation Commission is responsible for maintaining town-owned land designated as open space and also for planning future open space acquisitions. To that effect, it works closely with developers and conservation groups, recommending to the Planning and Zoning Commission specific areas to be acquired by the town or otherwise protected.
Recent maintenance activities at the Paine Open Space included replacing drainage pipes under several trails, trimming trees that have been damaged in storms and other general maintenance activities. Commission member Steve Corti has been doing most of the work along with help from a neighbor, Peter Smith. Depending on availability, Easton’s Highway Department has been lending a helpful hand as well.
Aspetuck Land Trust
The Aspetuck Land Trust is a non-profit Connecticut Corporation devoted to preserving open space and the natural resources of Easton, Fairfield, Weston and Westport for the benefit of the public. You can visit their website at
— Other Conservation Commission/Inland Wetlands Agency members also contributed to this report.