Subway restores Mondo Pond trails

Heather Mead, a project specialist on the technology team at Subway World Headquarters, said that when she stumbled one day upon Mondo Ponds during a work break she felt like she’d wandered into Narnia.

The city-owned nature preserve boasts five manmade ponds and an abundance of wildlife. Tall trees reach skyward, turtles can sometimes be seen crawling slowly along the paths, and birds — such as the impressive wood duck — can be found nesting here. Mead said she watched one day as tiny, newborn mice burrowed in a tree.

Mead and other Subway employees will find it easier now to get to the nature preserve thanks to an improved trail that leads from the back of their office building to the adjacent Mondo Ponds.

And thanks to a combined effort between Subway and the city, wider trails with fresh wood chips and gravel will make it easier for all residents and others to enjoy the nature preserve. Subway recently completed the trail improvement project, which included clearing and widening the main trail and laying fresh mulch and gravel.

The new and improved trails at Milford’s Mondo Ponds were unveiled Monday during a ceremony at Subway World Headquarters.

The Mondo Ponds site was once owned by the water company, Milford’s Open Space Manager Steve Johnson explained during the ceremony. In the late 1970s the water company abandoned the property because stricter guidelines meant the company could not use the water as drinking water.

The city bought the land in 1986, and local environmentalists led efforts to turn it into a nature preserve using money received when the Iroquois Pipeline was run through city land.

“It’s an important wildlife area,” Johnson said, noting there are 179 different types of birds living in its woods.

Subway CEO Suzanne Greco said she has a special place in her heart for nature. She spoke briefly Monday before cutting a ribbon to the improved trail system as many Subway employees gathered around her.

“This is an amazingly beautiful backdrop to our office,” Greco said, noting that when Subway representatives visit headquarters from around the world, they comment on how picturesque the area is. She talked about her love for Milford and Connecticut.

“And we are going to stay in Connecticut,” Greco said.

Mayor Ben Blake spoke during the ceremony also, and then officials and Subway employees ventured onto the main trail for a walk.

Angie Rivera, who works in marketing, said it was just two weeks ago that she took her first walk at Mondo Ponds with five other employees, and she found it tranquil and beautiful, a perfect lunchtime walk.

“We walked about 15 minutes and then went back and had a little lunch,” she said. “It’s a nice break. It’s like you’re on a vacation for a little while.”

Among guests at the ceremony Monday were Joe and Sylvia Mondo, the family for whom the nature preserve is named.

Joe’s father, Rocco Mondo, who owned Rocco Mondo and Sons Excavating, was the man responsible for digging the ponds in the late 1940s. Joe was just a teenager then, working with his father. He said the Mlford Water Company owned the land at the time, and the company owner decided to dig the ponds to create a greater reservoir.

Joe said the digging stretched 10 or 15 years starting in about 1948, and much of the material removed was used in the construction of I-95. He estimates the ponds are 15 to 20 feet deep.

“Just about the time it was done, the New Haven water company bought them out,” Joe said.

Johnson said the city made the right choice when it bought the land from the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority.

“This is a great example of a good decision on the part of the city,” Johnson said.