Connecticut Trails Day a chance to show off local hiking spots

Next weekend will provide Connecticut residents and tourists an opportunity to explore a variety of hiking paths throughout the state. For many land trusts and other outdoor organizations, it's an opportunity not only to show off their work but also the bounty of natural resources that neighbors might not know exist.

Connecticut Trails Day, hosted by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, is part of National Trails Day, held annually on the first weekend of June to celebrate public lands through advocacy, tours and trail maintenance. Hundreds of volunteers host about 250 events statewide, ranging from the eponymous trail walks to horseback rides and kayak trips.

"It motivates us to get our trails clear," Karen Krohn, secretary for the Waterford Land Trust, said with a laugh. "But it also gives us a way for people to see more of who we are and what we are ... It gets us out in the public."

Krohn has led four Connecticut Trails Day walks with the trust, including treks through the Avery Tract and Conover Tract. This year, she and retired Connecticut College groundskeeper Jim Luce are hosting a walk through the Woodlands Tract, a 54-acre property off Greentree Drive.

She highlighted the property's proximity to an old pink granite quarry and a foundation on the property made from huge slabs of the rock. She'll have a variety of field guides on hand for walkers to identify plants they see, with Luce pointing out different trees and other plants of interest.

The Groton Open Space Association once again leads hikers along the X-Town Trail, with this year's walk led by GOSA president Joan Smith. Vice president Sidney Van Zandt, herself a former board member of CFPA, said this year's trek will be different from previous years because it starts at the Sheep Farm property off Hazelnut Hill Road rather than at Bluff Point. From there, it passes through the Merritt Farm Forest before connecting to Beebe Pond, Moore Woodlands and Town's End.

She said that whether visitors look at it as a natural resource, a tourism booster or a pretty place for a stroll, the X-Town Trail showcases the value of the properties along them, which are owned by GOSA, the town and Avalonia Land Conservancy. It also highlights the decades of volunteer work put into protecting the parcels from development; she said the trail was opened in 2010 after about 15 years of work.

The Lyme Land Conservation Trust's featured event for the weekend is the debut of NaturePlace, a self-guided interpretive walk through the Banningwood Preserve on Town Street. Environmental director Sue Cope said the trust participates in Trails Day every year, normally leading a walk through the rabbit habitat project at Slawson Preserve but they were so excited about opening NaturePlace, so they chose that instead this year. 

Built into Banningwood's existing trails, NaturePlace was designed as an educational space, with cedar posts marking points of interest, such as the Honey Hill fault line and a bench and field named after Parker and Diana Lord, who sold the property to the trust in 2013 for preservation. Cope said brochures detailing each point of interest are available to hikers of all levels to "learn at their own pace."

For a complete list of events, visit bit.ly/CTtrails19.

a.hutchinson@theday.com

Editor's Note: This corrects an earlier version.

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