New four-town trail opening Saturday
A 14-mile trail connecting protected forests and fields in East Lyme, Salem, Lyme and East Haddam will open Saturday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the western trailhead at Chapel Farm Preserve in East Haddam.
Named the Richard H. Goodwin Trail System in honor of the late Connecticut College botany professor, founding member of The Nature Conservancy and East Haddam resident, the path is the result of a four-year effort by the Eightmile River Wild & Scenic Watershed Coordinating Committee, the four towns and several other partners, Patricia Young, program director for the committee, said Tuesday.
It is marked with yellow diamond blazes with a green “G” in the center.
“I’ve hiked it twice now,” she said. “There are short spots with some steep terrain, but it’s mostly moderate hiking.”
Young said the idea emerged during a review of open space maps in the four towns, three of which — Lyme, Salem and East Haddam — are in the Eightmile River watershed.
The maps showed that a network of trails through the open space areas existed that could be connected with some successful negotiations for easements to grant access to hikers.
The trail crosses both the east and west branches of the Eightmile River.
At the eastern end, the trail starts at the Darrow Pond open space area in East Lyme, then heads north through property owned by Yale University that surrounds Powers Lake.
The town negotiated with Yale for access through the property for the trail, which had previously not been accessible to the public, Young said.
She noted that the access in the Yale land is limited to the trail itself.
From there, the trail hooks up with an existing path through the East Lyme portion of Nehantic State Forest, then turns west into Salem, then connects to trails in Hartman Park in Lyme.
It next goes into property owned by the Salem Valley Corp. with an easement held by the Nature Conservancy, then into the Darling Road Preserve, owned by the Salem Land Trust.
After that begins a new section of trail cut through the state-owned Eightmile Wildlife Management Area in East Haddam, before ending at Chapal Farm Preserve, owned by the town of East Haddam.
Young said volunteer labor and grant funds were used to blaze the trail, create parking areas, repair eroded areas on old forest roads, erect signs, build a new deck for a bridge and create maps.
Funding sources included the state’s Connecticut Trail Grant Program, the town of East Haddam, the East Haddam Land Trust and the National Park Service.
In the future, the group plans to install kiosks with maps and information on the trail, and hopes to extend the trail to connect with the Airline Trail in Colchester, for a total of 25 miles, Young said.
Goodwin, who died in 2007, led the Connecticut chapter of the Nature Conservancy for 50 years, and was chairman of Conn College’s botany department.
He and his wife, Ester, donated their land in 1960 to become the Burnham Brook Preserve and encouraged others to follow their example, a key initiative that lead to the protection of more than 1,000 acres in the Eightmile River watershed bordering Devil’s Hopyard State Park.
During his time at Conn College, the college’s arboretum grew from 90 to 450 acres.
What: Ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening of Richard H. Goodwin Trail System
When: 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: Chapal Farm Preserve, off Baker Lane, East Haddam
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