FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- With the quick snip of a ribbon Tuesday morning, the state's top environmental official marked the opening of a new 5-mile connector that joins the Saugatuck and Aspetuck trails at the Centennial Watershed State Forest off Route 58 in Easton.
“Over the last couple of months I’ve been lucky enough to spend my weekends in these forests with my kids, 4 and 7,” said Commissioner Rob Klee, of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “It’s what drives me everyday to keep preserving all of these lands.”
The state forest covers parts of Easton, Newtown, Redding, and Weston. The connection will provide hikers, joggers and others with a continuous 18-mile-long trail system.
Klee was just one member of a large community who helped to make this new trail possible. Eric Hammerling, executive director of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, took a moment to recognize some of the many volunteers who worked more than 1,500 hours to make the trail a reality.
According to Richard DeWitt, a Fairfield University professor and one of the recognized volunteers, the project began May 3 and was completed with the help of more than 120 volunteers.
“Of course there was work that was done before [May 3], but that was the day we sent out the first work party,” DeWitt said.
Aside from assembling a workforce, clearing the trails and mapping the area, the CFPA had to obtain a special permit from the state Department of Public Health, as these trails run over more than 15,300 acres of watershed land that supplies public drinking water from Aquarion Water Co.
Lori Mathieu of the state’s Department of Public Health was on hand to thank the volunteers for the work they did for the forest and the water supply.
“One of the most important things we work on is water source protection,” Mathieu said. “It takes a lot of people a lot of effort to preserve this property so you could have this trail today.”
First Selectman Julia Pemberton of Redding and First Selectman Adam Dunsby of Easton were both in attendance along with state Rep. Tony Hwang.
Although the ceremony focused on recognizing the hard work that went into making this project come to life, the beauty of the trail and the experience of being in nature was not lost.
“When I travel across the country I don't see anything like this [forest],” Mathieu said. “There is nothing like this in the state of Connecticut. It doesn't exist.”
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