Lantern Ridge ready for debut

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A sign marks a trail in Lantern Ridge Park on Skokorat Road in Beacon Falls. The park, a 97-arce parcel of open space, will be officially opened for passive recreation during a ribbon cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. Oct. 19. –LUKE MARSHALL
A sign marks a trail in Lantern Ridge Park on Skokorat Road in Beacon Falls. The park, a 97-arce parcel of open space, will be officially opened for passive recreation during a ribbon cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. Oct. 19. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — After 20 years in its possession, the town is ready to unveil a large parcel of open space for public use.

Lantern Ridge Park, which is located on Skokorat Road, will be officially opened at 11 a.m. Oct.19 during a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The 97-acre parcel was given to the town in 1990 when the Planning and Zoning Commission requested that a developer, looking to build houses on a larger parcel including Lantern Ridge, turn over the space.

Planning and Zoning held onto the property until 2010 when the  Beacon Falls Land Use Commission asked the Conservation Commission to do something with it.

“What we needed to do was to learn what it contained and learn what it could be used for,” Conservation Commission Chairwoman Diane Betkoski said.

Shortly after the Conservation Commission took over the property it commissioned an environmental review study which did a natural resource inventory of what was on the property, Betkoski said.

After the study was complete the commission decided the property would best serve the town as an open space passive recreation park.

“People can enjoy this park with hiking, horseback riding, and going out to explore nature,” Betkoski said.

First Selectman Gerard Smith said he was pleased to see some of the open space being put to use as a passive recreation park.

“The Conservation Commission has been working diligently to make it accessible to the people of Beacon Falls,” Smith said.

Betkoski said the decision to allow the parcel of land to remain open space was done in part to keep up the feel of the town.

“This step in preserving open space in Beacon Falls is in line with its Plan of Conservation and Development and preserving the rural nature of the town,” Betkoski said.

Betkoski said the parcel contains a steep ridge and some swamplands, which the original developer would not have been able to build upon.

 “It may not be useable for building, but it is rich in resources for individuals to learn and enjoy,” Betkoski said.

At the moment, there is one trail that runs through the park but Betkoski hopes that, with the help of residents and Boy Scout troops, more trails can be created.

While the town has beautiful areas, Betkoski said, Lantern Ridge gives residents somewhere new and different to explore without having to leave town. She encouraged residents to get out and explore the town’s newest park.

“It’s a valuable asset,” Betkoski said. “This helps folks reconnect to nature and improve overall health.”