Volunteers extend Quinnipiac Trail in Prospect

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

Prospect Land Trust President Bill Rinckel, left, talks with Prospect Land Trust member Suzanne Porter on Dec. 23 at the end of the new 3.4-mile extension of the blue-blazed Quinnipiac Trail at Kathan Woods Nature Preserve in Prospect. –ANDREAS YILMA

PROSPECT — Hikers can now make their way from Kathan Woods Nature Preserve in town all the way down to West Rock Ridge State Park in New Haven along the same trail.

Officials from the Prospect Land Trust and Connecticut Forest and Park Association worked together to extend the blue-blazed Quinnipiac Trail 3.4 miles from where the trail previously ended about half a mile above Roaring Brook to a new northern terminus in Kathan Woods Nature Preserve off Boardman Drive.

Scott Ellis, who manages the northern section of the Quinnipiac Trail for the Cheshire Land Trust, said technically the Quinnipiac Trail goes to Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden but then connects with the Regicides Trail, which goes all the way to West Rock.

“So you can hike right from here (Kathan Woods) all the way to New Haven on the same trail,” he said.

The extension follows old tote roads and sections of newly built trail across moderate terrain, according to the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. It crosses land owned by the South Central Regional Water Authority, and connects lands protected by the town of Cheshire and Cheshire Land Trust with Kathan Woods, an 82-acre parcel of open space managed by the Prospect Land Trust.

“It’s a wonderful addition to the trail. This new section offers all kinds of vistas; you overlook the reservoir, obviously outside of Kathan Woods. All abilities can hike it. Just a beautiful, four-season hike,” Ellis said. “It’s a wonderful addition to the Quinnipiac Trail. I look forward to people being able to use it more. It’s really nice and worthwhile.”

Prospect Land Trust member Suzanne Porter spearheaded the effort to extend the trail, a process she said began five years ago.

“The wheels of progress grind slowly,” Porter said.

The process included an environmental impact assessment to ensure two reservoirs on the South Central Regional Water Authority’s land near the trail would not be impacted by hikers.

“That was their biggest concern,” said Prospect Land Trust President Bill Rinckel referring to the water authority.

CFPA paid for the environmental assessment using money from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s recreational trails grants program. It took time to secure the grant funding, Rinckel said.

Porter envisioned expanding the trail across the water authority’s land, which she said has beautiful trails but is typically off limits. Local officials had to get permission from the water authority. That’s when CFPA got involved, she said, because the organization wanted to extend the trail across Route 68.

“For me, it just started as, let’s just get more of the trail in use here but now it goes across the street, as well,” she said.

Representatives from the CFPA could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Extending the trail took many planning meetings, hours of scouting work and tremendous trail building efforts by volunteers, CFPA stated on its website.

Volunteers connected the old blue trail with the new extension by marking trees on the new trail with blue paint. They started work blazing the new trail in the fall, according to Rinckel.

“I’m delighted with it,” Prospect Land Trust Vice President Peter Murphy said. “The extension is absolutely great.”

The Quinnipiac Trail is 23 miles and runs through Hamden, Bethany, Cheshire and Prospect. People can access the trail in Prospect on Boardman Drive and Cornwall Road.

Rinckel said people are allowed to hike with their dogs on Prospect Land Trust property but not the water authority land.

Rinckel hopes the new trail section, which officials aptly called the Quinnipiac Blue Trail Extension, will help promote the Prospect Land Trust, since people can now hike all the way to New Haven on the trail. The land trust has 75 members and welcomes new ones.

Rinckel pointed out there are other trails that loop back around for people who don’t want to hike to New Haven.

Volunteers opened the extended trail at a time when Rinckel feels more people are hiking due to restrictions in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are definitely more people hiking,” Rinckel said.