Into the woods, on bikes!

Brayden Fetzer was one of some 16 kids, ages 8 to 14, who took part in a Youth Mountain Biking Camp on Aug. 18 at Lake Windwing. A group rides there Tuesday evenings.

Brayden Fetzer was one of some 16 kids, ages 8 to 14, who took part in a Youth Mountain Biking Camp on Aug. 18 at Lake Windwing. A group rides there Tuesday evenings.

Can the rugged, heart-pounding, mud-splashing rides of mountain bikers co-exist with the serene strolling of nature hikers who seek peace amid the green of Ridgefield’s open spaces? There’s some culture clash, but the two groups are trying to make it work.

The creation of “unauthorized trails” has been a source of friction between Ridgefield’s growing community of mountain biking enthusiasts and the Conservation Commission, overseer of town open spaces.

“People go into the woods for peace and quiet,” said Commissioner Dave Cronin. “Our trails are not meant for extreme biking. Hikers don’t want to come around the corner and have a bike come screaming at them.”

The mountain bikers say they understand, and try to respect the commission’s concerns.

“We realize the permission to ride our bikes on open space is a privilege, and improper or unauthorized trail usage could put that in jeopardy,” said Mike Ahearn, a mechanic at the Ridgefield Bicycle Company and an organizer of two weekly trail-riding groups.

“Our goal in working with the Ridgefield Conservation Commission is to open the lines of communication between open space land managers in our town and the mountain biking community.”

Conservation Commission member Dave Cronin mapped part of Hemlock Hills open space showing different trails. Solid pale green lines are official trails. Dashed pale green lines aren’t officially marked but are “accepted as established trails,” he said. And bright blue dashed lines are “unauthorized trails” used by mountain bikers, horse riders, and possibly hikers. There are said to be other unauthorized trails, as well.

Conservation Commission member Dave Cronin mapped part of Hemlock Hills open space showing different trails. Solid pale green lines are official trails. Dashed pale green lines aren’t officially marked but are “accepted as established trails,” he said. And bright blue dashed lines are “unauthorized trails” used by mountain bikers, horse riders, and possibly hikers. There are said to be other unauthorized trails, as well.

Unauthorized trails were discussed at the Conservation Commission’s most recent meeting, Aug. 26.

Mr. Cronin, who’s on a committee formed to work with the mountain bikers, had made a map of unauthorized trails created in the lower section of the Hemlock Hills open space — by mountain bikers, he thought, but perhaps equestrians, as well.

The problem is that they’re too close together.

“We can’t have all these trails. Some of them have to be closed,” Mr. Cronin said. “It’s too many trails in too small an area.”

“Are there standards the commission is using for trail density?” asked John Sweeney, a mountain biker.

Mr. Sweeney attends commission meetings as a Ridgefielder, he said, but he’s a member the Fairfield County branch of the New England Mountain Bike Association.

“The mountain bikers are largely users of existing trails that are not on these guys’ authorized maps, and the horse riders are doing the same thing,”  Mr. Sweeney said after the meeting. “Some of the trails are too nasty for horses and bikes to use, so they make ride-arounds.”

Ridgefield’s mountain biking community is sizable.

“I’ve got 160 people an email list, and most of them are from town,” said Mr. Ahearn.

Mountain bikers might not describe their sport as an entirely safe activity, but it may compare favorably with biking on busy suburban roads.

“If you can get your exercise biking in the woods, being in nature — I look at it as all the risk is contingent on you,” Mr. Ahearn said. “You’re not putting your life in anyone else’s hands, riding off-road.”

“I started riding 12 years ago,” said Mr. Ahearn, who is 30. “I was a runner and kept getting hurt, and bought a mountain bike in the summer and just fell in love.

“It really changed the trajectory of my life.”

The commission has perhaps 25 or 30 miles of trails in 2,500 acres of open space, by Mr. Cronin’s estimate.

The problem wouldn’t seem to be that there isn’t enough room. But bikers use trails also used by hikers, or they “free lance” and create new trails close to hiking trails — which can change the experience of the woods.

“We don’t want trails everywhere,” he said. “We don’t want trails where people are walking and there’s an adjacent trail where they can see people bike riding.”

Mr. Ahearn said the bikers often go off in areas of open space where the hiking public isn’t bothered by them.

“A lot of trails in places where we ride are used only by bikers,” he said. “They’re three or four miles out into the woods. You don’t see a lot of the dog-walker, the bird-watcher. They’re too far off the beaten path.”

Mr. Sweeney said mountain bikers are regular users of four adjoining parcels that total about 1,600 acres. Two, Bennett’s Pond and Wooster Mountain, are state parks. And two, Hemlock Hills and Pine Mountain, are Ridgefield open spaces.

The bikers try to contribute, be good citizens. “Mountain bikers do a tremendous amount of trail maintenance and trail repair, and putting in new sustainable trails in the places where they’re active,” Mr. Sweeney said.

Mr. Ahearn backs this up.

“After Sandy, I took it upon myself to go out, clear trails,” he said. “Through the store, we have contacts with people who also like to be in the woods, on a bike. We cleared a lot of areas of open space that wouldn’t have been cleared for a while.”

Bikers put in 50 man-hours clearing trails after the big storm, he estimated.

“Nine to 3 on a Sunday, maybe, and there were five of us,” he said. “And two or three days with four hours and there were three people. And I know I put in 25 hours on my own, aside from those.”

Through the bike shop Mr. Ahearn and Adam Ray, another bike mechanic, have two groups that meet up and ride together regularly.

A group with a wide range of skill levels meets Tuesdays by the Lake Windwing ballfield to ride the “Windwing Meadow Singletrack,” a trail cut in May and June with the help of RHS student interns.

“Anyone is welcome to join,” Mr. Ahearn said, though participants must be either 16, or accompanied by an adult. It starts at 6:30.

“We ride a 4- to 6-mile loop of the mellowest trails in Hemlock Hills,” he said.

In August, they had a Youth Mountain Biking Camp at Lake Windwing that drew 16 kids, ages 8 to 14.

More advanced riders meet Fridays, most often in Bennett’s Pond State Park.

“There’s some trails back there that are a little more technical and take a little more of skilled riders,” Adam Ray said. “We try to get there around 6 and everyone gets geared up and leaves by 6:30. Lasts anywhere from an hour to two hours.”

The Friday group also rides open spaces in neighboring towns, including Wilton Woods, Huntington State Park in Redding, Trout Brook Valley in Easton.

The numbers vary. “We average around 15,” Mr. Ray said. “We’re going up to 30 on some of these rides. It’s getting pretty popular.”

Not with the Conservation Commission.

“Bikers come in in trucks and vans and in groups,” Mr. Cronin said. “They’re starting to bike in groups!

“We actually started finding trails in Hemlock Hills, Pine Mountain and the Florida Refuge in which the leaves and debris were blown off with leaf blowers, which is something bikers tend to so because they don’t like to have little twigs and sticks thrown up from the tires.

“Who’s making the unauthorized trails? I would hope it’s not the adults. But there are a lot of adults biking. There are also kids,” Mr. Cronin said. “We have problems with kids. They tend to like to build jumps.”

The commission says it wants to work with the bikers.

“We hope we can work out some compromise to reduce the number of trails to an acceptable limit. Close some, open some,” Mr. Cronin said.

Mr. Ahearn said the mountain bikers’ goal is to enjoy riding in the woods — not to upset the commission or diminish  the enjoyment of nature lovers. They want to build trails that will benefit all open space users.

“Mountain bikers have put in trail-work days in places we don’t even ride, to help out the Conservation Commission,” Mr. Ahearn said.

“We’re not out to build a bunch of deficient trails. We want to build multi-use trails that are sustainable.”

“There’s a large part of this community that want to ride their bikes, off roads.” he said. “Open space is supposed to be used for recreation. That’s one of the objectives of their commission.”

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  • CMcQuilken

    “People go into the woods for peace and quiet,” said Commissioner Dave Cronin. “Our trails are not meant for extreme biking. Hikers don’t want to come around the corner and have a bike come screaming at them.”

    ***

    Hard for me to take the bike concerns of the Conservation Commission seriously when they allow guys with guns in the open space.

    Imagine coming around the corner and seeing someone dressed in full commando gear carrying a weapon. I’d much rather see a bike.

    • Secondhand Rose

      Since the guy in full commando gear is walking around, he should be carrying his gun broken open over his arm and unloaded, therefore even though he has a gun he’s at that particular moment inherently harmless.

      On the other hand, a mountain bike with rider careening down a woods path full speed will not even have the reaction time to put on the brakes before hitting the hiker.

      Frankly I’d rather see the guy with the gun (or the crossbow).

  • Roger Sherman

    Mmmm so when I “donate” my tax money to buy open space I can add conditions?

  • Kirk

    Always heard these places were NATURE conservancies …. Not an extension of Parks & Rec. Seems to me the Commission is violating its’ Charter.

  • JohnS

    Kirk,

    While we all appreciate your comments and thoughts, the open space is not a nature conservancy. If you want that, go to Devils Den where the land was acquired by a private organization.

    These are lands acquired by the taxpayers with tax dollars and private donations.

    In addition, they are supposed to be used for hiking, biking, horseback riding and other passive uses.

    The 2010 Ridgefield Plan of Conservation and Development in Chapter 7 titled “Open Space” says the mission is to “Preserve open space to protect natural resources, enhance character and provide passive recreation opportunities.” In addition, it includes biking as a passive recreation. “Passive recreation includes trails for hiking and/or non-motorized access (bike paths, horse trails, etc.).”

    So restriction of bikes, or horses is in violation of the Town’s Open Space Plan.

    • Kirk

      JohnS …

      Glad to hear you appreciate comments and thoughts. You are confusing the Charter of the Conservation Commission and the conclusions/recommendations of the 2010 Ridgefield Plan of Conservation etc. … they are not the same. The Conservation Commission Charter is to preserve natural resources not “provide passive recreation opportunities”. Was an Open Space Ranger for well over a decade, attended hundred of Commission meetings … I think I know my stuff.

      • JohnS

        Kirk,

        Thanks for your thoughts and years of service.

        I’m going to respectfully disagree with you and try to put forth the facts as I see them.

        Here is the Town Charter on the Conservation Commission. I see “development and conservation”. I do not see “preservation”.

        In addition, the Plan of Conservation and Development is the Town’s forward looking intentions on how to handle the open space. It should be what the Conversation Commission is using to guide their actions (as opposed to the personal preferences of the Commission Members). It says, “The Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD or Plan) is a tool for guiding land use decisions in Ridgefield… The Plan is an advisory document to the Planning and Zoning Commission, other boards and commissions, and residents.”

        “Town of Ridgefield, CT Charter as Approved 2010
        Section 5-3. Conservation Commission.

        The Conservation Commission shall devote its efforts to insuring the sound development, conservation, supervision and regulation of natural resources, including water resources of the town, and shall be responsible for the duties of the flood and erosion control board as prescribed in the General Statutes and applicable ordinances.”

  • JohnS

    Dear Secondhand Rose,

    Guns that are broken open are shotguns and would not be being used for deer hunting. In addition, there is no requirement guns be unloaded when walking through the woods. In fact, you normally load your gun so that if happen upon a deer, you can take a shot.

    I’m not sure I have to Google the statistics on how many people were killed in hunting accidents and how many were killed by being struck by a mountain bike to prove the point.

    Allegations of bikers bombing down hills and hitting people are not based in fact. Bikers have been in the local woods for 20 years without a single biker/hiker. Most of the time is spent climbing or traversing level trails.

    The bikers are local dads, moms and kids. They are all outdoors people and hike also. They are extremely respectful and conscious of hikers and horse back riders.

  • Reese

    As we all try to escape the hectic environment of our day to day town and city lives, its great for all of us to have open spaces to retreat to for solitude and recreation. And preserve natural habitats.

    Everyone gets along well in my experience as a hiker/runner/dog walker/rider/trail maintainer, every now and then a horse, hiker, runner, rider, or dog walker startle one another.

    Each user group is going to impact the other in some different way. And there will always be rude people in every user group that are just difficult, but at the end of the day most interactions are positive and people are able to get their respite in the woods because we’re there for the same reasons, to enjoy nature.

    Unused trails are easy to develop. Treetops at Mianus River Park was saved because it was used and loved across the community, old to young, and all user groups. Same with Trout Brook Preserve. Those valuable habits and escapes only exist today because the entire community had the chance to fall in love with and rally to keep them.

  • Brian C.

    “People go into the woods for peace and quiet,” said Commissioner Dave Cronin. “Our trails are not meant for extreme biking.

    It’s hard for one to put a true definition of what trails are actually meant for…..

    Everyone’s definition would be different, would it not?
    The trails are for everyone’s enjoyment, & all trail users enjoy them in different ways.
    I am an avid user of these trails in Ridgefield, and many others in the area as well. I use them for biking, running, family hiking, dog walking, whatever…
    But always enjoy the trails regardless of the activity.
    We take our two boys out on the trails hiking for fun, but also teach them to clean up trash whenever we see it, and also to clear the trails of debris when we see the trails are in need of some TLC after storms and such.
    In my opinion the bikers in the area are the trail care takers, and contribute more of their personal time to help maintaining the trails than any other user group.
    All of the bikers that I know are very courteous to the other trail users.
    So the bottom line is that we are all out using these trails for the same reason, because we love the outdoors & the escape that it provides.
    I would say that would be a better definition of what our trails are for.

    I also must add that I grew up in Ridgefield, & wish that as a kid there were all of these wonderful open spaces to ride bikes & have some fun in the woods.
    I know as a parent, I would much rather see my two young boys in the woods riding bikes & building jumps, then sitting on a couch playing video games.

  • Chris_Kez

    I’d like to just note that “mud splashing” rides are strongly discouraged. I’m sure the author just meant it as a nice turn of phrase, but the truth is that riding on wet trails is a bad idea and is discouraged by Ridgefield Bicycle Company, the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA), the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and nearly all other biking groups. Rides are routinely cancelled due to ongoing or recent rain events. Individuals are encouraged to keep an eye out for updates about local trail conditions vie email, FaceBook or other forums as conditions can vary considerably from one area to the next depending on specific rainfall levels, topography and drainage.

    I would encourage all outdoor enthusiasts to let trails rest until they are fully drained. Go for a walk/run/ride in town, or at a facility with a hard-pack surface such as a rail-trail or paved roadway. Or use that time to hit the gym or get something done around the house.
    -Happy Trails

    Chris Keczkemethy
    Vice President, Fairfield County NEMBA

  • jbchet1

    I appreciate that the Conservation Committee says they are actively trying to work with the mountain biking community to ensure the trails in the Bennett’s Farm area are open and safe for everyone to enjoy, regardless of whether they are enjoying it on 2 feet or 2 wheels. Unfortunately, I’m somewhat skeptical of their sincerity given the negative tone and clearly uninformed opinions that Mr. Cronin has expressed in the article. Hopefully they are his alone and not those of the entire commission.
    As with every community, there are those who respect people and property and those who do not. Overwhelmingly, in my 8 years of mountain biking at Bennett’s Farm and throughout Fairfield County, the mountain bikers that I have come to know not only respect the environment, but actively work to improve it for others.
    I, along with many of my fellow mountain bikers have spent many hours in Bennett’s Farm as well as the surrounding parks with mountain biking trails volunteering our time to clear trails after storms and help redesign trails so they are more sustainable and environmentally friendly. The vast majority of us are conscious of the environment and conscious of others on the trail. We don’t discriminate among trails used by bikers and hikers. We expect and deserve the same courtesy from the commission.

  • mkmiller

    I too have been riding the Bennett’s Pond area, and at other locations in Fairfield County, for approximately 8 years. During this time, I have had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with many other riders. We not only ride together on weekends, but we also perform trail maintenance, even on sections that we don’t regularly use. For example, following Hurricane Sandy, the fire road which leads from the parking lot on Bennett’s Farm Road to Bennett’s Pond was blocked by many downed trees. Fellow bikers and I spent many hours clearing this road, even though we rarely, if ever, ride it. I wonder how many months that road would have remained uncleared it we hadn’t taken the initiative to clear it.

    While there are definitely more mountain bike riders using the Bennett’s network, on the trails that I ride it would be unusual to encounter more than one other rider, or a small group of riders, and even less likely to cross paths with a person on foot during two or three hours of riding on a Sunday morning. My average speed, measured via GPS, is usually around 4-5mph, with very short intervals of higher speed during a downhill section. Mr. Cronin’s suggestion that “extreme” bikers are “screaming” toward hikers as they are turning a corner on a trail is simply not accurate. In general, I enjoy keeping both wheels on the ground, and remaining upright as much as possible. The pleasure, at least for me and for most of my fellow riders, comes from being able to ride through a challenging, well-made section, usually at extremely slow speed.

    In the rare instance that my fellow riders or I encounter a hiker, we invariably say “hello”, comment of the beauty of our surroundings that we are mutually enjoying, and let them pass. I echo the well-written opinion of Brian C.; the trails are for everyone to enjoy and, in general, an attitude of consideration and courtesy prevails.

  • Rog Fairfield

    It is unfortunate that Mr. Cronin’s views don’t seem to sync with my views and experiences on the trail he references. I’ve been riding these trails for years and have never experienced or heard of a biker/hiker collision. Mountain bikers that I’ve met actively work to improve and preserve these areas discussed, and will postpone or cancel rides when it is wet. I’ve also personally been on rides where bikers will pull over and let hikers pass and vice versa. Typically these occurrences involve exchanging pleasantries. I’m certain people have been startled either way, but I don’t think it is one way … And certainly no malice involved. These are multiple groups of tax paying individuals enjoying the land. More often than not, I ride these trails and don’t even see another person, – biker, hiker, horse rider, hunter, etc.

    I’ve also been on hikes in this area, and haven’t had any problems with bikes, horses, etc. Again, courteous people enjoying the trails.

    We have limited public land that was meant for all to enjoy. Hopefully the views of everyone is considered.

  • BikerDave

    The Ridgefield Conservation Commission should contact the conservation commissions for Wilton and Troutbrook, they would get glowing perspective from the land managers view on how we, as an organization, have positively impacted the parks we have worked in. Not only do we provide expertise in trail design, maintenance and mitigating issues (i.e. erosion, poor trail design) but also provide an enormous amount of dedicated knowledgeable labor. We fix, maintain trails and educate the user community which creates a greater trail experience for all trail users. Our approach of working closely with land managers, proposing and explaining proposed trail improvements and getting land manager approval is key to being successful in these parks…Clearly trail issues are related to poor trail design and not who uses the trails, education is key in understanding the trail issues….

  • MtLuke80

    I’ve been riding at Bennett’s for a few years now and have always found that interactions between hikers and bikers to be pleasant. I’ve rarely heard of any collisions of any hiker and biker-anywhere.

    I perform many hours of trail maintenance not only here but at quite a few other local areas.
    Like “mkMiller”, myself as well as many other riders I know have performed countless hours of trail repairs post Sandy and wonder how long it would have taken any of the parks to have actually cleared anything without our assistance.

    My friends and I work very hard to act as stewards at the many places we ride, avoiding wet areas when/where possible and clearing downed limbs as well as having respect toward other user groups.

    I also hike here with my wife and dog any have never had any issues with anyone here.

    I think as a group, bikers are willing to work with the park to establish a good rapport, but there will always be those who go against the grain.
    I can only hope the issues get resolved in a cooperative manner and we can all get back to just enjoying our own riding/hiking without feeling like we’re at odds with each other.

  • MMalwitz

    I’m not sure if Mr. Cronin is truly speaking for the Conservation Commission. Another commission member, Dr. Ben Oko, seemed to have a more balanced viewpoint in a Ridgefield Press last year. “We’re very proud of all the open space that we have, and that we care about, and that we look after,” Dr. Oko said, “and the trails and the opportunities for recreation that they provide — places to walk, ride your horse, ride your bike.”

    Other current and former commission members seem to have a more open viewpoint. “The Discovery Center organizes a wide variety of programs on open spaces, ranging from educational hikes for kids to the annual “Ghosts of Ridgefield” history lesson. The Scouts offer a hiking merit badge. A trail run sponsored by Tri-Ridgefield drew 100 runners in September (2012). “I have known homeschool parents who use open spaces for their science lessons,” Ms. McManus said. “People hike and walk their dogs. In some open spaces, people do mountain biking.”

    https://www.theridgefieldpress.com/11968/a-half-century-of-saving-the-land/

    So maybe other commission members would disagree with statements like ““People go into the woods for peace and quiet,” said Commissioner Dave Cronin.” People obviously go into the woods for all sorts of activities, including mountain biking – some quiet, some not so much.

    I am taxpayer here in Ridgefield, an avid mountain biker, and a contributor to the open space fund. When I helped collect petitions 13 years ago to get Bennett’s on the ballot, a large number who signed and voted did so with mountain biking in mind. In all my years of mountain biking – either alone or in groups, I never have had a negative encounter with a hiker – in fact, I often try to find time to say hi or pet their dog.

    It seems like it’s time for some new blood on the ‘ol Conservation Commission if you ask me.

  • Peter

    I think the best solution is not to ban user groups but to instead focus on sustainable use education. Banning bikers (or horse-back riders, etc.) will just create bad-will and will waste money trying to enforce the rules. Besides, dog-walkers cause as much damage if not more. Alternately, creating a pavilion with education information on responsible trail use, doing visits to schools, etc. will do more good. The fact is most people are “bad” users because they do not know. And, it is hard for individuals to be ambassadors of responsible use without being viewed as a “trail Nazi” if they do not have the back up of community education. Finally, I want to say that many people are quick to blame “bikers” for problems cause simply by trail overuse and even natural occurring erosion. Mountain bikers are the only trail users I know that go out and try to sustain the trails… where are your hikers, dog walkers, horse-back riders, when you need volunteers. They are the first to complain and the last to help sustain.

  • gunnarw

    I am a local cyclist and use the trails for mountain biking – but also to take hikes with my wife and teenage daughter, take photographs and bird-watch.

    No matter what I’m doing, I’ve always felt other people on trails were people just like me – out there to enjoy nature, stay active – with a love for their surroundings. I never felt anybody’s specific method of enjoyment on trails should create dividing lines between folks. Just the opposite, the fact that we’re out there together is what’s wonderful about them. If you’ve seen a red-tailed hawk, I’m happy to hear about it, or enjoy the leaves as they turn in autumn.

    I echo the sentiments voiced above by mkmiller and BikerDave (who I know do a ton of work in the area). Cyclists are people who live and work around Ridgefield, programmers, carpenters, doctors, teachers etc..

    I’ve helped clean up trails and clear downed trees so we all could enjoy them – there’s a lot of work to do on that front and yes, cyclists are some of the first to pick up a rake and help.

    Many communities across the country have been brought closer together by kids, teens and average adults getting out and riding mountain bikes. Those around the sport of Mountain Biking, like Mike Ahearn at RBC, are pillars of the community, teaching kids how to ride, clearing up park areas, running events and improving the area for us all.

  • Jeffrey

    The Commission has a very interesting viewpoint. “Bikers come in in trucks and vans and in groups,” Mr. Cronin said. “They’re starting to bike in groups!”

    Now I would think that the hikers come in cars, trucks and vans and I’m not sure there is anything wrong with that? Maybe I’m wrong and they walk, fly or (gasp) ride bikes.

    In addition, I know that hikers come in groups to Bennett’s Farm. I’ve seen groups of 20 or 30 including the Newtown hiking group and Meet-up groups. I see many more groups than solo hikers. When I see groups of hikers, I think, “now that is great with so many people enjoying the open space and in the woods.”

    So, does the Conservation Commission object to groups of hikers? Do they object to multiple people riding horses?

    I think they should have the same attitude toward a group of bike riders as they do toward groups of hikers in Ridgefield open space. Both are legitimate and sanctioned users of the open space. I’m unsure why the Conservation Commission would not like to see groups of bike riders riding in the open space, using the natural resource, being outside in nature and enjoying each other’s company.

    I’m sure the Conservation Commission would never favor one user group over another. I’m also sure the Conservation Commission would never manage the land according to their personal preferences rather than in accordance with Town Policy and the Plan of Conservation and Development.

    Still, I’m scratching my head over why groups of bikers wouldn’t be welcomed.

  • RichC

    The Bennetts Pond / Hemlock Hills area above Ridgefield is truly a wonderful place. We all are deeply indebted to Colonel Conley’s Outpost Nurseries and Town of Ridgefield for having the foresight years ago to set aside and protect this picturesque area from inappropriate development and environmental damage.

    Bikers, hikers, trail runners, and families out for a rejunvanating outing with nature ALL are entitled to enjoy the woods. As with any park, there are issues with unsustainable eroded legacy trails, that were poorly designed. Mountain bikers in general have always been advocates for fixing and maintaining trails (the Ridgefield Conservation Commission should contact Troutbrook, Wilton or Trumbull park land managers to see just how professional organized trail maintanence sessions are improving things).

    Trail networks coherently blazed, mapped and mamaged, builds respect for the park. Blithely singling out mountain bikers as dangerous and disresptful of others and unappreciative of the nature around them–as the comments here indicate–is totallly wrong.

    I hope the dialog this article has generated will be a catalyst for unity and progressive action. The Ridgefield community has lead the charge in many ways: LINC’s plans to connect the town using multi-purpose biking and walking trails; the profusion of wide sidewalks with folks of all ages and sizes actively engaged in walking (rather than driving), etc.. Stewardship of the Bennetts Pond / Hemlock Hills area should be just as forward thinking and positive.

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