Cyclists install new trail that will ‘last for a long time’ at Ridgefield’s Pierrepont State Park

RIDGEFIELD — A group of local cyclists have come together to install a new trail at the Pierrepont State Park that would link the local section to nearby pathways and reduce danger in some parts.

Jeremiah Boobar, a director at Cannondale Bikes, and Mike Malwitz, president of the Fairfield County chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association had been “kicking around” the idea of fixing up the trail for years but couldn’t find the time.

Boobar often travels for work and rides through the park when he’s home, but can never completely do so without getting off of his bike because some parts so steep and rocky.

So when the coronavirus pandemic freed up some of Boobar’s time, he thought, “I’m going to make Pierrepont rideable,” and began putting his idea into action.

“It’s part of our overall plan to make Pierrepont a better trail system,” Malwitz said. “If it weren’t for COVID and having more time on his hands, I don’t think it would have happened.”

Boobar drew up a plan and the two gathered about 30 volunteer cyclists to help them bring it to fruition. His plan called for creating the two-mile trail, remediating existing sections, organizing re-routes around perilous parts and repairing a rotting timber bridge.

But before starting the physical labor, they needed to obtain approvals from the Ridgefield Conservation Commission and state Department of Energy and Environment, which they received.

Boobar said he thought working with both the state and local commission would be a “big hurdle,” but everyone was “open and helpful” to getting the work done.

Dave Cronin, a member of the conservation commission said his organization has worked with the bike association and similar groups in the past and that the collaboration helped alleviate “pressure” the commission faced from local bikers seeking newer and improved trails.

The crew started working on the trail in March and expects to complete the work by the fall.

The new trail has already been laid down, and the group just needs to finish sprucing up a couple of sections, as well as restore the bridge. Malwitz said the repairs were necessary because some areas along the trail had suffered serious erosion and could be “dangerous” to hikers.

“It’s been really positive feedback from the mountain bikers and hikers,” he said, remembering how a hiker once told them she had broken her ribs while walking along the trail several years back.

The volunteers mitigated hikers’ risk by making such sections less steep and removing rocks along the way. With the new aisle, the state park will connect to the Ives trail running through Ridgefield and Redding.

The trail connects to Hemlock Hills via Limestone Road and continues east until reaching the Wooster Mountain State Park.

The volunteers initially thought the installation would be a “substantial undertaking,” until they uncovered an old logging road that allowed them to build off of the old path rather than start from scratch.

Cronin said the group’s done “very good trail work.”

“They build trails that will last for a long time,” he said.