Hurricane Isaias caused extensive tree damage to many if not all of Ridgefield’s open spaces maintained by the Conservation Commission. While cleanup was going on elsewhere in Ridgefield, the job of assessing the damage was underway by the commission in open spaces.

The mountain bike community represented by the Fairfield County Northeast Mountain Bike Association (FCNEMBA) started checking the damage in Hemlock Hills, Pine Mountain, and Bennetts Pond, our most popular hiking areas. Shortly after, they dispatched crews to start the cleanup to reopen these areas. Large trees have to be left for later removal by professional chainsaw operators. After the assessment, some trails were found to be so badly damaged that they will have to be rerouted at a later date.

Commissioners Dave Cronin and Matt Sharp and Colleen Lake, our administrative assistant, concentrated on the smaller hiking areas in town. To date, after many work sessions, a number of our larger areas have been reopened: Florida Refuge, West Mountain McManus, West Mountain Reed, Casey Lane, Colonial Heights, Liebowitz-Knapp, and Levy Park. There are a number of smaller areas yet to be assessed.

Our cleanup efforts were assisted by our Ridgefield Rangers (coordinated by Commissioner Dan Levine) in the identification of where downed trees posed problems.

There is still a substantial amount of work to be done in those areas yet to be heard from: to clear the larger, more dangerous tree falls as well as to reroute trails where clearing is impractical. The work will continue well into the fall.

We were assisted by many volunteers in this effort and thank them heartedly for their concern and hard work in the protection and maintenance of Ridgefield’s open spaces.

James Coyle is the chairman of Ridgefield’s Conservation Commission.