Ridgefield accepts open space donation to create cross country trail

RIDGEFIELD — The donation of less than an acre of land will soon make all the difference to Ridgefield High School’s cross country teams that run past the intersection of Ledges and Ridgebury roads during practice.

At a sparsely-attended town meeting this week, voters approved to accept roughly .4 acres of donated open space from the Land Conservancy of Ridgefield. The parcel lies east of Ridgebury Road and north of the Titicus River just up the street from the high school.

The town will install a cross country trail on the parcel to accommodate runners. During practice, the high school’s team members typically depart from the high school and head north, following a pathway that runs along a fence on the west side of Ridgebury Road, First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

In previous years, an abutting property owner raised concern about the teams running on their grass, Marconi added, so the athletes were forced to travel into the roadway.

Marconi approached the Land Conservancy a year ago to address the situation and toured the site with president Michael Carpenter.

The nonprofit has been charged with preserving Ridgefield’s “cute country image” since 1967, Carpenter said. Over the years members have worked to maintain conservancy properties by removing invasive species, taking down trees and collaborating with the town’s Conservation Commission.

“Usually people donate property to us because they want to preserve the aesthetic appeal, the natural resources and … keep the property looking the way it does,” Carpenter said. “People also get a nice tax deduction based on the value of the property, which is an added incentive.”

The conservancy spent several months of legal work to transfer ownership of the parcel to the town. They also identified entrance points on Ridgebury and Ledges road for the eventual trail. Workers will cut down some brush on the property and create a gravel or stone dust path to stabilize the area and prevent runners from slipping, Marconi explained.

Carpenter said the conservancy is excited to provide a “wide open area” for runners to use, and noted that the trail is “100 percent” geared towards the high school’s cross country teams.

“Ridgebury Road can be really busy at certain times of the day; someone not paying attention could drive right into a pile of kids,” Carpenter said. “We wanted to provide a safer location and get them off the road and on a well-maintained trail (that runs) over a knoll through the woods. … They’ll wish the rest of their run looked like that.”