Old unpaved road gives ATVs access to open space area

The chain and lock get broken, the last dirt stretch of Sky Top Road lies open to all terrain vehicles, and the ATVs go roaring around the otherwise quiet woods of the Hemlock Hills and Lake Windwing open spaces.

Troubled by the recurring problem, the Conservation Commission suggested that the town abandon the unpaved end of Skytop Road — although alternative solutions are now being looked at.

“It’s a good access for all-terrain vehicles to get up into Hemlock Hills,” Conservation Commission Chairman Jim Coyle told a Board of Selectmen’s meeting. “All-terrain vehicles get up there and wreak havoc in the open space.”

Coyle outlined the situation in a memo to First Selectman Rudy Marconi, in advance of the selectmen’s late June discussion of the request

“The Conservation Commission would like the BOS (Board of Selectmen) to consider the abandonment of the dirt portion of Sky Top Road that extends from North Shore Road into Hemlock Hills ... The road is bounded on both sides by Hemlock Hills and Lake Windwing open spaces,” he wrote.

“For years, the road has been chained off at the junction with North Shore Road, which has served to keep unauthorized vehicles from Hemlock Hills. On at least a couple of occasions, the chain or lock has been broken…”

Nearby homes

There are a couple of homes on North Shore Road that adjoin the unpaved section of the road, and Coyle said it seemed possible the chain and lock had been damaged by “a homeowner or his representative” trying to gain access to the rear of a residential property.

In any case, taking down the chain causes problems.

“This has led to ATVs entering Hemlock Hills illegally,” Coyle wrote. “This is the only place access can be prevented. Further along the road it would be impossible to restrict access. And each time we’ve had to repair the broken chain.

“If the homeowner continues to require access via this old road, we would be willing to allow him to put a lock of his choosing on one end of the chain so that he can access his property without damaging the chain or lock, while still keeping ATVs out.”

The selectmen discussed the matter briefly on June 20.

Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark said she’d been by for a look, and the unpaved end of Sky Top Road didn’t appear to be much.

“You can see there’s a little road. It looks like a path,” she said.

“What happens if we abandon it? Are we cutting off someone’s subdivision rights?” asked Selectman Steve Zemo.

“It’s all open space,” said Marconi.

“Just explore it and bring it back,” Zemo suggested.

Abandonment of the road would require action first by the Board of Selectmen and then by voters at a town meeting.

Coyle said on July 18 that with other alternatives under study, he wasn’t sure when the matter would be brought back before the Board of Selectmen.

Road history

A look at Sky Top Road’s past is available in the Ridgefield Names column on local historian and former Press editor Jack Sanders’ website ridgefieldhistory.com.

“Sky Top Road, which runs from Bennett’s Farm Road to the dead end of pavement ...  is the developed portion of an ancient dirt road that still goes up a steep hill into what is now the town-owned Hemlock Hills Refuge,” Sanders writes.

“Actually, Sky Top Road is the southern end of the 18th Century highway called Bogus Road (q.v.), a name still used for its northern section. Over this road, British troops were supposed to have marched in 1777 after the burning of Danbury and before the April 27 Battle of Ridgefield.

“Sky Top Road is the main road at Lakeland Hills, a mid-1950s subdivision developed by Harold S. Goldsmith (1904-1969) ... As Mr. Goldsmith planned things, Sky Top Road was to connect with Bogus Road through Otto H. Lippolt's property, now the Hemlock Hills Refuge. Mr. Lippolt planned a large-scale, small-lot development there, but never got to more than installing some dirt roads and culverts.

“The town acquired Mr. Goldsmith's land on the mountain as well as the property now used for Fitzgerald and Serfilippi baseball fields, and also bought Mr. Lippolt's property, stopping development to the north and producing a large and wonderful tract of parkland.

“Sky Top Road became a town road in July 1956.”