state forest

Trails 101 Video Series Helps New Users Enjoy CT Trails

hands holding a trail mapThis time of the year, Connecticut residents are heading outside to enjoy the cool fall temperatures and beautiful New England scenery. Connecticut offers a wealth of outdoor spaces from city parks to rural area trail systems where people can engage in all types of activities such as hiking, biking, and nature watching while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Spending time outdoors is a great way to get exercise, reduce stress, and can be a good educational experience for kids of all ages. Additionally, doing activities outside can increase happiness and wellbeing.

For new trail users, heading onto the trails can seem a bit overwhelming as it can be hard to know what to expect on the trails.  Information about what to pack, eat, and how to navigate trail systems is not always widely available. This is why we have launched a new video series called Trails 101 on our Connecticut Trails webpage. This series of four videos explains to trail users everything they need to know before stepping onto the trails. The videos cover topics such as how to prepare for a hike, what to bring, trail etiquette, and the leave no trace principles. Trail users of all levels have a responsibility to know how to respect themselves, others, and the environment when heading out into nature. These videos provide the tools needed for a successful adventure on Connecticut trails. 

Other resources available for new trail users include websites such as, a crowd-sourced website. AllTrails is a great resource to help people locate hikes in their area. On AllTrails, trails can be sorted by difficulty level, length, and type of trail. There is information about features of the trail such as vistas and waterfalls, and accessibility of the trails. The hikes are posted by community members so they do not always include all information available so cross checking with trail managing organizations would also be helpful. The benefit of AllTrails being a crowd-sourced website is that other trail users can leave reviews of the hike and the current conditions to help others decide if the trail is right for them at that time.

Another online resource for finding trails is the Connecticut Forest and Park Association Interactive Map. This map helps hikers find blue blazed trails near them. The website includes an informational video on how to use the interactive map which we would highly recommend watching as it shows just how helpful this interactive map can be. 

As helpful as all these online resources can be, sometimes, the best option is a paper map. Paper maps can be printed from the internet, purchased from the organization that maintains the trail of interest, or, sometimes, found for free at trailhead information huts. Since cell service is not always available and cell phones can run out of battery, it’s always good to be prepared by having a paper trail map.

A final resource trail users should explore before heading outside is the Leave No Trace website which provides information on how to be a responsible trail user. On the website, they discuss the 7 principles of Leave No Trace (LNT). These principles outline ways humans can make the least amount of impact on the environment when visiting natural places. We all live in the same environment so it is the job of everyone to help preserve it. These principles are not hard to follow yet they have a huge impact on preserving our wild places. For example, the LNT principles of disposing of waste properly and traveling on durable surfaces are small actions trail users can take to maintain the beauty of the natural environments we all enjoy recreating in.

After watching the Trails 101 video series, looking at websites like, and reviewing the LNT principles, it’s time to hit the trail, get some exercise and enjoy the great outdoors. Enjoy exploring all Connecticut has to offer.

Article by Marissa Dibella

These videos were made possible by a generous gift from the David and Nancy Bull Extension Innovation Fund to the UConn PATHS Team – People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability. PATHS is an interdisciplinary team of University of Connecticut extension educators, faculty, and staff committed to understanding and promoting the benefits of trails and natural resources for health and communities, and implementing a social ecological approach to health education.  Our team works in a wide variety of departments and disciplines including public health, health education, nutrition, community development, and landscape architecture.

Written and produced October 2020 by Jenifer Nadeau,  Michael Puglisi,  Umekia Taylor, Stacey Stearns,  Dianisi Torres, Laura Brown, Mike Zaritheny, with review and special assistance from Dea Ziso, Marissa Dibella, Laurie Giannotti, Claire Cain, Kristen Bellantuono, Kim Bradley, and Amy Hernandez.

CT Needs a Passport to the Parks

waterfallWhat is the Passport to the Parks?

The Passport to the Parks is a $10 charge added to your 2-year motor vehicle registration which would generate an estimated $14.3 million each year for the operations, maintenance, and improvement of your State Parks. In return for paying this charge every other year, all motor vehicles with CT license plates would gain day use parking entry to the State Parks for free (the parking fee charged for out-of-state vehicles would continue).

This would be an amazing value considering that one weekend visit to a shoreline Park like Hammonasset Beach State Park costs $13, and a season’s pass to the State Parks is $67.  This would reduce traffic backups entering parks, and help CT DEEP redistribute more seasonal workers to manage land, wildlife, and water resources for the public since fewer seasonals would be needed to staff entry gates.

Will the Passport to the Parks totally fund the Parks?

No, but it would generate about 80% of the funding for the Parks from a new funding source (the total budget for State Parks at full operations is ~$18 million). Making 80% of State Parks funding “reliable” from year to year would allow the Parks to operate more smoothly by reducing current timing problems related to the annual budget process (e.g., the state fiscal year starts July 1st, right before one of the busiest weekends of the year, and DEEP has to staff-up with seasonals in April/May to be ready although there typically isn’t a budget in place for the next year). Obviously, it would be better for State Parks funding to be 80% reliable versus 100% vulnerable.

It is important to note that if the Passport to the Parks funding is combined with out-of-state parking fees along with camping, cabin, and other facility rental fees being dedicated to DEEP for Park and Campground management rather than to the General Fund, the Parks can become virtually self-sufficient.

Is the Passport to the Parks Necessary?

Absolutely! This year, 4 campgrounds were closed, museum and nature center hours were cut, seasonal workers were reduced by almost 50%, 12 full-time park maintainers were given pink slips, and the revised Governor’s Budget for 2018-19 proposes a large funding cut along with moving to “passive management” for most Parks. If the current trajectory continues, further Park and campground closures and losses of public services are imminent. The chronic underfunding of the Parks must be addressed with this new source of funding in the 2018-19 state budget, or we risk losing the immense value that State Parks provide to Connecticut.

How important are Parks to Connecticut?

State Parks are an essential part of our state’s natural legacy in many ways. If they are allowed, through neglect, to become liabilities rather than assets, the tremendous benefits currently supported by State Parks could be lost. An economic study by UConn documented that Connecticut’s state parks and forests generate over $1 billion/year in revenues for the state and support more than 9,000 private sector jobs. Furthermore, for every $1 invested in the State Parks, an impressive $38 is returned to State and local coffers. Beyond significant economic benefits to the state and local communities, State Parks provide recreation and public health benefits, wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge, and many other irreplaceable ecosystem benefits as well. Also, for many economically strapped families in many communities, State Parks and Forests provide the only quality outdoor recreational opportunities available for public use without charge.

If you have questions about the Passport to the Parks, please contact Eric Hammerling via