trails

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 AllTrails.com, 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 AllTrails.com, 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.

What has changed on your trails as a result of COVID-19?

survey that shows sad, neutral, and happy face with an arrow pointing to the happy face
Our Connecticut Trail Census has launched a survey to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on trails and trail management. The survey is intended for trail managers of non-motorized trails in Connecticut takes about 10 minutes to complete. Please take a few moments to respond to the survey. The survey will remain open until Wednesday, November 25.

Meet Kim Bradley, our CT Trail Census Coordinator

Kim Bradley recently joined UConn Extension as the project coordinator for the Connecticut Trail Census. Welcome, Kim!

Kim Bradley and a canine companion on the trailKimberly Bradley is dedicated and passionate about engaging individuals and communities in outdoor activities and connecting them to our public lands and educating others to maintain resilient ecological systems. Her involvement in the conservation and trails communities includes serving on the Board of Directors as President and Stewardship Chair for Avalonia Land Conservancy; as a member of the Eightmile River Wild and Scenic Watershed Coordination Committee, supporting the Outreach and Education and Goodwin Trail Coordination Subcommittees; serving as president of the SECT Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association, and on Regional Board of Directors; serving on the Town of Salem Inland Wetland and Conservation Commission; and supporting the Connecticut Envirothon Program, as the previous Aquatics Chairperson and Steering Committee Member.

Kim holds a M.Sc. in Biological Oceanography, and a B.Sc. in Environmental Science with a focus on Ecological and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Connecticut. She worked as a Research Assistant for the National Undersea Research Center at UConn Avery Point while earning her graduate degree, and upon completion of her M. Sc.,  worked as a senior environmental and ecological consultant for close to ten years building a strong network of engineering and natural resource colleagues and municipal representatives across Connecticut.  Kim then moved into the role of Project Specialist for UConn’s Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) supporting the grant funded planning, development, design, implementation and evaluation of workshops, webinars, and outreach materials on living shorelines, green infrastructure. Kim loves exploring the trails and open spaces with her family, especially her two young daughters and lab Huckleberry, by foot or on their mountain bikes.

Riverfront Recapture’s partnership with UConn Extension’s CT Trail Census

Lady with glasses smiling at man with glasses and people in the background Riverfront Recapture‘s partnership with UConn Extension’s CT Trail Census has advanced our mission to improve the quality of life and urban vitality for those who live, work and play in central Connecticut. Specifically, Trail Census data has supported successful funding requests, including our 2019 Bank of America Neighborhood Builders Award, and was integral to our recent request to the EPA to support cleanup efforts that will allow us to expand our park and trail system along the Connecticut River in Hartford. It also helps us understand community needs by complementing the qualitative findings of a community survey on outdoor recreation by Trinity College.

View the findings.

 

On the Trail Podcast

Cary Chadwick

Did you know that the CT Trail Census is starting a podcast? Well they are! It is called “On the Trail” and each week they focus on a different path having to do with trails and nature in Connecticut. This week’s episode features an interview with Cary Chadwick, a geospatial educator, about how to find the right trail for you. Check us out at https://uconnextension.podbean.com/ every Friday at 12pm!

Article by Neva Taylor

Social Distancing on Trails

social distancing in parks and trails infographic

Recommendations for Social Distancing on Trails

  • Follow CDC’s guidance on personal hygiene prior to heading to trails — wash hands, carry hand sanitizer, do not use trails if you have symptoms, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, etc.
  • Observe at all times CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of six feet from other people. Practice it and know what it looks like. Keep it as you walk, bike or hike.

CT Trail Census 2019 Data Reports & New Projects in 2020

CT trail census logo

The University of Connecticut (UConn) Extension is pleased to release the latest data on how several of the state’s most popular multi-use trails are being used, and to announce new initiatives the Connecticut Trail Census program is launching in its fourth year. “Connecticut’s trails are among the state’s most scenic and enduring assets,” observed Charles Tracy, coordinator for the Trail Census. “With three years of data collection complete, we now have a much clearer picture of trail use trends on several of the state’s major multi-use trails. New projects in 2020 will leverage existing data to estimate use on other trails, and to help us understand the statewide impacts, including health and economic benefits, of Connecticut’s diverse trails network.”

Data released today includes Trail Census summaries of the 2019 Trail Counts and Trail User Surveys along with an analysis of the impact of the new Hop River Trail connection to Manchester and East Hartford. The Trail Counts report documented 1,544,158 uses or trips recorded across all 20 sites. The most heavily used trails during 2019 were the Naugatuck River Greenway in Derby, Riverfront Recapture Trail in Hartford, and the Hop River Trail in Vernon. The Trail User Survey report found that the majority of trail users visit them frequently: 64.7% use the trails two or more times per week (in 2018 this was 55.7%). The Hop River Trail report showed how a new 3-mile trail connection was the catalyst for an increase in over 10,000 users in one year.  

Naugatuck Greenway
Naugatuck Greenway

Trail Census projects getting underway in 2020 include research to estimate use on other trails by combining existing Trail Census data and short-term counts; a multi-state conference on bicycle and pedestrian data collection; a new data visualization portal; and preliminary work on creating a statewide trails website, based on similar sites in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

The Connecticut Trail Census is a statewide volunteer-based data collection and education program that operates on trails across the state. The program collects information about trail use through trail use counts recorded by infrared counters and user intercept surveys administered by trained volunteers. The goal is to develop an accurate picture of who uses trails in Connecticut, and to advance and inform new trail policy, design and construction throughout the state. Data is compiled annually and is available online and through public education programs. 

Initiated in 2017 as a partnership between UConn Extension, the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments, the Connecticut Greenways Council, and local trails advocacy organizations, the Trail Census has expanded to over 20 data collection sites on trails across the state.  The program receives funding from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Recreational Trails Program. For more information or to get involved visit www.cttrailcensus.uconn.edu.

Report links

2019 Trail Counts (https://bit.ly/2vuHwS0) 

2019 Trail User Surveys (https://bit.ly/2QqqlIF)  

2019 Hop River Trail (https://bit.ly/3d9uBpI)

CT Trail Census Data Builds Communities

woman walking a dog on the Still River Greenway in Brookfield“The Connecticut Trail Census data has been indispensable in communicating the positive impacts of the Still River Greenway to the Brookfield community;” states Joei Grudzinski, Co-Chairman of the Brookfield Parks and Recreation Commission. “In particular, the recent user survey indicated strong support among adult bike riders for our initiative to extend the trail.”

The Connecticut Trail Census is a program of UConn Extension and our partners, and part of our PATHS program – People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability.

Spend Family Time Outdoors Exploring Nature

person walking on a bridge with colorful fall leaves around them
As the holiday season quickly approaches, time with family and friends is important to many of us. In honor of this past National Take a Hike Day (it was November 17th), try getting in your quality time with some fresh air this weekend! Take advantage of a local trail or path to get the blood flowing after a big meal. Your friends and family with thank you for burning off the extra calories!
 
This message is brought to you by the UConn Extension PATHS team – People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability. We are 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, community & economic development and implementing a social ecological approach to health education.

Charlie Tracy Recognized for Trail Work

Plaque recognizing Charlie Tracy for his work on the trails and collaborations in Massachusetts

This weekend at the Mass Trails Conference in Leominster Charlie Tracy, our new Connecticut Trail Census Coordinator, received an achievement award to recognize his over 30 years of dedication to trails work and building successful collaborative partnerships in Massachusetts and across the nation. Charlie is well loved in the trail community and we are so lucky that he has chosen the next stage of his career following retirement from the National Park Service, to include this work in Connecticut. Charlie and Laura Brown, our Community and Economic Development Extension Educator also presented a successful session on the Trail Census at the conference.