‘Illegal’ trail entrances keep appearing at a Wilton park. One group aims to change that

The trail plan for the new Bradley Park official trail per Dave Francefort of FCNEMBA.

The trail plan for the new Bradley Park official trail per Dave Francefort of FCNEMBA.

Contributed Photo

WILTON — The creation of unofficial trails at Bradley Park may soon come to an end if a local group’s plan gets adopted by the town’s Conservation Commission.

The group, headed by the Friends of Bradley Park founders David Cote and Andy Cox, and Dave Francefort of the Fairfield County chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association, have devised are prepping for a presentation to the commission on trail enhancements.

The need, Cote said Monday, derived from residents creating “illegal” entrances to the park by entering through non-official park entrances and creating offshoots of the official trail path in the town park. The solution involves flagging and addressing the rogue trails by creating another official trail from the offshoots with volunteers from FCNEMBA that would be at no cost to the town, Cote said.

Per Francefort’s estimation, the full scope of work would take “between 300 and 400 man hours,” with the work taking place over two full weekends, with two days of work each. Cote said all of the work would be done by volunteers, giving the town no cost for the initial construction of the project. He said there could be roughly 10 to 12 volunteers doing the work, with FCNEMBA providing the tools and materials needed.

“Everyone who I have spoken with is more than willing to volunteer,” Cote said.

Cote, having experience as a Wilton Conservation Commission member, started the Friends of Bradley Park after Director of Environmental Affairs Mike Conklin gave him and Cox guidance on how to advocate for trail enhancement plans. After linking with Francefort, Cote said the four men took a walk in the park to spot the rogue trails and determine a plan.

“(Francefort) said there would be no problem, we could flag these (trails),” Cote said. “That we could create new trails,” and that there is “no reason they couldn’t be opened back up.”

The challenge, per Francefort, is “sustainably built” trails that follow current standards for trail building, including no fall-in-line sections, contour trails with proper grade and slope, an 18-to-24-inch wide tread base, use of local rock for greater sustainability, creating a better loop configuration for hiking and biking, increased control in the new trail design, ridding negative aspects of the current offshoot trails including at the low-laying sections, and ultimately eliminating the use of the rogue trails used by residents during the pandemic.

Cote said he has spoken to many residents who frequent Bradley Park and, due to their desire to be outside and utilize the nearby park over the past two years, have been “frustrated” that these rogue trails have been closed off by the town. According to Cote, the trails would be covered by debris to dissuade residents from using them and direct them back to the official Bradley Park trails.

And the Friends of Bradley Park co-founder understands.

“I see the town’s point,” he said. “They don’t have the manpower” to do the proper maintenance on all rogue trails in the town’s full roster of parks. Cote understood there are only so many trails the town could maintain.

He, Cox and Francefort, though, are eyeing a Conservation Commission approval on their intial plan on Jan. 5. Then, the group, along with FCNEMBA, will go into Bradley Park and flag all of the rogue trails, which will then have to be approved once more by the commission. Then, the commission will announce the changes to the town and unveil the new trails.