Wilton group forms to monitor 'rogue trails' at Bradley Park

The Friends of Bradley Park has been created and will help oversee park upkeep, including helping guide a consultant to conduct a study of trail safety on Monday, May 24.

The Friends of Bradley Park has been created and will help oversee park upkeep, including helping guide a consultant to conduct a study of trail safety on Monday, May 24.

CtVisit.com / Contributed Photo

WILTON — In order to offset further costs for the town, a group of locals plan to launch the “Friends of Bradley Park.”

The group will help raise money for bridge materials, park trail upkeep and acting as the medium between consulting partners.

Wilton Conservation Commission member David Cote has confirmed the Friends of Bradley Park will be utilized to take some responsibility off the plate of the town’s Department of Environmental Affairs.

The impetus of this newfound entity came from the most recent Conservation Commission Meeting on May 17. The idea for the Friends of Bradley Park group came from other similar groups in town that help with the oversight of Kents Pond in Horseshoe Park.

After a recent site walk at Leonard J. Bradley Park, commission members gave their opinions on a solution for “rogue trails” popping up around the park that are not official trails looked after by the town.

“I didn’t see a whole lot of difference between the official trail and the rogue trails,” commission member Philip Murphy said. “It’s true that it is not proper for everyone to simply make their own trail, but I think they are doing it because either the current trail is inadequate or not properly maintained.”

These rogue trails, which consist of a few offshoots from the official hiking trail, were closed by the town after concerns that the newly created trails could pose issues to the park’s ecosystem and wildlife.

“First, the town put up signs, then the signs got knocked down. Then they put up logs, and that didn’t work,” Cote said.

He explained the town started placing debris every few yards to dissuade adventurous spirits from wandering off the park’s lone “official” trail.

Cote said one of the popular offshoots actually used to be an officially recognized trail in past years, but has not been properly kept by the town in some time.

“I think it’s very important that we negotiate and hear what the public feels and that we try to find some ground where we can make the parks available to those who wish to use them in different ways,” Commissioner Jackie Algon said.

“We also need to be pretty clear that we have an ordinance in Wilton and it’s a policy that will probably be approved very soon where it does not allow for people to make their own marks on trees or rocks or any other natural item in an open space or anywhere in the town. In addition to that, we are adding the word ‘trails.’”

She said the park is home to various types of wildlife, including deer and fox, and noted that any future decisions would need to factor in those animals.

Cote confirmed last week that the local county chapter of the New England Mountain Biking Association (FCNEMBA) has been tapped by the Friends of Bradley Park to play a consulting role in the discussion for new trails. A member of FCNEMBA visited the park on Monday.

Some town residents and park frequenters joined the conversation as well.

“Everybody sort of feels the same way, like we have been treated like a bunch of children that have done something wrong. We have just been appreciating the park that we have been loving, supporting and visiting for many years,” said Katherine Silvan, whose property neighbors the park. “If there is a Friends of Bradley Park, I would be happy to join it and make it a community effort.”

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said if anyone who has a comment or concern should contact the town. She also added that volunteering efforts that were initially limited under Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive orders have returned, so those who want to volunteer may reach out to the Department of Environmental Affairs.

Mike Conklin, the head of the Department of Environmental Affairs, acknowledged that the town holds some portions of the upkeep of the park for Eagle Scout projects. He also said he was open to hearing the opinion of the residents on the park upkeep.

“I think it’s important that these commissions are responsive to their citizens,” Murphy said. “Citizens are actually voting with their feet, literally, on these trails.”