My 2023 Trail Symposium Recap

The 2023 Trail Symposium was an immersive experience with multiple events over multiple days.

World Trails Film Festival, Tuesday

World Trails Film Festival in Connecticut

This is the second time that I have had the privilege of viewing the he World Trails Film Festival. The series of short films combines stories with scenery and music that together capture the power of walking and riding in places near and far. They beautifully expose healing, determination, honoring the past, and cultivating the future.

The series validates why I work to make it easier for others to have a trail experience.

My 13 year old accompanied me to the World Trails Film Festival in Torrington. She was resistant, but the stories from the films, plus the majestic Warner Theatre, changed her attitude. She loved the scenery and especially admired the perseverance of Quinn and Nimblewill, both overcoming hurdles to keep on going.

Wednesday held a variety of self-guided and instructor-led mobile clinics. I was not able to attend these but heard excellent reviews.

John Brown birthplace and "Why We Walk," Thursday

John Brown Trail

On Thursday afternoon, I attended an informative talk from the Torrington Historical Society and the Torrington Trails Network. They told the story of John Brown and the John Brown birthplace as well as the progression of the trail access from Five Points Arts Center, the former UConn Torrington Campus.

Next, the group walked the trail together. The newly completed section includes over 800 feet of boardwalk through a beautiful bog that connects to the loop and John Brown's birthplace. I enjoyed learning about the details of the work from the trail volunteers who have invested countless hours and simply being on the trail with new and old friends.

Boardwalk on the John Brown to Five Points Trail  

Back at Five Points Arts Center, we viewed the film "Why We Walk."

BRIDGING TOGETHER HUMANITY – ONE MILE AT A TIME.

The Urban Hikers

The film features the three Cincinnati urban hikers, Vanny, Abdi, and Toure, and shares their story and the power of walking on both urban and nature trails. Vanny, Toure, and film director Eric Bishop were in attendance. I happened to have a seat behind them and enjoyed their laughs and reactions to the film as much as the film itself, which is saying something because the film is excellent! Afterwards, they took to the stage and answered questions about the film, their story, and thoughts about the power of walking. I wish I had recorded the statements, answers, and thoughts. It was a highlight of the trail symposium for me and truly inspiring. And I have to shout out the talented film director Eric Bishop. He masterfully combined the story, art, and themes and I suspect we will be seeing more from him in the future.

Trail Symposium, Friday

Friday was the main event and my last trip to Torrington for a while. It started with a panel and several talks about accessibility and inclusion in the outdoors. I was especially impressed by Nicky Wood from Outside Perspectives and her presentation about Barriers to Meaningful Wilderness Experiences.

We had a delicious lunch outside on the patio and then off to sessions. Aaron and I presented about the CT Trail Census and the CT Trail Finder. Our room was the former UConn Torrington library with cool windows and a variety of printing presses. I don't have pictures from Friday but I assure you that the program, attendees, and conservation were excellent.

Many Thanks

Emily and LaurieI was part of a small by mighty Trail Symposium planning committee. It is a tremendous amount of work to plan and coordinate an event like this especially over multiple days. The City of Torrington was instrumental in the event that could not have happened without their support. CT DEEP was the linchpin, especially Laurie Giannotti and Kim Bradley. I'm glad to be a part of a great team and am already looking forward to next year's event.

Graduate Student Opportunity

The CT Trails Program and the UConn Department of Natural Resources and the Environment seek a graduate student interested in pursuing a graduate degree in partnership with an interdisciplinary project focused on outdoor recreation and trail use and monitoring. The funded assistantship will start in January of 2024.

Work for this assistantship will involve comparing novel methodology to better estimate and understand ongoing trail use dynamics, management planning for abrupt changes in trail use such as during the Covid-19 pandemic, and enhancing equitable access to outdoor recreation resources. Results will contribute to development of a state-level protocol for improving long term evaluation of trail use and methods for data collection. There is some flexibility in the thesis or dissertation topic emphasis, to be determined based on the interests of the selected applicant.

More information, requirements, and how to apply

2023 Connecticut Trail Symposium

The Connecticut Trail Symposium is back in 2023! And this year will be a new, more immersive experience with multiple events over multiple days. Many thanks to the City of Torrington for sponsoring the events and making them possible.

The Trail Symposium will be Friday, October 13, 2023 from 9am-3pm at the Five Points Arts Center in Torrington, CT.

The Trails Film Festival will makes its Connecticut debut on Tuesday, October 10 at the Warner Theatre in Torrington.

A special screening of the film “Why We Walk” is planned for Thursday evening, October 12, at the Five Points Arts Center in Torrington, followed by discussion, networking, and socializing.

Please visit the Symposium web page for updates and information including the agenda, sponsorship opportunities, and more!

 

Welcome Adelheid!

Meet Adelheid, the newest, although not-so-new Trails Team member. Adelheid just completed her graduate certificate in Sustainable Environmental Planning and Management from the UConn College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resource, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. She has stepped in and up to support the trail census in every way, from data downloads to report writing. She is also working on trail finder and is generally helping the team get its act together. She lives in Wallingford, CT with her husband and daughter; one son is studying at UConn, and the oldest traveling the world. You may spot her on her home trail at Sleeping Giant or on the Mattabesett Trail. We are so happy to have Adelheid on board - keep an eye out for her emails!

Adelheid Koepfer

The Air Line State Park Trail Count and Survey Analysis

In the fall of 2022, the Trails Team completed the Air Line State Park Trail Count and Survey Analysis Report which is part of the Master Plan work being conducted by CT Resource Conservation & Development Area (RC&D). It is an evaluation of the Air Line State Park multi-use trail based on survey responses and counts from short- and long-term infrared counters from January to December 2021.

Connecticut Trail Finder is Hiring! Apply for the Paid Student Internship, Fall 2021

Connecticut Trail Finder Paid Student Internship, Fall 2021

Supervisor contact: This internship will be co-supervised by Laura Brown, Community & Economic Development Educator – New Haven County Extension Center, Contact- Laura Brown: Cell 608-886-0655 laura.brown@uconn.edu and Kimberly Bradley, CT Trail Census/Trail Finder Coordinator Cell 860-581-3130 Kimberly.bradley@uconn.edu

Office location: Remote. Weekly online meetings (computer required) will be required.

Background:
The CT Trail Finder http://cttrailfinder.com/ will be a free, interactive mapping site designed to help Connecticut residents and visitors find hiking, walking, snowshoeing, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and paddling trails across the state. Our goal is to help people get out, be active, and explore our state’s treasures. Detailed trail description pages will allow users to view the trails, get essential information, submit trip comments and photos, find nearby geocaches, and a whole lot more. Users will be able to track trail experiences, noting trails that they have completed, their favorites, or ones they want to visit.

Tasks/Responsibilities:
This internship will involve assisting with communications, outreach, and technical aspects of the CT Trail Finder including: developing topical social media postings for Facebook and Instagram, supporting development of narrative for trail postings, working within website platform to publish trail information, assisting with in-person outreach events, participating in team coordination meetings. The student should have excellent communication, writing and organizational skills, and ability to work effectively independently as well as coordinate with a professional team involved in overseeing these projects.

Date ranges and work times: Remote. Weekly online meetings (computer required) will be required and some travel around the state may be required to fully participate in the program. Interns will have the opportunity to be present in an office in New Haven or Haddam as needed but the majority of the work hours will be self-managed. Dates and work hours will be mutually agreed upon at the start of the internship.

The intern will have the opportunity to:
• Learn about the multiple values of trails as resources for recreation, health promotion, and economic or tourism development;
• Learn how state agencies partner with local and private conservation organizations to advance and promote outdoor recreation.
• Enhance their skills in educational communications (writing and verbal presentation skills) for a public audience

Mentorship commitment:
Trail Finder Coordinator Kim Bradley and Community & Economic Development Educator Laura Brown will work closely with the intern to discover key learning objectives and interests. The intern will be required to participating in weekly team coordination meetings. We would also encourage the intern to participate in trainings, meetings and activities around the state proving them with connections and career contacts in our program partner organizations such as the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Connecticut Forest and Park Association and the National Park Service. We will also support the student in identifying additional related learning and career opportunities following the internship experience.

Compensation: $15/hour, ~10 hours per week for 10 weeks. Total compensation will be $1,500 with potential for continuing through the Spring and Summer semester.

To Apply: Please send a short cover letter expressing interest and resume to laura.brown@uconn.edu and kimberly.bradley@uconn.edu. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis with estimated start date October 4, 2021.

My Environmental Story: An End of a Chapter

Author: Khadija Shaikh

This summer, I got an internship with a newly grant-funded project, the Connecticut Trail Finder. It was the first environmental-related job I ever held and to say I am sad that it is ending today would be an understatement. You see, this summer was not only a positive experience but a healthy one. I was grateful enough to learn about resilience, perseverance, and assertiveness. The rapport that was established between me and my supervisors was one I had dreamed about when first entering the workforce. 

 

Being a Muslim Indian woman who chooses to wear Hijab, it can quite difficult for me to believe in myself and be proud of the career path I have chosen. It is not just due to the stereotypical Indian parental and societal pressures but also because of the lack of representation in the environmental field. Just recently did I declare myself an environmentalist because for so long I never really understood how a Muslim Indian woman who chooses to wear Hijab fit into this dominating white discipline. Instead, of positive experiences, I hear of marginalized members being mistreated and tokenized in the workplace due to their lack of matching the stereotypical white, male, “tree-hugger vegan” of an environmentalist. Due to these encounters and insecurities, I was fearful to apply for an internship, afraid that I would quickly join the group of discriminated marginalized environmentalists. However, this fear lessened as I began my summer internship. 

 

My supervisors have continuously and constantly supported and encouraged me to be a “go-getter”. From even before I started my internship, during my interview, I remember feeling at ease speaking with them about my passions, experiences, and career goals. They responded with such excitement and with such cheer that it felt like they wanted what was best for me. I really appreciated that. At the beginning of each week, my supervisors would check in with me to establish the goals and priorities for the week, but also see how I was doing mentally and emotionally. This summer was intense for personal reasons, however, the relationship I had with my supervisors allowed me to be honest during my weekly check-ins and know that my supervisors were my advocates

 

The summer internship was not all easy though, it challenged me. As I mentioned previously, I learned what it meant to be assertive and how important it is to be. Prior to this internship, I was passive when relaying my ideas and opinions, I would never come forth with my own until I felt comfortable enough to and even then, that was rare. I wasn’t brought up in a household where I could freely speak my mind, and with the lack of diverse representation in the environmental field, it felt even harder to be able to feel valued enough to voice my concerns. However, the team I worked with during my internship made it a point to ask me for my thoughts and for what my goals were for the internship. It was a relationship in where my team members wanted me to grow and thrive. I felt appreciated and as if I ever needed help, there would be plenty of people more than willing to offer. 

 

This summer I got an internship. One that provided me with an expectation of a healthy work environment, role models who exhibit perseverance, and values of assertiveness and honesty. I am thankful for this experience, however, I am a bit upset that it was such a great one because now it will be ending. I know it is for the best, I have opportunities lined up for the future, but now I have this expectation and knowledge of what it’s like to work in a place where you are encouraged constantly to speak your mind and push for the projects that you want to make happen. I just hope that I continue to have experiences such as this one. 

 

Thank you Kimberly Bradley and Laura Brown for your endless support and love, I appreciate both of you. Thank you to the rest of the CT Trails Team and partners, I have had such a wonderful time working with all of you, I hope our paths cross sometime soon. 

 

As we say farewell to Khadija Shaikh for all of her time and hard work, we also would like to say if you ever want to contact us, please feel free to at trails@uconn.edu

My Environmental Story: I can do more.

Author: Sharon Gray

My environmental story starts at a young age. I grew up in Upstate New York and nature was all around us. We had a field and forest as our backyard and my sister, brother, and I was forever playing in it. My family camped at Lake George and we vacationed at a cottage on Cape Cod every summer. I learned to ski at a young age as New York winters are long. I have skied all over New York, New England, Colorado, Wyoming, and California. Skiing brings you into nature’s winter wonders – sunlit days, fog, and cold and windy ones. 

Later as a young adult, I learned to sail. I sailed from Cape Vincent, New York often, which is a small village on Lake Ontario. I have also sailed the Finger lakes, Boston Harbor, and San Franciso Bay on all kinds of sailboats. I worked on a Tall Ship, the Regina Maris (a beautiful Barquentine – which had three masts) for nine months – sailing from Boston to Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. I loved climbing, the rigging, pulling in the sails, and the view. Being at sea and watching the stars at night with no other light is a magical experience that I miss. I also miss the interplay of the ocean, the tides, and the sea creatures. I am grateful for these experiences. Sailing is an immersion into the natural world -water and wind power the boat, but the beauty is all around you.

My environmental story is unique, I guess, as I have done it through the lens of someone with a disability. I have been an amputee for most of my life. I am quite adept at crutches and have been able to hike all but the most challenging and steep trails. I have been able to experience so many outdoor sports, but with unique challenges. I hiked 2 peaks in the Adirondacks the year that I lived there – it was exhausting and difficult, but worth the validation that I could do it and the view. I have a sensitivity to others with disabilities who may not have access to trails at all. Making open spaces and greenways accessible to individuals with disabilities is a must – as all of us deserve the benefits of the natural world. 

I worry about climate change as others do. I am concerned that my children and their children are facing a less hospitable planet to live on. I fear my carbon footprint is too great. I recycle, consign clothing, and have used reusable shopping bags forever, but I still drive a gas-using car, use too much paper and plastic, and use oil heat for my house. I care about using more vegetarian options to cut down on meat consumption. My youngest daughter tells me Bill Gates’s annual carbon footprint is 7,493 metric tons (how does she know this?) and mine is probably 5, but I can do more. My goal is to keep trying…little actions over time can lead to bigger outcomes.

I so value the perspectives of this team as we share stories, embrace good practices, promote diversity and inclusion, and expand the vision to make outdoor spaces open and accessible to everyone. Local impacts matter – and a group voice is powerful.

As we thank Sherry for her story, we also welcome communication and feedback! If you at all have any questions, concerns, or just want to have a conversation regarding what we share please contact us at trails@uconn.edu

Making Connections in Keney Park

Author: Stephanie Stroud

Keney Park is a place with a fascinating history. It is one of the biggest designed landscapes in the United States, and it was designed by the famous “Founder of Landscape Architecture,” Frederick Law Olmsted, in his very own birthplace of Hartford, CT! 

Today, this gem of a park offers woodland trails, sweeping grassy views, playgrounds, golf, and much more. It is the home of the Keney Park Sustainability Project, where founder Herb Virgo is working to create the next generation of healthy, productive, and environmentally conscious citizens. Keney Park may also be the missing link to safely connect North Hartford residents and visitors with their local riverfront for recreation—whether by foot, bike, scooter, wheelchair, or other modes of travel!    

The City of Hartford has been awarded a grant of planning assistance from the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA) to help explore options to safely connect North Hartford neighborhoods and Keney Park visitors to the Connecticut River. Sometimes people may not know that they have an incredible park in their own neighborhood, and even if they do visit the park, they may not know all of the great amenities it has to offer! We hope to share all of the close-to-home opportunities that are available at Keney Park with Hartford residents, while also exploring community ideas for how to improve connectivity and discover what else their local park may be able to offer. 

This past June, members of the PATHS (People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability) team joined the Keney Park Sustainability Project and the City of Hartford on a bike ride to explore Keney Park. CT Trail Finder and Trail Census coordinator, Kimberly Bradley, and Stephanie Stroud took some awesome photos shown below!

We are looking very forward to the journey to Keney Park!  As always if you have any feedback, please let us know at trails@uconn.edu