Many people don't know our history and don’t realize how the BPC is an integral part of our club.
A Brief History of the Lower Connecticut River Valley Horsemen’s Club, the Bridle Path Conservancy, and the Quinimay Trail
The Lower Connecticut River Valley Horsemen’s Club (a 501c 07 corporation—social/recreational) was started in 1962 by a group of friends who were interested in taking care of local trails and riding together on weekends. They would meet in each other’s living rooms and swap horse stories between tackling club business. An annual horse show was a source of revenue and a very large undertaking for the small group. For many years, an ECTRA (Eastern Competitive Trail Riders Association) sanctioned 25-mile Competitive Trail ride expanded their list of events. LCRVHC members (especially the Elliott family) worked hard to influence the state’s purchase of the Weber Woods section of Cockaponset State Forest from the Weber family when Dr. Weber passed away and developers were interested in the land. Currently about 75 members strong, we hold monthly meetings (often with an educational program), almost-monthly member-only rides (often on private land), and an annual Fall Hunter Pace in Weber Woods (open to the public and our only fundraiser), as well as almost-monthly trail work parties, and potlucks and parties for our members. Quite a few of our members are also active in the CHC-VHP program (Connecticut Horse Council-Volunteer Horse Patrol).
In 2004, in light of the heavy development in our area, our concerns for the loss of trails we had ridden for decades became extreme. We researched converting our club from a 501c 07 to a 501c 03 for the purpose of trail preservation and ended up spinning off a separate 501c 03 corporation (conservation/education) from our trails committee. The mission statement follows:
The Bridle Path Conservancy is a non-profit group dedicated to the preservation, enhancement and acquisition of multi-purpose, passive-use, recreational trails on public and private land in Connecticut and southern New England. While the Conservancy was founded by equestrian enthusiasts, it seeks to support all open space and trail initiatives. By managing, educating, and cooperating with others to create opportunities to facilitate and preserve trails, the Conservancy strives to keep recreational land available for present and future generations to enjoy.
Our first year a very real threat to equestrian enthusiasts came up when the state proposed that equestrians would only be permitted on trails that were specifically designated and marked as multi-use trails. Over 100 horsey folks turned out on a cold January night for a meeting to discuss how to address this threat. Several of us went to Hartford and testified in support of the CHC counter proposal that all trails should be considered multi-use unless specifically marked otherwise (blue trails are still foot traffic only). Our members worked alongside the CHC to map/evaluate trails in our area and all over the state for suitability for equestrian use. Eventually the CHC proposal passed allowing us to use virtually all the trails in the state parks and forests of Connecticut.
Brad Turley, Pat Martin, and Kristin Elliott Leas were the first leaders of the BPC. A non-membership organization depending on LCRVHC for manpower and motivation, the BPC was able to do some fund-raising among the LCRVHC membership and obtain some grants for tools and supplies. Early grants included funds from ELCR (Equestrian Land Conservation Resource), NEMBA (New England Mountain Bike Association), and the CT-DEP. We partnered with the Connecticut chapter of NEMBA, and the Deep River Sprockids on some early projects. We started out by replacing 3 rotting or non-existent bridges in Weber Woods in the summer of 2005. Over the next few years we armored several stream crossings and several hundred yards of trail. Volunteers besides LCRVHC members included pony clubbers, bike riders, dog walkers, boy scouts, college kids, and even a couple of guys from the sub base in Groton who showed up after seeing a press release. We formed/nurtured relationships with local land trusts (especially those in Clinton and Westbrook, but also Killingworth and Lyme) and helped them with trail work including building some more bridges. We also gained some “cred” with the folks from CFPA (Connecticut Forest and Parks Association), teaming up with Rob Butterworth for National Trails Day events--working on the orange trail form 2006 to 2010. In 2009 we replaced a multi-use bridge on that trail. In 2011 we sponsored an Eagle Scout Project to build a multi-use bridge on the Quinimay Trail. Are you hearing a theme here? Thanks to architect, Tom Elliott, Kristin’s dad and long-time member, for the design, engineering, and project management!
Then, in addition to maintaining Weber Woods Trails, we started looking for ways to link-up existing trails and greenways. We looked at maps showing open space and tried to make sense of it in the woods. One day Alex Sokolow (DEP-Park & Recreation Supervisor
Cockaponset SF, Chatfield Hollow SP, Wadsworth Falls SP) and some of his mountain-biking friends got together with Brad and Kristin (on horseback) and (GPS in hand) bushwhacked their way north from Weber Woods to Beaver Meadow Road in Higganum, connecting a series of trails ranging from well-traveled to almost over-grown. We started calling this the “Epic” trail and continued to work on it. Working with Alex and the folks from DEP we mapped it and campaigned for acceptance as a designated trail. Finally late in 2008 we received word, the state had accepted the now-named Quinimay Trail! (Quinimay roughly means long path in the Pequot language.) In 2009 we clipped, cleared, and marked the Quinimay Trail from one end to the other, culminating with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on National Public Lands Day in September. There is still plenty of work to be done, water bars and armoring to be installed, erosion risk areas to be taken care of, and the never ending clipping and removing of blow downs but it’s ride-able (horse or bike) and hike-able now and the more it gets used the better it will be. Look for the tan and green plastic multi-use markers placed above the colored trail blazes.
In late 2010 we received a grant from the DEP Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, State Parks Division, allowing us to purchase a Muck Truck walk-behind motorized wheelbarrow and a Stihl Kombi-Tool with brush cutter, pole saw, and string trimmer attachments. To obtain this grant we had to match the funds with an equivalent number of hours in volunteer time. We purchased the machines in Spring 2011 and debuted the new “wee truckee” at National Trails Day in June 2011 where it was used on a trail armoring project on the white trail.
In the months since Tropical Storm Irene and the Halloween Nor’easter snowstorm our members have logged hundreds of hours clearing storm debris and remarking trails in Weber Woods, local land trusts, and along the Quinimay Trail.
Future plans (or dreams) include creating a brochure about the Quinimay Trail with a map to be placed at the trailheads and on the DEP’s web site, someday perhaps establishing a horse camp at the old sand pit near the north end of the Quinimay Trail, extending the Quinimay Trail south (maybe to Long Island Sound?) and north (maybe to link up with the MMM Trail?) and of course, maintaining what we have, and continuing our horse riders as good ambassadors program. I’d like to enlist all of you to help us meet these goals. The work is fun and rewarding.