Looking West

Looking West
Trees are leafing out in this view from the Regicides Trail looking to New Haven and West Haven in May 2017.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Welcome to the West Rock Trails website

West Rock Ridge State Park is located in Hamden and New Haven, Connecticut (with a small portion in Woodbridge and Bethany). West Rock Ridge is the second largest state park in Connecticut with 1,722 acres of land (and growing).* 
There are many recreational opportunities available at West Rock.

This website has pages arranged by topic. Click on the web page name below or the links at the right to access the page that interests you.

(The date of Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010 is the date this website was started.
The most recent update took place Sunday, May 14, 2017.)

The spring 2017 edition of Ridgelines, the newsletter of the West Rock Ridge Park Association, has been posted to the association's website. Past editions are available at the same link. The newsletter has a copy of the below article on the new Connecticut Walk Book. The release date has been pushed back from the May 2 date listed in the online article to mid-May to early June 2017. Link: https://westrockpark.wordpress.com/newsletters/

Connecticut Walk Book 20th Edition Arrives in May or June
The 20th edition of the Connecticut Walk Book: The Complete Guide to Connecticut’s Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails arrives in late May to early June. This is later date than originally expected. The softcover book will be sold for $30, and will be published by Wesleyan University Press.

This is the official guide produced by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA) for its network of 825 miles of blue-blazed trails, including the Regicides, Quinnipiac, Sanford Feeder, and Westville Feeder at West Rock Ridge State Park. For the first time, CPFA has contracted with an outside company to publish the book.

This is the first update since the book was previously published in 2005 as the Connecticut Walk Book East and 2006 as the Connecticut Walk Book West. The two-edition walk book was created in celebration of the approximate 75th anniversary of the original book, which was published in 1937. The two thick volumes of that edition included turn-by-turn narratives, photographs, mileage tables, and essays on topics related to the trails.

The 20th edition returns to the one-book format with a minimalist approach. Each trail gets a short introduction of a few paragraphs, includes a mileage table, and a map. I wrote a revised description for the Regicides, Sanford Feeder, and Westville Feeder Trails.

There are no photographs within the book or other information to keep it to a manageable size. Those who own the older editions should keep them as a reference, as they have the essays and other information not in the new edition. The Regicides Trail section has essays entitled “West Rock and the Landscape Artists” and “Judges Cave.”

The Regicides Trail was featured in the 1937 edition of the book, along with the Quinnpiac Trail, which was the first blue-blazed trail. Also in that book was a much longer Naugatuck Trail, which used to extend from Route 42 in Bethany where it currently ends, all the way south to Route 34 in Woodbridge. The Woodbridge Conservation Commission now manages portions of the old Naugatuck Trail. The now defunct Bluff Trail paralleled Route 69 and followed the road’s western boundary, crossing over north of Lake Watrous and connected to the Quinnipiac Trail over what is now the Sanford Feeder.

From the 1937 edition, “The new Regicides Trail, as yet marked only with white rags starts here [Judges Cave] and follows the range, mostly along the western cliffs. When completed, this will be one of the most spectacular cliff walks in New England.”

As trail conditions are ever-changing, the CFPA has a page on its website called the “Blue Trails Interactive Map,” which provides updates to any trails, such as closures or relocations. I have finished any relocations to these trails at West Rock, so there will likely be no updates on the trails. Website: https://www.ctwoodlands.org/blue-blazed-hiking-trails

Revised West Rock map posted to the state website
The state has posted an updated trails map of West Rock to its website. This map shows all the updates to trails, updates which are detailed on the Trail Updates page. Be sure to print the new map when using the park. Website: http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/stateparks/maps/westrockparkmap.pdf
Link to the GPS friendly map, which can be used on a smart phone: http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/stateparks/maps/westrockgps.pdf

Revised Naugatuck State Forest map posted to the state website
The state has posted an updated trails map of the Naugatuck State Forest, West Block, and East Block to its website. The first map shows all the trail colors that resulted from the project I did (with help from others) in the West Block.
East Block map: http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/stateparks/maps/naugatuckeastblock.pdfFull details on the state forest are available on this page: http://westrocktrails.blogspot.com/p/naugatuck-state-forest-west-block.html

DEEP Agrees to Replant Tree in Hill Street Meadow
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has agreed to plant a tree in the meadow near Hill Street. This does not exactly replace the 100 year old tree that was cut down, but at least this is a step in the right direction. The West Rock Ridge Park Association is concerned because the DEEP is proposing placing the tree closer to the gravel road, rather than near the location of the former tree in the center of the field. The New Haven Register published a story on this topic on Nov. 10, 2016: http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20161110/deep-to-replace-tree-they-took-down-in-west-rock-park-in-hamden

DOT Plans for the West Rock Tunnel
The Department of Transportation (DOT) hosted a meeting in Woodbridge regarding its plans for the West Rock Tunnel (Heroes Tunnel) in fall 2016. This meeting was NOT covered by any newspaper or television station. A copy of the PowerPoint is available at the DOT website: http://www.ct.gov/dot/lib/dot/9-22-16_final_public_scoping_presentation.pdf
The PowerPoint ends with a slide naming a website where it and other tunnel-related documents would be posted. That website address was never used and is not active. Instead, the DOT created a website for the tunnel project at http://www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?a=3893&q=585986 with two historical documents, plus the PDF mentioned above.
Read the details of the Woodbridge presentation, which includes a full explanation of the PowerPoint as explained by the presenters, on the West Rock Tunnel page on this website at http://westrocktrails.blogspot.com/p/west-rock-tunnel.html

One historical document is a 38-page typed report from 1950, giving facts, figures, and many historical photos of the tunnel construction. The document describes the various options that were considered and why the current design was the best choice and location for a tunnel. The document is titled "The West Rock Tunnel on the Wilbur  Cross Parkway, New Haven, 1948-1949" and was compiled by the Connecticut State Highway Department.When I downloaded the PDF, I rotated the photo pages and the separate caption pages, changing the orientation from portrait to landscape, so the photos could be properly viewed. The photo pages appear to be an old-style black paper onto which the photos were glued. Link: http://www.ct.gov/dot/lib/dot/_heroes_tunnel_hist_report_bcd__0167-0108.pdf
The other historical document is 68 pages worth of engineering drawings for the tunnel. Link: http://www.ct.gov/dot/lib/dot/er_con_asb_0185-0090_scanned.pdf

The next informational meeting on the tunnel project will take place Wednesday, June 7, 2017 in the City of New Haven, Hall of Records Building (Room G2), 200 Orange Street, New Haven. An open forum for individual discussions with DOT officials begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by a formal presentation at 7:00 p.m.
The link to the full press release is here: http://www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?A=2135&Q=592788

Fall colors frame the West Rock Tunnel (Heroes Tunnel) in fall 2015.

Limited Hours for Main Gate Opening
The main gate on Wintergreen Avenue closed for the season on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, and will reopen the Saturday, May 27, 2017 on Memorial Day weekend. The other parking areas are readily available 8 a.m. to dusk with the nearest and best choice being the Lake Wintergreen parking lot, 40 Main St., Hamden.

The parking lot adjacent to the main entrance is open due to a broken chain. This parking lot is actually owned and operated by the Department of Parks, City of New Haven. According to Park Ranger Martin Torresquinterro, people keep breaking the chain, and the parks department has not yet implemented a more permanent solution. Martin recommends that if people park in this lot that they hide any valuables, since there have been break-ins in this lot. As detailed elsewhere on this website, I have seen broken window glass on the pavement from people parked both outside and inside the main entrance. Play it safe and park at Lake Wintergreen, or other locations.

Purple Trail Relocation
The relocation/extension of the Purple Trail is complete, effective May 9, 2016. The Purple Trail now connects directly to an overlook of Lake Dawson and Glen Lake in Woodbridge, and also to the North Summit Trail that descends into Woodbridge. The Purple Trail connects to the Regicides Trail in the same location. The former Purple Trail from the split at the relocation to the Regicides Trail 0.3 miles south of the overlook has been blazed Purple-Orange.

North Summit Trail Color Change
Effective May 30, 2016, Woodbridge has changed the color of the North Summit Trail from Red to Blue-Yellow. The intent is to create a cross-Woodbridge trail that is blazed in one color. Woodbridge has also changed the color of the loop trail at the Bishop Estate and Darling House property from Blue to Red. Photos of this color change may be seen at this page: http://westrocktrails.blogspot.com/p/north-summit-old-oak-solar-youth-trails.html.
The updated map for the Bishop Estate East and Darling House Trails that shows the revised trail colors may be downloaded here: http://scrcog.org/wp-content/uploads/trails/woodbridge/alt/RecTrails_WO2_Alt_6-2-16.pdf
The South Central Regional Council of Governments has updated all the maps on its website for trails in Greater New Haven, and these maps may be downloaded from its website at this address: http://scrcog.org/regional-planning/regional-trails/ Scroll down to the desired town and click on the tab to view the list of maps.

Emerald Ash Borer Invades West Rock
 The emerald ash borer, an insect native to Asia, is killing the ash trees at West Rock Ridge State Park and there is no practical solution at the moment to save them in the forest.
I have seen the dead ash trees across different parts of West Rock, along the Sanford Feeder, which is Regional Water Authority property, and on the Darling House property in Woodbridge. I have also seen them in the Naugatuck State Forest in Oxford, Beacon Falls and Naugatuck.

The larvae kill the trees by eating phloem, cambium, and xylem inside the bark, which disrupts the flow of nutrients in the tree. A tree typically dies within two to three years of being infested. One concern is that the dead trees are prone to simply falling over, which presents a hazard to forest users. The other concern is the loss of an important forest tree.

Ash trees are estimated to comprise 5 percent of the trees in a forest. From my own informal observations, I see ash trees in scattered located at West Rock where oak, beech, birch, and maple trees are far more common. One positive sign in this infestation is that the borer feeds exclusively on ash trees, so other native trees will not be harmed.

The dead trees are mostly easily recognized by a phenomenon called “blonding” in which woodpeckers strip off the dark outer bark to reach the borer larvae, leaving the light-colored inner bark showing. Another telltale sign of borer damage is the D-shaped holes created by the adult insects where they tunnel out of the trees; the flat part of the D is on the top of the holes. If the bark is completely removed, the tunneling from the larvae is clearly visible.

The bright green colored adults are about a third to a half inch long. The adults resemble the native six-spotted tiger beetle. The state is investigating the use of a parasitic wasp from Asia to kill the eggs and larvae. For ash trees on cultivated properties, insecticides are a possibility to save trees that are not heavily infested.

The insect was first spotted in Michigan in 2002, and likely arrived on wood packaging materials from Asia. The borer has spread rapidly across the country, arriving in Prospect, Conn. in 2012. Sightings were confirmed in Hamden in 2014.

The most important advice people can follow is “don’t move firewood,” as moving infested ash trees is one reason why the borer is spreading so rapidly. The state has strict regulations regarding the movement of firewood, as a result of the borer infestation.

Some of the information from this article came from the following websites, which have more details than this quick article can provide:

Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station: http://www.ct.gov/caes/cwp/view.asp?a=2826&Q=508926&PM=1&caesNav=%7C, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection: http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2697&q=464598&deepNav_GID=1631%20, Midwest-based Emerald Ash Borer Information Network: http://www.emeraldashborer.info/

This ash tree along the Regicides Trail in January 2017 shows extensive "blonding" caused by woodpeckers stripping away the darker outer bark to get at the emerald ash borers that killed the tree.
A closer look of the "blonding" caused by woodpeckers stripping away the darker outer bark of an ash tree. Small "D" holes are visible in the bark.
An even closer look of the "blonding" caused by woodpeckers stripping away the darker outer bark of an ash tree. Small "D" holes are visible in the bark. The adult emerald ash borers create these holes when they tunnel out of the tree.
General Information
Trail Descriptions
Information for Specific Activities
Natural Features
Historical Information
Trail Maintenance
The trail descriptions are spread across so many pages to make the information easier to access.

* The largest state park by area is Macedonia Brook State Park in Kent with 2,302 acres. Sleeping Giant is third in size for state parks with 1,673 acres of property. Gay City places fourth in size with 1,569 acres. 
All these state parks are dwarfed Pachaug State Forest in northeastern Connecticut with 28,804 acres, Cockaponset State Forest with 17,186 acres divided among multiple properties in eastern Connecticut, Centennial Watershed State Forest spread over 15,370 acres of current and former watershed land in Fairfield County, Housatonic Meadows in Litchfield County with 10,894 acres, and Meshomasic State Forest, east of the Connecticut River with 9,026 acres.
There are numerous other state forests larger than any state park.

The state of Connecticut continues to add land to West Rock Ridge as it comes on the market (or is donated) and as funds are available for purchase. The legislation that created the park legally requires homeowners within the park's legal boundaries to give the state a right of first refusal for purchase.

What is the difference between a state forest and a state park? There are two basic differences. The state actively manages state forests for both lumber and habitat, cutting areas of trees on a regular basis. The state also allows hunting in state forests, except where they are close to roads and buildings.
Hunting is generally prohibited in state parks. One exception is a limited deer hunting season at Collis P. Huntington State Park in Redding/Bethel. The park name is a coincidence, as it was named for its wealthy donor.

West Rock Ridge is part of a much larger greenbelt in south central Connecticut. On the western side of the ridge is open space land owned by the South Central Regional Water Authority (RWA) and the town of Woodbridge, among others. Between Rt. 69 and West Rock there is is 3,753 acres of land. There is another 8,912 acres of protected open space nearby, but not adjacent to West Rock, in Hamden, Woodbridge and Bethany, plus the sliver of the Naugatuck State Forest, Mt. Sanford Block, extending into Cheshire.

On the eastern side of the ridge on Hill Street is land owned by the town of Hamden. Part of the open field and woods near Farm Brook Reservoir is 42 acres of Hamden land. On the east side of Hill Street is Laurel View County Club, a golf course owned by the town of Hamden, which is 161 acres.
These numbers were derived from online GIS maps for Woodbridge, Hamden, Bethany, and Cheshire.

These numbers exclude other open space in Cheshire, and the acreage for the Naugatuck Forest Eastern Block extending into Beacon Falls. Any errors in identifying and totaling these numbers are strictly mine.

Open Space Near West Rock

East of Rt. 69 (adjacent to West Rock)

RWA, including Lake Watrous, Lake Dawson
Darling House property
Konolds Pond: private
Town of Woodbridge
by Konolds Pond and athletic fields
City of New Haven land

RWA, including Lake Bethany

RWA, north of West Rock

Town-owned land by Farm Brook Reservoir
Laurel View Country Club

Open Space Contiguous to West Rock

Open Space Near West Rock

Between Rt. 63 and Rt. 69
Bethany: RWA including Lake Chamberlain
Woodbridge, RWA, including Glen Lake
Town of Woodbridge

West of Rt. 63
Bethany, RWA, west of Rt. 63
Naugatuck State Forest, Bethany
Woodbridge, RWA
Town of Woodbridge

Bethany Townwide
Bethany Conservation Commission
Bethany Land Trust

Sleeping Giant State Park
Brooksvale Park
Naugatuck Forest, Mt. Sanford Block
Regional Water Authority

Naugatuck State Forest

Open Space near West Rock