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Kirsten Dudley joined the local Shoreline Greenway Trail team shortly after moving to town. Now, she runs the group’s Facebook page and helps to maintain the trails and take residents on guided walks. (Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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For Kirsten Dudley and the Shoreline Greenway Trail, it’s all about moving forward and making connections. The group is clearing trails from New Haven to Madison to make the shoreline area a more walkable place.
“The end goal, like the future-future, would be to have trails that connect town to town to town,” Kirsten says.
Sections of trail already exist in Madison, Branford, and East Haven, but they don’t yet completely connect. The local portion of trail stretches for close to a mile and a half behind D.C. Moore School and Farm River State Park, but the project has encountered many challenges along the way.
The financial challenge “is huge,” Kirsten said. “[We need] more people to be involved, more people to donate, more people to volunteer their time—which is usually equally as important as the money.”
The trails are built on town land and are funded in part by grants and public donations, which can be made through the group’s Facebook page.
Money isn’t the only obstacle. There are also land issues to work through. The pending sale of D.C. Moore School presents a challenge to the trail’s land, though Kirsten says a solution is coming.
For the most part, growing the trail has been well-received.
“There’s tons of benefits to having a trail in your town, in your neighborhood,” she says. “It increases your property value it’s great for your city walking number.”
Still, some towns between East Haven and Madison have been more difficult to move into. Often, the problem is the land itself—”We can’t cross over this body of water or we can’t cross through this area of marsh,” Kirsten says.
Despite these problems, Kirsten and the rest of the team are dedicated to moving the project ahead.
“We just keep trying to get toward where we need to get to and to get through the issues we have,” she says.
Kirsten started working with the local Shoreline Greenway Trail team in 2015 shortly after moving to East Haven as a way to get to know the town and get outside.
“I was just curious to meet more people,” Kirsten says. “I love being outside so it’s really good to explore new places that I can go.”
When she started with the trails, she was tasked with maintenance—which largely means raking the leaves, a daunting mission for well over a mile of trail. More recently, she’s been operating the group’s Facebook page and attending guided walks.
Guided walks of the trails occur about three times a year. They start at the D.C. Moore end and run all the way through to Farm River. The next walk will be on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, even if snowshoes are required.
“It’ll pick right back up. Every month, there will be something going on in town,” she says.
Participants will have the chance to see a large rock that was deposited along the route by retreating glaciers thousands of years ago as well as an overlook of the Sound that was used for research by Quinnipiac University much more recently.
“Recently, it’s been a lot of new people. We’re not getting a lot of repeats,” Kirsten says. “Which is mostly good to see new faces.”
Getting the word out about the trails, Kirsten says, is an important job.
“We are here, we are here to add value to the places that you live. We are here to add excitement and add activity in the places that you live,” Kirsten says. “We encourage you to check out the things that are going on in your backyard.”
The town portions of the trail are well used during the summer months. Kirsten says their guided walks typically attract a minimum of 15 people and there are neighbors of the trail who visit two or three times in a week.
But even in the winter, the trails are well trafficked.
“We were [at the Madison trails] on a Saturday morning and it was like 29 degrees and there were people all over,” she says.
The trails are free to use and pet-friendly. The Farm River State Park portion of the trails has recently been topped with gravel, making it a great place to bike or walk.
“The [trail] in Farm River State Park is pretty awesome,” Kirsten says. “It’s a much safer walk for people of all ages to enjoy it.”
“Come see this trail that we have created with the hard work of a small group of people and hopefully support it,” she adds.
To nominate a Person of the Week, email Nathan Hughart at n.hughart@Zip06.com.
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