Learning about Appalachian Trail a walk in the park for Esty
FALLS VILLAGE – For U.S. Rep. Elizabeth H. Esty, a walk on the Appalachian Trail not only was a good way to spend some time in a bucolic setting, but also to learn about a natural resource that plays an important part in some of her district’s towns.
On Wednesday, she joined Will Callaway, mid-Atlantic policy manager of the Appalachian Mountain Club; Dave Boone, chairman of the Connecticut chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Appalachian Trail Committee; Adam Brown, conservation stewardship manager of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and Tim Abbott of the Housatonic Valley Association for a stroll on a 1-mile loop that hugs the Housatonic River.
As the group wended its way along the dirt path surrounded by huge trees, saplings, wildflowers and patches of invasive weeds, they talked about the trail that stretches for a total of 2,192 miles from Georgia to Maine. Under the auspices of the National Park Service, the trail covers 52.9 miles in Connecticut. In some areas, the land is locally owned with easements given to the NPS.
“This is an environmental treasure,” Esty said as she stopped to get a closer look at a tree that was hollowed out at its base.
“Doesn’t look like a beaver’s markings,” Abbott said. Most agreed it was the work of woodpeckers.
Esty said the environment is a critical part of the economic engine in the Northwest Corner. She is a proponent of spending money to help preserve it. “That’s why people come here,” she said. “Sustainability should be a core part of quality of life.”
The conservancy and mountain club work to ensure the safety of the trail, monitoring trees that might be a hazard and keeping the passages clear for those traveling them. Callaway said though the land is owned by the National Park Service, it doesn’t have the manpower to maintain the trail. That’s where these groups, who are assisted by legions of volunteers, come in, he said.
Callaway pointed to Boone, saying he and his crews do the on-the-ground conservation, while his work is focused on making policies. His area covers the trail in Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut. The goal is to protect the land and ensure public access.
Esty, who made several stops in the Northwest Corner throughout the day, said walking a long distance on the trail is definitely something on her to-do list in the future. She said she loved the tall pines that are probably 100 years or older, and enjoyed the loud sounds of a woodpecker, who could be seen high up in a tree. She also delighted in seeing Japanese knotweed, a reminder of her childhood.
“We need to let people know the gems we have here,” she said. “We tend to hide and not talk about them. They are under-appreciated and underutilized.”
She said protecting and preserving the environment needs to be a collaboration among private activists and local, state and federal governments.
As the group gathered in the parking area after finishing the walk, Esty looked around and said, “I feel refreshed and rejuvenated. It’s a way to connect with nature.”