Meet Your Trail Host Hero
Interview with Dianne Crocker, Quinnipiac Trail Landowner
The first trail established in the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail System, the Quinnipiac Trail passes through the towns of Hamden, Cheshire, Bethany, and Prospect. It offers fun and challenging hiking as it traverses numerous traprock ridges. Great views, peaceful forests, and the State’s highest single-drop waterfall round out the full Quinnipiac Trail experience. Dianne Crocker, pictured above, owns property hosting a section of the trail in Hamden. Here’s her perspective of being a trail landowner. Thanks for being a trail host hero, Dianne!
How long have you lived on your property?
“We bought our house in spring 2007 (right before the Great Financial Crisis).”
What’s special about your land to you?
“We are fortunate to live close to everything New Haven offers, but with the feel of being in Vermont. Surrounded by woods, we’re keenly aware of whatever Mother Nature is dishing out: severe rain, gorgeous full moons, snowstorms, and even the tornado that destroyed Sleeping Giant in 2018 (which luckily left our property largely unscathed). We’ve seen all kinds of wildlife pass by our windows, including deer, bobcat, foxes, skunks, and a raccoon we’ve named Rocky who makes frequent nighttime visits to our deck. I’m always grateful in the spring when the trees grow new leaves and we get our privacy back after being exposed through the winter season.”
What’s your favorite thing about having a Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail on your land?
“There’s nothing better than being about to walk out the slider and be on the trail without having to drive anywhere. I appreciated this convenience even more when the pandemic hit and made hermits out of all of us. In just 30 minutes of climbing, the trail delivers a gorgeous view of the surrounding land, with the high rises of New Haven and the harbor in the distance. I have two young children and having trail access makes it easier to instill in them the same of love of hiking and the outdoors that my Dad instilled in me. (At 87 years young, he’s still an avid hiker!)”
Sections of many of our most popular trails travel through privately owned land. What should hikers and other trail users be aware of when they use a trail that may cross private property? What advice do you have for them?
“The obvious advice is to recognize that access is at owners’ discretion. The only way to ensure access is to be respectful and leave the trail the way you found it, keep noise to a minimum, and don’t approach houses.”
Let’s be honest, hosting a hiking trail is not without its challenges. What are some of the difficulties of having a trail on your property that trail users may not be aware of? What issues have you had to deal with?
“If we want to protect our trails from the damage done by motorized vehicles, I think we need to take stronger measures than just signage. Experience in our neighborhood confirms that we can’t rely on owners to abide by a sign, and these vehicles do significant damage not just to the trail, but are extremely disruptive both to hikers and wildlife. I’ve also taken a strong stand against residential development that threatens our trail network. As citizens, we need to use every measure at our discretion to preserve CT’s woodlands, wetlands, and trails for the enjoyment of future generations.”
Anything else you want to say? Feel free to share!
“As a society, we’re in challenging, chaotic, confusing times, but I haven’t faced anything yet that a quiet hike in our woods can’t fix. You never know what a hike will deliver, whether it’s a bird you never saw before, a cool snake, or the first hopeful sign of spring after a long, cold winter. This AM with my family, we came upon a tree with significant recent damage, triggering a long conversation about whether it was caused by a buck, lightning or a young, teething bear (see pic). Our trail system is a precious resource that we should all make time to enjoy, protect and respect for years to come.”
Protecting the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails
You might assume our Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails are fully protected by being on conserved lands. The truth is, ever since the establishment of the first Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail in 1929, our trails have crossed a mosaic of public and private lands. Some of our most popular trails, such as the Quinnipiac Trail, New England National Scenic Trail, and the Nipmuck Trail, have numerous and often lengthy sections on unprotected private lands. The landowners that own such lands graciously permit public access through their property, always free of charge and often without any recognition or even awareness by those that use the trails.
The private landowners that host our trails are as important for the long-term sustainability of our trails as ever. Without them allowing passage, the Blue-Blazed Trails would simply not exist as they do in their current form. Unfortunately, poor trail user etiquette, such as leaving behind trash, etc., jeopardizes public access to the trails we all love and puts an undue burden on those who own the land. So to shed a little light on the heroes that allow the trails on their land, we’re publishing a series of interviews with Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail landowners from across the state.