The 4.3 mile Chatfield Trail is located entirely within the town of Killingworth. Set in a lovely forest just south of Chatfield Hollow State Park, it traverses around, over, and literally right through numerous rocky outcrops and ledges. The narrow bedrock clefts around the “Fat Man’s Squeeze” rock formation are especially impressive. Several brooks round out the diverse array of features along this trail. The Chatfield Trail has been in the news recently due to the impending sale of the Deer Lake Scout Reservation.

Tommy Downing, pictured here on his property, is a landowner hosting a portion of the Chatfield Trail. He agreed to answer some questions with our Trails Protection Coordinator. Thanks, Tommy!

Which Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail crosses through your property?

The southern section of the Chatfield Trail from the trailhead at River Road to the bridge on Paper Mill Road; about a ½ mile section.

How long have you lived on your property?

20 years

What’s special about your land to you?

This entire stretch of trail goes along side of the Chatfield River and is nestled within a long patch of Mountain Laurels; very private and peaceful.

Many do not know that there is a small hidden sanctuary with a picnic table about 5 minutes in from the southern trailhead on River Rd (heading north) right along the river by an area that we call the “rocky beach”. It is a fantastic spot in the midst of the Laurels to take a break and have a snack or even a picnic lunch as the river turns, water passes by and time seems to stand still.

What’s your favorite thing about having a Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail on your land?

We enjoy being able to share this treasure with neighbors, hikers, trail runners, etc. so that they can enjoy this gift of nature.  We are avid outdoors people and love to see others enjoy the area as well.

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?

Many people walk their dogs on this trail. Please make sure dogs are on a leash and that they do not leave their poop right on the trail. Also please carry out what you carry in in terms of trash/garbage to keep the trail looking beautiful for everyone to enjoy.

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?

Wandering dogs, especially aggressive ones that run ahead. There are often children on the trails as well or other dogs which can cause an incident. Also trail maintenance can be laborious at times such as after a storm; fallen trees appear right in the middle of the trail and block passage.

Do you know any interesting facts about the history of your land/property?

The homestead which the property belongs to is well over 200 years old and was originally called Long Meadow. The entire valley along the river where the trail goes was once a large open meadow. The property was once owned by Hugh Lofting (the author of many Dr. Doolittle children’s books) and at least seven Dr. Doolittle books were written in the homestead on the corner of River Rd and Papermill Rd (the red house surrounded by a white picket fence). It is said that Hugh Lofting’s inspiration for Dr. Doolittle’s befriending and talking with animals was born at this location. The home is recognized as a Recorded Property in the Connecticut State Register of Historic Places.

Anything else you want to say? Feel free to share!

Often times people start at Chatfield Hollow and follow the blue trail south to the point of losing their bearings…. Only to show up at the southern trailhead on our property at dusk (some 4+ miles away from their starting point at Chatfield!) and are lost, thirsty and sometimes panicky. Please know that if that happens, please knock on our door and we are happy to help whether it be with water, a snack, or even a ride back to the car if need be.

You might assume our Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails (“Blue Trails”) are fully protected by being on conserved lands. But ever since the first Blue Trail, they have crossed a mosaic of public and private lands. Some of our most popular trails, such as the Quinnipiac Trail and the New England National Scenic Trail, have numerous and often lengthy sections on unprotected private lands. The landowners of those properties graciously allow public access. They do so free of charge and often without awareness or thanks by trail users.

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 Trails would not exist as they do. Unfortunately, poor trail user etiquette jeopardizes public access to the trails. Actions like trespassing and littering put 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 Trail landowners from across the state.