Volunteers blaze a new trail through the Nichols Parcel

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
East Haddam - posted Mon., May. 16, 2011
Hannah paints a trail marker on a tree. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
Hannah paints a trail marker on a tree. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

Throughout the year, the Pepsi Corporation provides material and manpower support for community projects in New England through its Pepsi Supports Surrounding Towns program.  

“We want to give back to the communities that support us,” said Jeremy Pufky of the Pepsi Beverage Company in Uncasville. Area Pepsi affiliates send out a call to surrounding towns announcing the availability of support and asking for applications. The company then picks the application “that would be the most impactful for the community,” he said. Recently, Pufky’s group chose the town of East Haddam.

So last Saturday, May 14, Pufky and a group of Pepsi volunteers were in town, working together with local volunteers and members of the East Haddam Land Trust to clear and mark a trail through the Nichols Parcel – 120 acres of open space originally sold to the town by the estate of Mary Nichols in 1968 for $1 – off Route 149, adjacent to the transfer station.

“It’s a massive undertaking,” said T.J. Tarbox from the town’s Conservation Commission. Eventually, the 1-mile loop trail will intersect trails leading from Pickeral Lake to the north and the town recreation area to the south to provide more than 2 miles worth of trails suitable for hikers, joggers and general outdoor enthusiasts.  The goal, said Tarbox, is to get some of the nearly 2,000 acres of town-owned open space into a condition in which it can be enjoyed by the public.

But right now, “it’s a work in progress,” according to Tarbox, and the help provided by the Pepsi Corp. will go far in helping to reach that ultimate goal. In addition to the manpower, Pepsi provided refreshments and lunch, as well as a picnic table that will remain at the new trail head.

“I love to hike and walk,” said Deb Denette, one of the handful of town volunteers working their way north on the eastern part of the trail.  She was there with her daughter, Hannah, who was painting the trail markers on trees.

Saying that she is no stranger to blazing trails because of her son, who is a Boy Scout, Denette also likes the sense of community that comes from working collaboratively on such a project.

“Many hands make light work. It’s nice, it’s social, and at the end of the day, you’ve accomplished something,” she said.

On the western side of the transfer station road, Land Trust President Rob Smith was leading a group of members in the opposite direction from the Pepsi and town volunteers.

“Eventually we’ll meet up somewhere in the middle,” said Smith, as he cleared larger plants with a chain saw. His group was following an old, hard-to-find trail system, incorporating as much of that system into the current trail as they could. They were starting with the clearing and raking, he said, and would come out at a later date to help finish the trail. 

Though it’s still early and there is much work to be done, Smith is optimistic that people will enjoy the new trails.

“Once they get out on the trails, I think people will be very pleased to see what they have here,” said Smith.

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