History of Al's Trail

A Trail that stretches 10.72 miles from Pond Brook Boat Launch to the Railroad Bridge on Deep Brook. This trail runs through “The Greenway.”

Patricia Barkman

Al Goodrich
Al Goodrich, for whom Al's Trail is named.

When Al Goodrich and Mary Mitchell, authors of the Newtown Trails Books, met with Gary Fetzer and others in the fall of 1997, the idea of a long, several-mile trail through Newtown was born. Al worked on mapping and permissions. He appealed to the town government for support.

In 2002 Pat Barkman saw the slide presentation that Al Goodrich and Judy Holmes and other Open Space Task Force (OSTF) members made to the Board of Selectmen. Chair, Judy Homes asked Pat to join the OSTF and showed her parts of the trail that she and Al were having difficulty with. Pat and Judy explored the area around Shepaug Dam and found a route. Al and later Pat began cloth marking the trail with strips of old striped bed sheet, to distinguish these blowing-in-the-wind markers from survey tape. Boy Scouts as well as Sally O’Neil, Renee Baade, Al and Pat blazed this area. Bruce McLaughlin improved it by building a bridge and stone steps. Scott Coleman with his children, Sarah and Tyler helped clear the trail.

In July 2002 Al moved from Boggs Hill to Walnut Tree Hill Village and began exploring near by Rocky Glen State Park (RGSP), as a place to walk. Al wanted the trail down Glen Road. Pat wanted it through Rocky Glen State Park. Leon Barkman, Dave Cronin, Dottie and John Evans, Joe Hovious, Adrian Sharp, Rob Lynders, Cristina Barnicoat, Bill O’Neil, and Dan Tichon cleared the trail in this section and created stone bridges under Harlan Jessup’s leadership. Dan Tichon improved the Dayton Street entrance to the trail, especially over the culvert. He also made a Kiosk for maps and other signs just north of the Dayton Street Bridge as his Eagle Scout project 2004. Dan Letson created a portion of trail that leads from Antler Pine Road to Black Bridge Road as his Eagle Scout Project. Pilar Bauta and Pat marked the white trail through RGSP. Pete Sofman built stone bridges and cleared trail between Albert’s Hill and Black Bridge. He and Dave Roberts secured the trail leading up to the vista. Pat Barkman blazed the trail along Black Bridge to the Gold Mine and she and Deb Osborne replanted wintergreen plants in that area to move them off of the new trail.

Pat worked with Al for two years, and continued overseeing the trail improvements after Al passed away in 2004.

Those who worked under I-84 with John Evans include Peter Lewis, Adrian Sharp, Steve Grover, Dottie Evans, Danny and Pam Tichon, Leon and Pat Barkman, James Belden, Rob Lynders, Cristina Barnicoat, and Brian Burke.

People who have allowed us to use their land by giving us easements include The Methodist Church and the McLaughlin family who have signed easements to use their land. The Nature Conservancy and The Newtown Forest Association granted us permission to cross their lands. Gary Diehl of the Newtown United Methodist Church granted us permission to relocate the trail away from the unstable bank of the Pootatuck and for parking except on Sunday mornings. Northeast Generation Services signed a license in 2003 to be reviewed every five years for permission to use their land.

Financial contributors include the private Newtown Tree Project who gave us a check for $5,000 to plant sycamores, Norway spruce, white pine, red bud dogwood, etc. near the Pootatuck River and Deep Brook. Experiential High School students under teacher, Mary Ann Sneickus along with 125 other volunteers helped to plant trees. Four men, spent two days on the back hoe/diggers clearing holes for the trees and removing invasive species such as Multifloral Rose, Bittersweet, Japanese Barberry, and Autumn Olive. The Lions Club gave over three thousand dollars including the proceeds from their pancake breakfast. Trout Unlimited provided environmental ideas and labor for bog bridges. Iroquois Pipeline also contributed sizable amounts.

Artist Donna Ball designed the markers. Pilar Bauta helped Pat clear and blaze the trail through The Nature Conservancy land.

Dave Cronin, Scott Sharlow, and Alan Page created maps. Al Goodrich, Dave Cronin, Pat Barkman, and Alan Page took photographs. Dan Cruson wrote the historical points of interest. The list of contributors goes on.

The OSTF morphed into the Conservation Commission, the group now responsible for Al’s Trail.

As you can see, there has been a wealth of talent and goodwill from trail fans of Newtown. Many more hikers will benefit in years to come.

If you would like to contribute time or money, please contact Pat Barkman at Lakesidegallery@charter.net. Make sure to identify yourself as a contributor to Al's Trail in the subject line.