There are no official trails at the French's Hill open space. This property is located in the White Hills across the street from East Village Park. The potential has always been there, though, because the property is over 110 acres, plenty of space for a trail. Parking was an obstacle until a few years ago when an adjacent property was acquired that included a large existing parking lot directly off of East Village Road.
The front part of French's Hill, along East Village Road, consists of a geologic drumlin that is currently farmed under license to the City, but the majority of the property is heavily wood and was free from any kind of trails. Until now.
|Illegal ATV trails in red. Magenta line is potential future trail.|
|Over 100 trees are painted like this|
Sadly, the damage to the conservation lands doesn't stop at the creation of trails. Well over one hundred trees have been spray painted. Tree after tree after tree.
There is no point even trying to cover all the spray paint. It's everywhere. At this point, it is best just to let it fade. Fortunately, most spray paint doesn't last long.
|This old stone wall was was dismantled to build the ATV track|
The French's Hill open space was purchased for conservation purposes in 2003 for $3.3 million with the help of a State open space grant of over half a million dollars. The conditions of the State grant clearly stated that the land could be used for passive recreation only and that motorized vehicles shall not be allowed.
|An illegal camp in the center of the open space, posted as private property|
|One of two camps|
|One of many mud holes through wetlands|
|More mud. And spray paint.|
These trails were not something kids built. There was clearly a lot of chain saw work in involved. Many smaller trees were cut down, and some larger trees that had fallen were also cut for ATV passage.
An interesting feature of this open space is the registered "Big Tree." It's the states 4th largest registered Tulip Tree. See this blog entry from 2007 for more info.
At this point we are asking for help in stopping the ATVs. Parents: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not buy your kid an ATV and let them go ride "in the woods out back." BE A PARENT. This is not Maine. Unless you own those woods, that is completely illegal. It doesn't matter if there are signs prohibiting ATVs or not (kids rip the signs down immediately and then use the lack of signs as a defense); ATV riders are required by state law to carry written permission from the property owner with them. Neighbors: Be our eyes and ears. If you see or hear ATVs head down the street into the open space, call the Police, but also let us know. If you know where the ATVers live, let us know. If you are on the trails and can take a picture of ATVs that would be fantastic. You can leave a message with the Conservation Department (anonymous messages are OK if you are afraid of retaliation). Call 203 924-1555 x315 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.