Monday, March 7, 2016

Old Kings Highway Open Space

Old Kings Highway Open Space - top of the falls
For a few decades now, the Old Kings Highway open space property has been quietly biding its time, waiting for the  Paugussett Trail to return. Hikers used to follow the blue blazes through here as they headed south towards Roosevelt Forest in Stratford, or north into Monroe.  That all ended in the late 1960s when the trail was cut off, but the goal has always been to bring the trail back to this very spot, Old Kings Highway, and from here continue on to the Stratford border.  

Old Kings Highway Open Space - A special place
Public access has been limited to this open space because there's no place to build a public parking lot. The public can, and do, walk up Old Kings Highway from Buddington Road and Mill Street, but it's generally people who live in the neighborhood. Although there is an existing band of open space on the maps that connects Old Kings Highway to Buddington Road at the powerlines, it's all swamp. 

Meanwhile, the Paugussett Trail has been restored from Indian Well to Buddington Road, but has had to come to a stop as we waited for the next property along the route to be developed. It's a big one. A full 121 acres, zoned light industrial, along Bridgeport Avenue, right off a highway exit. It's just a matter of time before someone wants to build something big in there.  

Fresh survey pin
Not much time, as it turns out. The property has been recently surveyed in preparation for the big application, which will be submitted this month.  

Existing Old Kings Highway Open Space (green) and proposed trail route
In terms of the long-planned Paugussett Trail, this could be really good or really bad, depending on what is ultimately approved.  We are hoping for a viable greenway corridor for the trail using the ridgeline to shelter the trail corridor from new construction. That would allow us to extend the trail all the way to Bridgeport Avenue and oh so close to the Stratford border and the beautiful Far Mill River Park. On the other hand, if the trail gets dumped into a little band of trees at the base of new buildings and parking lots, that will end decades of hard work and planning. Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trails are expected to be scenic, and an extended stretch of roads and buildings will make it not worth hiking. End of trail. 

Let's be positive today and imagine the first option. The trail would cross Buddington Road and head south to the 16-acre Old Kings Highway Open Space, where the original trail used to be. As hikers approach the open space, they would first come to Old Kings Highway, an old colonial roadbed lined with stone walls.

Old Kings Highway (between the walls)
 The trail would probably cross the road and wander along a stream that plunges down the hill in a series of small waterfalls.  The sound of running water is all you hear. There are no buildings. Just trees and rocks and the trail and the waterfalls ..

The trail would link up with an old woods road that crosses the site (the old Paugussett Trail?), and eventually circle back and cross Old Kings Highway again before heading towards Mill Street and Bridgeport Avenue.  

Old roadbed that crosses the open space.

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