WalkCT Website Launch & CFPA Annual Meeting

The Connecticut Forest & Park Association is ready to show the world why it is 100% relevant in the 21st century. I joined the organization’s board of directors in 2008 and I am thrilled to be part of its growth. CFPA, founded in 1895, is Connecticut’s oldest and most influential conservation organization. CFPA is ready to recruit the next generation of members. Today, CFPA officially launched the WalkCT, website with an event at the Legislative Office Building next to the Capitol in Hartford. The press conference was followed by three guided walks in Hartford. I stopped by Bushnell Park at noontime to join one of the walks and celebrate WalkCT’s coming out party.

WalkCT, is CFPA’s effort to promote healthy living in Connecticut. The website is at the heart of the program and offers a number of ways for Connecticut residents and visitors to find trails and plan walks. Obesity related disorders are a massive negative impact on our health care system. WalkCT connects people with the incredible resources available, and helps people learn more about health, wellness, and the environment. There is no better way to stay active and fit than to walk. Connecticut is blessed with the best trail system in the country. The historic Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails have been managed by CFPA since their inception more than 80 years ago. You can’t drive far in Connecticut without seeing a blue oval sign or a blue blaze, indicating that you have intersected with one of the trails. Among my favorite are the Nipmuck Trail, the Shenipsit Trail, and the Lone Pine Trail. WalkCT is the portal for navigating our state’s incredible network of trails.

Our car centric society is killing us. Suburban culture requires us to drive everywhere. A lack of mass transit infrastructure, especially in Connecticut, has left us with no choice but to drive, drive, drive. WalkCT will evolve over time, but it clearly sets the objective that people need to get outside and move their bodies. This is very important for children. WalkCT is family focused and is poised to dramatically change the way children view the connection between nature and healthy exercise.

CFPA previewed the website at our annual meeting this past Saturday. The meeting was at the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s Session Woods Wildlife Management Area. I was pleasantly surprised to learn more about Session Woods. I was unaware of its existence until attending the meeting. The interpretative displays about Connecticut wildlife are wonderful. Our son was quite interested in the land management displays which included photographs of diggers, bulldozers and logging equipment. He was also intrigued by the large number of animal specimens. Session Woods is surrounded by trails and offers visitors a neat outdoor experience while exposing them to results of DEP research.

2009_CFPA Annual Meeting 3

Today’s program in Hartford was a wonderful way to premiere the WalkCT website. One walk went to the Old State House. Another went to Riverfront Park. The walk that I joined was in Hartford’s historic Bushnell Park. Our first tour guide was 85-year-old Ed Richardson, an honorary director of the CFPA. Ed is one of the most knowledgeable tree experts in the state. He showed us some of the fine specimens in the park. I even learned about burls. I didn’t know that they were tree growths and that over the centuries, they have been prized for carving bowls that are high in strength and beauty thanks to their unique grain structure.

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We got to take a close look at a burl on the third largest tree in the park. Ed also told us about the Hackberry Emperor Butterfly. After Ed spoke, we heard from Terry D’Italia of the Bushnell Park Foundation. Like Ed, Terry was full of fun facts. He spoke about several of the parks more famous landmarks, including the Carousel and the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch. The Stein and Goldstein Carousel was built in 1914 and the horses have real horse hair tails. The Arch was the first triumphal arch built to honor soldiers returning home from the Civil War. On it, there is a Latin saying carved into stone: “Post Nubila Phoebus,” which means “after the clouds, the sun.” Fitting for a war memorial.

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch

Terry could have gone on and on. He described many of the other symbols depicted on the arch, before turning his talk towards the Park River, long since filled in. The river still runs below the park and intersects the larger, Connecticut River. There seem to be many interesting stories about Bushnell Park, and they can all be experienced by walking around. The Foundation offers tours of the park and trips to the top of the arch. I’ve lived in Connecticut all of my life and I learned many new and neat things, all in a short 15 minute walk in the park. That is what WalkCT is all about. The program gets people outside and learning. What is wrong with that?

CFPA Director, Ed Richardson

CFPA is getting great press for the program and it is bound to grow both our membership base and our financial base. It is time that the rest of the world learned about the good that CFPA does.

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