Teen restoring nature trail in Churchill Park as Eagle Scout project

Published on Thursday, 12 October 2017 15:32
Written by Erica Schmitt

Staff Writer

NEWINGTON - Meandering past cleanly trimmed underbrush, Justin Field scooped up a crumpled receipt, then thirty-some feet later, a recently tossed food wrapper.

“It really grinds my gears,” the 17-year-old says of walkers who toss their trash on the newly refurbished Robert Stanley Nature Trail. Or any nature trail, for that matter.

Field is amidst a restoration project on this particular byway, which runs about three-quarters of a mile between Churchill Park and Clem Lemire Recreation Complex. A member of Boy Scout Troop 347 for “pretty much forever” the teen takes pride in his Eagle Scout pursuit and his hometown.

“The majority of people in Newington don’t know this trail even exists,” he explained. “It’s tucked away to say the least.”

With assistance from fellow troop members and his father, Field spent the first weekend of October carving out what has become an overgrown passage. It was once dedicated to Bob Stanley, who served as the superintendent of Newington Parks and Recreation from 1973 to 2004.

In more recent years, low-hanging trees and invasive grass have made it nearly impossible for the town to maintain the thickly settled woods that encompass the trail, according to Field, who planned the project’s scope with parks staff.

“We worked in conjunction with the department. They will take care of ongoing maintenance.”

Nine free-standing trail markers were uncovered in his excavation, along with bridges installed some time ago by another member of Troop 347.

“We cut the trail back two to three feet on either side,” Field said. “It used to be a one-person path at its widest; now it’s easily a five- to six-person path.”

The group employed weed-whackers and heavy-duty mowers, the latter of which were lifted to accommodate the shoulder-height vegetation choking the path.

The most prominent feature is a boardwalk heading into the back of Clem Lemire, which runs over wetlands.

“This walkway was designed so people can travel between the two parks, rather than having to take New Britain Avenue,” he explained.

The problem, however, was the three-story high, bamboo-like grass that had swallowed up this convenient cut-through. Field and his crew trimmed back the plant so that the walkway could once again be utilized. The next stage of his project involves refurbishing a sign at the trail’s entrance, to render its visibility and visual appeal.

“At this point I’m really proud of what we’ve done,” he pointed out. “I think it’s going to be great to see it fully through.”

His ultimate goal is for townspeople to enjoy the trail at its true potential.

“I would like to get the word out about this place. It is really beautiful back here but not well-known. It’s a secluded area for families to come and listen to the birds and just take in the nature.”

A senior at Newington High School, Field plans to study environmental science and film next year.

While exploring ideas for his Eagle Scout project, he first considered installing solar-powered lamps on the pathway between the school and its football field. This proved to be too costly a venture, so he chose the trail restoration.

“It was more realistic,” he said.

Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or eschmitt@centralctcommunications.com.

Posted in Newington Town Crier, Newington News on Thursday, 12 October 2017 15:32. Updated: Thursday, 12 October 2017 15:34.