Two dedicated volunteers who maintain sections of the 825 miles’ worth of Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails have gone above and beyond what the Connecticut Forest and Park Association expects of it volunteers. Eric Bengtson and Peter Dorpalen showed great vision and put hundreds of hours into their trail projects which are sure to be enjoyed by generations to come.
Eric Bengtson first became involved as a trail manager for Aquarion Water Company in 2000. He was responsible for monitoring and maintaining the Saugatuck Trail, which at the time was not recognized as a Blue Trail. But he suggested that CFPA make it a part of the system, which it did. Between 2004 and 2007, a new trail near the Saugatuck, the Aspetuck, was created; Eric was named the trail manager of this new trail and took meticulous care of it. (Another Trail Manager took over the Saugatuck.)
Then in 2011, Eric had the vision to extend the Aspetuck Trail. He had approached Aquarion to ask if it was possible. “Working with Aquarion is fantastic,” he has said. The company responded with the idea of connecting the two trails located within the 15,300 acres of the Centennial Watershed State Forest in the heart of Fairfield County. The Centennial Watershed State Forest is managed by a partnership of Aquarion Water Company, Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, The Nature Conservancy, and CFPA. For three years, with the help of over 120 people, Eric has led the charge in connecting these two lovely hiking trails to created over 18 miles of continuous trails with 8 bridges. He said he hopes people enjoy hiking the trail as much as he has enjoyed creating it. In 2014 alone, Eric Bengtson has reported dedicating more than 650 hours of work on these two beautiful trails.
Peter Dorpalen came to be a volunteer in a slightly different way. Living local to the then “wild and abandoned” section of the Metacomet Trail in Farmington, Peter saw an opportunity to enhance the landscape of Connecticut for the enjoyment of all its’ people. He reached out to CFPA to see how he could become involved in reversing this damage. Peter was soon put in touch with the Trail Manager for that section of trail. After signing the liability form he started working on the trail. He worked tirelessly to remove trees covered in poison ivy and battled invasive species. It didn’t take long for his hard work to be recognized and he was asked to become the Trail Manager for that section.
Peter has engineered several relocations, using his knack for looking at an overgrown, neglected landscape and seeing what the trail could look like instead. He has also been working very hard to close the 15-mile gap between the Mattatuck and the Mohawk Trails in Warren and recently was able to close 8 miles of this gap. This part of the trail started as thick laurel over rugged terrain but that has not stopped Peter from putting over 300 hours towards scouting, flagging, building, and blazing this new section of trail for us all.
Eric Bengtson and Peter Dorpalen saw a need and stepped up to fill it. They are just two of CFPA’s incredible trail volunteers. In addition to trail work, CFPA offers a variety of volunteer opportunities; such as monitor a CFPA property, plan and run an event, engage in our public policy efforts, or stuff some envelopes. In 2014 volunteers dedicated over 30,000 to these programs and others. Thank you to all of you who contributed your time, energy, and knowledge to CFPA.
For more information about volunteering with CFPA, please select here.