I started walking the loop after parking in the Park Street Lot. There are hourly spaces there and for downtown workers like me, there's a new parking permit that costs $429 per year—up to $438 next fiscal year. With me are our three dogs, L-R: Louis, Marvin and Dexter. Lou, 8, is a shepherd-Chow Chow mix who has OCD and is beloved by women; Marv, 4, is a Rottie-shepherd mix who is as cute as a stuffed animal and tries to kill dogs he doesn't know; and Dex, 3, is a high-energy golden retriever who likes to eat poop. Ours is his third, and forever, home. Credit: Michael Dinan
We walked along the north side of Elm Street, past Karl Chevrolet and the Lumberyard Lot—site of the future Kevin J. Moynihan Parking Deck—then switched to the south side at the pedestrian crosswalk at Pride's Crossing—up to the corner at Weed, where there's a pedestrian-activated flashing beacon to the new sidewalk that runs up to Irwin Park. Credit: Michael Dinan
Follow the Flexi-Pave footpath across driveway into Irwin and continue along the path. In the northeast corner of the park, this new sidewalk leads through a break in the stone wall. Credit: Michael Dinan
The stone path on the east side of Weed Street continues past the single driveway for numbers 927, 929 and 931, and then about 20 yards further, the Land Trust's new GreenLink trail starts in earnest. Credit: Michael Dinan
Pedestrians will follow a trail that breaks to the right, on the edge of a swampy wetlands dotted with skunk cabbage. The trail itself is clearly marked, running atop wood chips and between logs and in especially damp areas, over wooden planks. Credit: Michael Dinan
As the GreenLink trail turns away from Weed Street and deeper into the conservation easement, a comfortably wide raised walkway helps pedestrians navigate the swampy area. You can see it's plenty wide even for my three large dogs to walk side-by-side. Credit: Michael Dinan
At this especially wet area, the raised walkway is reinforced with attractive natural wood railings. Dog owners should know that this is not a trail where you'll want to trust your pet off-leash. Not only is it very muddy and swampy, with wildlife protected in the vernal pools and ponds on both sides, but Weed Street with its speeding traffic and private properties and driveways abut the Land Trust parcels you're now traversing. Credit: Michael Dinan
After crossing a second, smaller footbridge, pedestrians will see a sign warning them about private property ahead that's accessible to residents only (through their own gate). So don’t go through that gate, but continue along the path. Once you pass the area of the Weed Street subdivision and easement, the trail is protected on both sides by tastefully black chicken wire fencing staked by wooden posts, on both sides. Credit: Michael Dinan
Soon the trail opens up to woods on the north side and you pass a large vernal pond. There's plenty of growth on all sides of the well-screened trail, which promises to offer new experiences with each season. Soon, pedestrians will come to an older, narrower footbridge that fords a brook leading away from the pond. The dogs can make it across just fine, though seniors or people who have trouble walking will want to be careful at the end of it, as there are just a couple of large stones helping them down on the other side. When the trail leads you through a break in a stone wall, which also requires stepping over a boulder, the trail splits left and right. You're now solidly on Nature Center property. Those eager to continue on the loop can go right to get most quickly to the parking lot at the back of the Nature Center. Those seeking to hike trails within the Nature Center should go left. Credit: Michael Dinan
We turned left and then right, emerging at the field behind the Visitors Center, in view of the Sugar Shack. Again, those walking dogs should note that the Nature Center's outdoor bins are the last place you'll be able to dispose properly of dog poop bags until you get back downtown. From here, those hoofing it on foot and headed back toward downtown New Canaan will need to cross over the Nature Center's driveway, so be careful. Credit: Michael Dinan
There's a pedestrian footpath that runs along the southern border of the Nature Center property, so there's no need to walk in or along the driveway itself as you emerge onto Oenoke Ridge Road in view of St. Mark's Episcopal Church. Credit: Michael Dinan
There is no pedestrian crosswalk once you emerge from the Nature Center onto Oenoke Ridge Road, though the grass verge on the west side of the road is wide enough to walk on it, and there is a crossing further up ahead toward Oenoke Lane. For those who wish to cross to the sidewalk on the east side of Oenoke Ridge Road, there are good sight lines on Oenoke in both directions. Credit: Michael Dinan
We continued down Oenoke Ridge Road, around the corner at the New Canaan Historical Society's property, where you can see Dexter was borderline trespassing. Those who wish to continue walking into downtown New Canaan by Main Street and the firehouse will simply continue on this same sidewalk. We crossed just a bit further up ahead, toward the Congregational church at God's Acre. Again, there are good sight lines for pedestrians but not for motorists, so be careful if you are crossing where we did. A sidewalk does start near the Congregational Church. Credit: Michael Dinan
We paused at the top of God's Acre. There are benches along this stretch (and good WiFi too). In order to continue walking down Park Street, however, you will need to re-cross to the Congregational Church side of the street, where there's a sidewalk that leads to the safe push-button activated pedestrian crossing of Park Street near the commuter lot. Credit: Michael Dinan
And here's (L-R) Dex, Lou and Marv back in my pristine car, tongues lolling. A nice walk for the dogs and for me, too. Many thanks to the Land Trust, Nature Center, town and Community Foundation, as well as those families that granted conservation easements that made this new "greenway" possible. Credit: Michael Dinan
It features an attractive, footbridge-laden trail that spans wetlands off of Weed Street, and ultimately helps connect Irwin Park to the New Canaan Nature Center. That trail is the final piece of a larger, pedestrian-friendly loop that runs from downtown New Canaan, up Elm, along Weed Street and into Irwin, then back along Weed and into the woods, across a conservation easement and onto Land Trust property, then into the Nature Center’s woods, up onto Oenoke Ridge and past God’s Acre into downtown New Canaan again.
The captioned slideshow above tracks my hike of the trail and that larger loop on Wednesday, with our dogs Louis, Marvin and Dexter. A few fast facts on it (time and distance can be tailored):
The hike can vary from two to three-plus miles, depending on just where you want to start downtown and whether you choose to enjoy additional trails within the Nature Center. (Though the RunKeeper app told me I walked 2.2 miles, my Apple Watch clocked it at just over three miles—perhaps measuring more closely the zig-zagging that comes with leash-walking three 90-pound dogs, one of whom doesn’t really know what a leash is.)
With persistence and patience, early advocates such as Chris Schipper, John Engel and Skip Hobbs sketched out a plan where a three-lot subdivision of 929 Weed St. yielded a key conservation easement on the north side of that property. With that in hand, the new loop was possible, though many details had to be worked out, such as legally crossing the wetlands there, getting new sidewalk installations along Weed Street and even traversing the driveway at 929 Weed St. (now serving numbers 927, 929 and 931).
Land Trust officials are asking residents to wait until after the Grand Opening of the GreenLink on Sunday to try out the new trail. (And in fairness, a few more days of dry weather will make that experience even more comfortable for those walking it.)
In addition to the Land Trust and Nature Center, the town and New Canaan Community Foundation partnered in creating the GreenLink trail. A full schedule of events and activities for Earth Day can be found here.