Rockhouse Hill Sanctuary, Oxford
Rockhouse Hill Sanctuary in Oxford - By Lori Johnstone HV NEMBA
For those of you who mostly ride the East Side of Rockhouse, the West Side has a lot to see as well. The Green/Yellow Trail is receiving some upgrades. The Youth Conservation Crew is working with Joe Lanier to reroute the trail, adding switchbacks and berms to make the trail more fun in the downhill direction and more rideable in the uphill direction. The hope is the reroute will make riding up from “The Hole” easier and more attractive to a greater variety of riders. On the “Off the Rocks Trail” off of Yellow/White, placed stones provide the treadway, and it is really a work of art. This trail is intermediate to advanced so be prepared to be challenged. Also off the Yellow/White trail is a beautiful lookout over the Housatonic River. Riding down to the lookout in the counterclockwise direction is fun and fast, one of the favorites in this tract. To the right and below the lookout is an expert trail, which brings you over some very diverse and beautiful areas.
The East Side of Rockhouse has been experiencing a great deal of new riders. The two most popular trails on this side are the Pink/White and the Purple/White (Rollerville). The feedback from everyone has been amazing. We have talked to people from all over the state who say they love what Rockhouse has to offer. There is just enough difficulty to keep riders coming back to try the features they did not clear on the last trip, but it is not so difficult new riders are intimidated. A new professionally done scalable map will be available soon online and on the kiosks. Thank you, Jason Engelhardt.
Late Fall 2020
As posted on social media, “ Rockhouse is CT’s new fun house!” We all agree! The Housatonic Valley Chapter (CT) while small and new, applied for and was granted a NEMBA Signature grant for $10,000 in 2019 to build 9 new miles of bike friendly single track in Oxford CT. Presently, we have opened about 6 new miles of singletrack, and most recently opened the “Pink/White” trail for business. This trail is 1.5 miles long with an extra credit loop. The trail is ideal for intermediates, with progressive features including rock and log overs; rollers , skinnies ,and jumps. Boardwalks have alternate lines for the more advanced rider, while still allowing an intermediate rider to navigate the main treadway. Water crossings are wood or rock. The terrain is rolling and the trail maintains a sustainable grade throughout. Another “Signature” trail is Rollerville, which opened fully last year. Plenty of options for fun and skill improvement, and most of the trail can be navigated by an advanced beginner.
To do all this trail building, we mixed into the recipe, a land manager who runs a Youth Conservation Corps at the high school next to the property, five continuous open space properties with little trail development or use, a mountain bike community hungry for bike friendly and family friendly trails that don’t involve an hour’s drive, a small but dedicated NEMBA chapter with members who love to build, a town and neighbors who have welcomed mountain bikers and understand the value trails and the mountain bike community add.
Joe Lanier, Board member of HVNEMBA, runs the YCC (Youth Conservation Corps). This group of teenagers spend their Saturday mornings and vacation days clearing and benching trails, and hauling wood for bridges. The teamwork is amazing. The crew kids are always smiling even if covered with mud and bugs. After a volunteer “internship”, the students then get paid while learning sustainable trail building techniques.
Since the Signature Grant was received last year, the HV Chapter has also received a number of donations to continue this work, including another $10,000 from Paul Haynes, a local businessman. He enjoys the new style trails on his daily runs and dog walks. We are very thankful for his support. The Signature Grant allowed us to obtain matching funds from Mr. Haynes.
Chris Del Sol who lives nearby quickly became engaged with NEMBA and supports the trail system. I’ll let him speak for himself. “Having well-built trails close to home is a luxury not everyone has, but one for which I am so grateful. As the last few months have shown, having a place to retreat to when things get crazy is invaluable, and for that I always try to show gratitude towards our Land Managers and trail builders. It’s been nice to see so many new faces enjoying the trails on the weekends lately – hopefully some of them will become involved in the sport we love, and pitch in to continue improving our open spaces. As I teach my young family to mountain bike, I’m encouraged by the local riding community, and supported by the diversity of trails. HV NEMBA has built an excellent trail network that serves as an asset to the local area, with hopefully more to come. If you see a slightly crazy guy out there with a kid on his bike and possibly towing a second child behind him, say hi!”
Add into the mix, our NEMBA trail builders and advocates who work on the trail and behind the scenes to keep the momentum going. A special thanks to the board members of HVNEMBA.
Future plans include a scalable map and signage; a true beginner trail for young riders and push bikes which would have progressive features; a directional high intermediate skill trail; more advanced beginner and intermediate single track; and a machine- made flow trail. This would not be possible without the community support and the support of greater NEMBA and the Signature Trail Grant.
By Paula Burton and Chris Del Sol