MERIDEN — As the pandemic continues, more people are participating in outdoor activities, including hiking. As a way to make the hiking experience at Hubbard Park more enjoyable, the Parks and Recreation Department, along with the Meriden Police Department and the Meriden Police Cadets, marked some of the trails.
“We just wanted to get something basic up,” said Kathy Matula, recreation coordinator. “A lot of people are hiking and biking. The park has been very popular, so we wanted to make it more accommodating and more user friendly for everyone.”
The effort was partly prompted by feedback from the public about the lack of trail markings.
“It will be easier for us in the office to describe where to go,” Matula said. “...we can tell someone, ‘follow the white trail until you find the orange trail and then take the orange trail up to (Castle Craig).’ So it will be easy for anyone, even if they’ve never hiked it, to give a description over the phone.”
The police department and the cadets got involved after some of the cadets also thought it would be a good idea to mark the trails.
“We wanted to get involved with some community ideas,” said Officer Jeffrey Witkin. “We just supplied some of the man power. We tagged as many trails as we could in an afternoon.”
The Meriden Police Cadets is part of a larger organization — the North East Regional Law Enforcement Educational Association. It is open to those 14 to 21 interested in a career in law enforcement.
“We teach them discipline, we teach them about teamwork,” Witkin said. “...we show them through exercises that the team is stronger than the individual. We’ll teach them about law enforcement, we’ll teach them about domestic violence, we’ll teach them about drunk driving. We’ll show them what happens during a motor vehicle stop.”
Giving back to the community is also a major part of the program.
“They need to be community oriented. That’s what police officers do,” said Lt. Christopher Fry. “They saw that there was an influx in capacity...They thought it would be helpful if they marked the trails so no one got lost at Hubbard Park.”
Matula said the next step is permanent markers and signs to guide and educate hikers.
“So a sign will say, ‘this many miles from here to the castle,’” Matula said. “And then have markers for the halfway house, a historical spot and people go up there and they're like, ‘oh, what’s this?’ and it doesn’t really say anything about it. I’d love to do that. So hopefully I’ll find some people to collaborate with on that. Either a woodworker or a sign designer.”
Anyone interested in joining the police cadets can reach Witkin at: firstname.lastname@example.org