WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Keep that Quinnipiac spirit alive, and clean

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Keep that Quinnipiac spirit alive, and clean

It would be hard to count the number of folks who use the Quinnipiac Gorge Trail for recreational exercise and just to see the beautiful Quinnipiac River as it flows so peacefully along the trail.

But it wasn’t always that way. Back in the 1940s and into the ’50s, the Quinnipiac River was also used as a swimming source during the summer months and, before that, Hanover Pond was even home to an amusement park and a boat livery.

In earlier years, Dossin Beach was a swimming attraction with a beautiful sandy beach. Time has taken its toll on Dossin Beach over the years, though it is now home to the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association.

Dossin Beach was closed in the 40s when the polio epidemic was running rampant and never again was to be a public swimming area, although we did fish it. Eventually, trees and shrubs took over the beach area and are still there today.

Added to that is a delta just below Red Bridge that was formed by silt that ran into the river from various building projects, and it now even has a growth of shrubs and small trees on it.

Over the years there was some talk about dredging Hanover Pond, but in the long run that’s all it was: just talk.

For a while, the river held its own and was the place to go for some trout fishing. As kids, we were forever on the river, either fishing or swimming, and sometimes doing both.

I caught my first trout off of Red Bridge, located just above Dossin Beach. Red Bridge has since been replaced with a newer concrete bridge, but thanks to the Meriden Lions Club, the abandoned Red Bridge has been saved and refurbished, and is also a historical site.

Every time I go by Red Bridge, I think of the old days when we used to fish, swim and even dive off the bridge in order to impress all the lovely girls in South Meriden. Don’t try that now. There is way too much silt buildup.

As we grew out of our teens, many of us got married and started families of our own, but we still turned to Hanover Pond and the Quinnipiac River as a source of recreation.

On Sundays, the young families would gather on the shore of Hanover Pond in the spot now called Habershon Field. We would swim, and Gene Waller had an outboard motorboat that he would use to tow us on surfboard around the pond.

By the late ’50s, the water seemed to be tainted and started to lose favor as a recreation spot. Soon it was forgotten and eventually turned into nothing but a carrier for polluted water from buildings along the river.

It looked like nobody gave a damn what happed to the river.

The state even stopped stocking the Quinnipiac River with trout because tests showed the water too polluted for the fish to survive. Various forms of aquatic life in the river even disappeared.

Back then, the Quinnipiac Gorge Trail was nothing more than an abandoned railroad bed turning into a dirt trail that saw some vehicles driven up and abandoned along the river, their oil and fluids running into the Quinnipiac, adding to the pollution.

Slowly, but surely, the Quinnipiac River was left to die a slow lingering death.

And then a group of conservation-minded folks formed a loose-knit group called the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association. They had decided that enough was enough and they were going to do something about the Quinnipiac River and its pollution problems. They were first headed up by a local conservationist and sportsman, Walt Hylwa.

They had been at it a couple of years before I got involved with them. We would meet about once a month, if memory serves me correctly, and worked with limited financial resources. We used to see whose turn it was to pay their dues so we could buy stamps to send out mailings.

The members were from various towns along the river, including Southington, Cheshire, Meriden, Wallingford, North Haven and, I believe, New Haven.

Slowly, but surely, they became a force to be reckoned with. They were assisted by a conservationist named Erin O’Hare, who now serves as the Environmental & Natural Resource Planner for the Town of Wallingford.

Erin O’Hare had walked and mapped the entire length of the Quinnipiac, noting sources of pollution as well as dumping areas along the river.

For some businesses along the river, the QRWA became a thorn in their side, but eventually most of them recognized the need for change and the river started to show signs of life again.

It took a while. The QRWA was even featured on a TV special on Channel 8 called “Troubled Waters.”

The Quinnipiac River did come back, although there are still times that it becomes a “Troubled Water.”

Thanks to the generosity and hard work of the Meriden Lions Club and the Cuno Foundation, a building that was once a dog pound was cleaned and refurbished and now serves as the QRWA headquarters. It sits right on the shoreline of Hanover Pond where the Quinnipiac River flows into the pond.

Every year they have a couple of cleanups, but this year they are going to try something different. In lieu of the Spring River Cleanup, this year they are holding a month-long event throughout April in which volunteers can clean in and around the Quinnipiac River and Hanover Pond at their own pace and on whatever date and whatever time works for each individual or group.

There will not be a QRWA guide on site throughout April. Volunteers are asked to work independently The QRWA will provide trash bags to all volunteers and will dispose of the trash collected.

The QRWA would like for anyone interested in participating to email or text photos of themselves and other volunteers cleaning the waterways so they can be shared in an email at the conclusion of the event.

If this sounds like something you or your group would be interested in, email the QRWA at qrwainfo@att.net for details. This is an excellent opportunity for those who enjoy walking the trails on the Quinnipiac River and Hanover Pond. Clean water is everyone’s responsibility.

Fishing update

Sorry to say, the early opening of the Connecticut 2021 trout season has lacked the excitement of traditional opening days, but there are some fishermen getting in time. Meriden angler Marty Loos tells me that Black Pond has been productive for many shore fishermen, and I have seen some bass boats on Silver Lake.

Kyle Cooney fished the Coginchaug River in Middlefield and came away with some nice trout. He said he saw only one other fisherman while he was there.

No word on the Quinnipiac River yet.

Spring is here, so get out there and do some fishing. It’s a great way to get the kids into the sport of fishing.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters and first responders wherever they may be serving this great country of ours.

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