Stop The Illegal Hilltop Trail Building, Please


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One end of a trail that has been illegally cut into the Hilltop Reservation. Legal trails are marked with blazes like the yellow rectangles.

For nearly two decades, the Hilltop Conservancy has been working to undo the damage done to the woodlands and meadows on Verona’s west side by human development and Mother Nature. Working acre by acre, they’ve turned the Hilltop Reservation into a nature preserve that can be enjoyed by hikers, birders and even mountain bikers–as long as the bikers stick to the established trails.

But Geordie Smith, vice president of the Conservancy, has been dismayed to discover recently that someone has been carving their own trails on the Hilltop, and he wants it to stop. “There is zero room for any new trails or shortcuts,” says Smith. “It’s not ok to hack in your own trails.” The real trails are marked by different kinds of blazes and you can see the full trail map here.

Smith, an avid mountain biker, undid the rogue cut-through the first time he discovered it, and posted a note explaining why it was illegal, but the person or persons behind it did twice more. So Smith has reported the vandalism to the Verona Police Department and the Essex County Sheriff’s office.

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“Put your energy to better use,” the note reads. “Fill in trail wet spots with rocks, not sticks. Dig channels to move water off trails. Clear fallen branches, (leave logs alone). If you have lots of good reasons to make a trail here, email [email protected]” 

The Hilltop Conservancy has tried to stop the rogue trail-making by barring the trails, to no avail.

The Hilltop Conservancy has relied on volunteers for all of its restoration efforts, from clearing the woods of invasive species, to replanting hundreds of native trees and re-seeding two large meadows. It has completed the revitalization of a 15-acre grasslands and an adjacent 3-acre site that once housed outbuildings for a tuberculosis sanatorium that existed on the Hilltop in the early 20th century. They are also restoring canopy trees in a 5-acre forest. The Conservancy hopes to soon begin seeding a 6-acre wetland plot with native grasses. People can support this work and more by becoming a Conservancy member, volunteering on a project, or donating money or supplies.

“Rogue trails are an embarrassment and stain,” Smith says, “done by someone who has zero understanding of all the work done to have the trails we have now.”

Anyone who sees illegal cuts being made on the Hilltop can report it to the Verona Police, the Essex County Sheriff or the Hilltop Conservancy.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]


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