Ray Bracone / Bulls Bridge Task Force
Bridge Task Force volunteers, led by Ray Bracone (front row, center), have played a big role in stopping misuse and resource damage along the Housatonic River in Kent, CT. The volunteers, many of them pictured above, have contributed more than 1,500 hours to the effort this year alone.
After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, Ray operated heavy equipment during recovery efforts at Ground Zero. A lifelong hiker, the peaceful and scenic Bulls Bridge area along the Housatonic River was where he went on weekends to clear his head and decompress from that difficult work.
But, in recent years, increasing numbers of nonhikers (sometimes arriving by tour bus) began congregating in the fragile area on summer weekends, picnicking, fishing, swimming, building campfires, and leaving mountains of trash behind.
Ray started cleaning up trash and talking to visitors. He met NPS Chief Ranger Todd Remaley at the site, who encouraged his involvement with the Trails Committee of the AMC Connecticut Chapter, the local A.T. maintaining club. As the Task Force was formed, Ray enthusiastically recruited family, friends, and neighbors to join in the endeavor.
As Ranger Remaley reports: “A bilingual educational effort, some redesigning of the parking and foot travel areas, increased enforcement, and a lot of hard work has created a greatly enhanced and safer visitor experience. While there is a need for continued management at the site, a sense of normalcy and calm has returned. One local resident shared that it was like having an old friend back again.”
The Bulls Bridge effort is supported by AMC, the town of Kent, NPS, ATC, First Light Power Resources, and state agencies. “Working individually, none of those groups could have improved the situation,” according to ATC Conservation Stewardship Manager Adam Brown, “but this is fine example of successful cooperative management in action.”
AMC-Connecticut Trails Committee Chair Dave Boone says, “Ray saw a need and has worked continuously and unselfishly to protect the Bulls Bridge area he is so fond of. His family shares in his devotion, and he has motivated a good number of his friends and neighbors to become involved as well.”
Ray lives less than five miles from Bulls Bridge and is dedicated to keeping the area as it was intended “I love the Trail and this area,” he says, “and am excited to be involved.”