Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Talcottville Gorge ownership transferred to land trust

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer
Published: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 11:58 AM EST

VERNON — Ownership of the area known as the Talcottville Gorge has been transferred to the Northern Connecticut Land Trust, which will maintain the parcel as open space in perpetuity, according to Open Space Task Force Chairwoman Ann Letendre.

“We’re thrilled, this has been the year for open space in Vernon,” Letendre said today, adding that the 20-acre property has been a top priority for the task force since around 1998 because of its historic value and unique terrain.

John G. Talcott Jr. donated the property to the land trust, pending a financial commitment ensuring that the parcel would be cared for.

The trust paid $5,000 to help cover closing costs and other expenses with financial help from local organizations, including the Friends of Valley Falls, Vernon Citizens for Responsible Development, and Friends of the Hockanum River Linear Park.

The town also contributed $5,000 for the purchase with money from the open space fund, after a heated Nov. 16 Town Council discussion about its potential use by hunters.

Land trust director Gail Faherty and treasurer Jim Gage said hunting will not be allowed on the narrow parcel, which runs between Interstate 84 and the Hop River State Park hiking trail.

Residents have long used the scenic, wooded area, which contains a portion of the Tankerhoosen River with waterfalls and striking rock formations, for fishing, hiking, and bird watching, and outdoor lovers are encouraged to continue enjoying the natural beauty of the property.

“The Talcotts have been very generous in allowing the public to use it, but now it’s formally a public property,” Letendre said.

Stewardship of the property will be a joint effort of the land trust and the Vernon Citizens for Responsible Development, a group that formed in late 2009 to fight the construction of an outdoor concert venue on Bolton Road.

“They worked together as a group and they wanted to stay together to do something positive, so their mission is to focus on the Tankerhoosen,” Letendre said. “What the land trust needs really is help with stewardship, maintaining trails, marking boundary lines. … VCRD has volunteered to take that on.”

The $10,000 required to obtain the property was “minimal,” Letendre said, and she estimated another $5,000 will be required to replace a footbridge that has become unsafe, mark trails, and complete other general maintenance.

The gorge’s recreational value is not the only reason the task force wanted to see this undeveloped piece of land preserved, however.

While constructing a cotton mill near the gorge in the early 1820s, the prominent manufacturer Peter Dobson observed boulders and rocks that appeared to have been abraded by some massive force.

This led him to write a paper on “glacial theory,” published in the American Journal of Science in July 1826, according to the 1893 book by William R. Bagnall, “Textile Industries of the United States.”

His observations were praised by leading scientists of the time, and helped inform early notions of what is now considered common knowledge of geological processes.

“There’s historic value there, and it’s a wonderful recreation area,” Letendre said.

For a guide to hiking the two-mile Talcottville Gorge loop trail and more information, visit

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