Community on the Trail
Anyone familiar with Quaker Hill surely knows of the many farms, equestrian organizations, and picturesque views and rustic charm of the area. The Oblong Trail Association (OTA) is a group devoted to the celebration of the area and the encouragement of equestrian and nature walking activities. Founded in 2000, the OTA is always seeking new members who appreciate fresh air, outdoor activities, and sharing in the area's natural beauty.
Membership in the OTA is open to anyone who wishes to enjoy and participate in the group’s efforts to conserve and improve the fifty-mile network of trails on Quaker Hill. “We include everyone, and we rejoice in that diversity,” says OTA President Teri Olson. “You never know who you’ll be sitting down next to at one of our events.” The organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and operates solely through the efforts of volunteers, including a Board of Directors. “I’ve never seen such a hard-working group of people,” adds Olson.
The OTA was originally formed in 1997 as a trail organization under the Oblong Land Conservancy and eventually came to incorporate walkers and cross country skiers, in addition to the equestrian riders. “We started as a trail group,” Olson says. “What made us unique is that we incorporated walkers. To my knowledge, no other trail system does that. Then it evolved into a community organization and a way for everyone to meet their neighbors and be social. We love to be outside.” Currently, the group boasts a membership of more than two hundred participants, including out-of-state visitors from Connecticut and Massachusetts. “We have an information table at the Pawling Farmers Market, and there has been a lot of interest from people,” explains OTA member Patti Taylor. “Even if they’re from out of town, we tell them to come on over.”
The organization’s trail system is unique in that it exists entirely on land provided by private properties in the area. Land access is granted through handshake agreements with local landowners. OTA Trail Masters work in conjunction with the owners to select suitable areas before group members clear a three-foot path for accessibility. The OTA is always conscious of the fact that no trail is permanent, as land ownership is always changing, and the group’s trail system is constantly evolving. “We’re in the process of upgrading and revamping our trail system,” says Olson. The OTA also restricts motorized vehicles on the trails to prevent erosion and discourages dogs due to the proximity of livestock in certain areas.
In addition to their extensive network of trails, the OTA prides itself on their sense of community and the social gatherings the organization holds each year. In addition to four potluck suppers, the group hosts an annual Spring Fiesta and Christmas Party held at the Brady Brook Meeting House. “The Christmas Party is one of the social events of the season,” explains Olson. “Members come and greet their neighbors and wish them a happy holiday. Food is aplenty, with music, drinks and Christmas gifts.”
Annual dues start at $75 and range to $250 depending on which membership group one joins. This includes admittance to all social gatherings the group offers.
The Oblong Trail Association is looking to the future as it hopes to add new members and continue the association’s passion for nature and outdoor recreation. “There are a lot of new people coming to the area, and we encourage them to come and meet us,” says Olson. “We want to continue to broaden this community.”
For more information about the Oblong Trail Association, visit OblongTrails.com online.