OPINION: Counting cars on the Hanging Hills

OPINION: Counting cars on the Hanging Hills

Years upon years ago, I wrote a story about a junk yard atop Meriden’s Hanging Hills. OK. Junk yard might be too strong a phrase, but only slightly.

At the end of a climb, I found three cars from the 1970s. There was a blue Ford Pinto wagon, a lime-green Ford LTD and a Toyota, the model of which I did not identify (rest assured it was not a Prius). As I recall, there was no evidence of 8-track players or 8-track tapes, which would have solidified the ‘70s vintage. But it was a pretty good guess, I thought.

Following a path along the top of West Peak, I wrote, “the hiss of the wind along the cliffs is all but forgotten. There’s only the occasional chirp of a sparrow, or the creak of a log, or the sound of your own footsteps. At the corner of your eye is a hint of blue, anomalous in the wash of dark and green. If you veer from the path to investigate, you’ll find that it’s an automobile.”

And so on.

This provoked a query: “What are these cars doing here, in this otherwise pristine location?”

Due to the vagaries of electronic filing systems, I cannot be certain whether there was an answer to that question from 2006, which ended the story’s appearance on page one and left readers to follow on page 4. But electronic archiving did not follow the story past page one, and I honestly can’t remember with certainty. Memory tells me there was no answer as to why vehicles from the “Starsky and Hutch” era were driven to the top of a mountain and abandoned there. It’s like UFOs and Bigfoot, the plight of the New York Jets and multiple universes theory. The truth is out there, but will we ever find it?

What I do remember is taking some heat for writing the story; I was being a big-time bicentennial bummer. While Meriden was celebrating, I was preoccupied with wrecked scrap, or scrapped wreckage, near Castle Craig.

I would like to point out that I’ve done fun things at the Hanging Hills. I’ve run up to the peak, twice, during that annual fit of winter madness known as the Bernie Jurale race, and the first time didn’t have to stop to catch my breath, which as anyone who has ever done the run will tell you is an accomplishment. That last mile is straight up.

And I’ve made note of the vernal pools, which are there one season and gone the next, and provide a brief but essential opportunity for certain species, like a type of salamander, to thrive. And I’ve written about the history of the park, about Olmsted, the guy who designed Central Park, and been to the Daffodil Festival plenty. I covered the BioBlitz, during which at the turn of the millennium I learned there were 1,898 different species at Hubbard Park (I can’t recall if that included Homo sapiens).

But it’s the junk cars that came to mind when I was reading about Chris Bourdon’s worry about a certain Castle Craig predicament, which I think you can say adds up to people not appreciating what they’ve got. The castle watches over Meriden and anyone with the gumption can get to it in minutes. This is similar around most of Connecticut. Wherever you are, you are not far from some natural landscape. It’s a major plus.

Maybe it’s the word defiance that led me to think of junk. Some people leave their cars up at Castle Craig after closing because they forget, but others do it out of defiance. That’s disrespect and that’s junk. People leave their cars and a police officer has to be called to open the gate. If this is going on every night, it’s ridiculous.

I don’t know how the city goes about fixing that. Just about any increased enforcement is going to seem major league grumpy. Bourdon, the parks and recreation director, says two to five vehicles each night overstay their welcome at Castle Craig. What is the deal with cars and the Hanging Hills?

He’s going to study the issue and maybe make a recommendation by this autumn, but I don’t get the impression a satisfying solution is at hand.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or jkurz@record-journal.com.