After decades of unfettered use, area hikers and mountain bikers are losing access to part of the historic Cannonball Trail. DuPont, owner of a small strip of land at the trailhead on Barbara Drive in Pompton Lakes, has announced that the short section of trail which crosses their property is now off limits. In an e-mail sent to the NJ Division of Parks and Forestry, DuPont stated that the area will be posted and fenced in the coming weeks. DuPont cited vandalism concerns as the reason for their decision, though DuPont offered no evidence that the hiking community was responsible for any property damage.
The closing of the trailhead not only affects the hiking and mountain biking communities. The Barbara Drive access point is a popular one for local dog walkers, trail runners and families. The trail closure may serve to further poison the relationship between DuPont and local residents already angry over DuPont’s slow cleanup of toxic waste dumped by the chemical giant near this site.
The Cannonball Trail follows part of the legendary Cannonball Road, putatively built by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. According to the legend, the road was constructed in order to move munitions, supplies and troops between the iron works at Pompton and garrisons in the Hudson River Valley. The road, high in the hills of the Ramapo Mountains, allowed movement of supplies and troops away from the prying eyes of Tory spies in the valley below. Historians have long debated whether this legend is based on fact, but few dismiss it completely.
The Cannonball Trail was officially blazed and dedicated as a hiking trail in time for the nation’s bicentennial in 1976 but the Barbara Drive access point was used well before then. James Ransom describes using the current access point in his 1965 book, “The Vanishing Ironworks of the Ramapos”. A hiking map of the area from 1922 shows most of the current route south of Ramapo Lake has been used for hiking at least since then.
Though the bulk of the trail remains open, the the lack of access from Barbara Drive will be a hardship on hikers and mountain bikers, because instead of the trail starting just yards from parking, users will need use the Hoeferlin and South Ridge trails to reach the southern end of the Cannonball. This involves close to a two mile hike or ride. There are also concerns that moving all trail access for this section to the lightly used Hoeferlin trailhead on Pool Hollow Road may jeopardize that access point as well, because it also crosses private property.