The Great Mountain Forest (“GMF”) encompasses approximately 6,042 acres of contiguous forestland in the towns of Norfolk and Canaan, Connecticut. The GMF is owned and managed by The Great Mountain Forest Corporation (the “Corporation”), a not-for-profit private operating foundation.
The charitable mission of the Corporation is to engage in and support scientific research and education projects involving trees, forests, forestlands and other natural resources. The Corporation’s primary resource to carry out this mission is the GMF, a unique working forest with a history of active management that dates to the early 20th century.
II. Public Access Rules
The GMF is a unique working forest that is actively managed for forest products and wildlife habitat, extensively used for forest research (including projects associated with soil science, wildlife and bird habitat, fisheries and meteorology), and frequently utilized for educational purposes. The Corporation allows public access to the GMF, but only in a manner that is consistent with the management, research and educational objectives for the forest which are such an integral part of the Corporation’s charitable mission. The Corporation thus reserves the absolute right to control the quantity, type, location and times of public access in order to protect the GMF and safeguard the charitable mission of the Corporation.
Visitors may access the GMF under the following circumstances, subject to the rules and regulations of the Corporation:
PUBLIC ACCESS TO GMF GENERALLY
A. Activities for Which Sign in/Sign out Registration is Required
Any visitors to the GMF that access the property on foot, by bicycle or on skis must sign in and sign out at one of the visitor registers located at the Norfolk (Windrow Road) and Canaan (Canaan Mountain Road) gated entrances to the GMF.
Pedestrian use of the GMF is limited to main woods roads and designated trails unless special permission is granted by the Corporation. Bicycle use is limited to the main woods roads and those trails that are specifically designated for bicycle use.
The sole exception to the sign in/sign out requirement relates to users of the Iron Trail who access the Iron Trail from public road or State Forest access points without traveling through the GMF on foot or by vehicle. The southern access point to the Iron Trail is on Canaan Mountain Road, while the northern GMF access point is on Steep Road. The Corporation provides parking areas for Iron Trail users at each of these access points. Users of the Iron Trail on the GMF are requested to remain on the trail and to minimize disturbance of the natural environment along the trail. Use of the trail is limited to the hours between sunrise and sunset. Iron Trail users are subject to these regulations while using those portions of the Iron Trail that are on the GMF.
B. Activities for Which Vehicle Windshield Permits are Required
Policy is currently under review.
C. Activities for Which Advance Written Request/Permission is Required
For certain restricted access activities, visitors must submit a written request to the Corporation at least twenty-one (21) days in advance of the date of the requested visit, and must receive written permission from the Corporation prior to accessing the GMF. Restricted access activities include group access, boating and research.
In addition, as to such restricted access activities, the following additional rules and guidelines apply:
Group Access: Access to the GMF by groups of 15 persons or more requires written permission.
Boating: Non-motorized boating is permitted on Old Man McMullen Pond and Crissey Pond using boats provided by the Corporation. Limited types and numbers of boats are available. All boaters must obtain a boating permit from the office of the Corporation, and shall be responsible for providing their own safety equipment such as required life preservers and flotation devices.
Research: Detailed written proposals must be submitted to the Corporation in connection with any proposed research projects.
D. Public Access to Beach on Tobey Pond
The Corporation owns a beach property on Tobey Pond. This beach is leased by the Corporation to the Town of Norfolk on an annual basis, and is open to Norfolk residents for swimming and other recreational activities managed by the Town of Norfolk under appropriate user regulations.
III. Hours of Operation
Unless allowed in connection with camping and fishing activities, or unless otherwise allowed by permit or by special permission, public access to the GMF is limited to the hours between sunrise and sunset seven days per week.
IV. General Regulations
1. Permitted visitor vehicles are restricted to the main gravel roads (see map). The speed limit on GMF roads is 15 MPH and is strictly enforced for the safety of people and wildlife in the forest. Visitors to the GMF should park only in designated pullouts or parking areas, and should make sure that cars are parked well out of the travel portion of the roads. GMF visitor windshield permits or decals are to be displayed at all times for easy viewing by Corporation personnel. The Corporation reserves the right at any time to close roads or portions of roads to vehicular traffic as certain conditions arise. GMF roads are typically closed to vehicular traffic from first snowfall through the Spring mud season (typically mid December through late May). Seasonal closure dates are determined by the Corporation each year based on weather and other conditions. Roads also may be temporarily closed to public use during periods of intensive forest management operations or research and education activities.
2. Except under controlled conditions at designated campsites, fires are strictly prohibited in the GMF. Fireworks of all kinds are prohibited on the GMF.
3. ATVs, including snowmobiles, motorcycles and quads, are prohibited on the GMF unless special written permission is obtained from the Corporation. Bicycles are allowed on GMF roads and on trails that are designated for bicycle use, but are prohibited off road in all other areas.
4. With the exception of the beach at Tobey Pond, swimming in ponds on the GMF is prohibited. The Tobey Beach swimming area is managed by the Town of Norfolk.
5. The collection of stones, soil, plant specimens or animal specimens is strictly prohibited unless carried out in conjunction with permitted research or education activities.
6. The Yale Camp property owned by Yale University and located in the middle of the GMF is off limits to any visitors without the express written permission of the Corporation. Access to the Yale Camp on GMF roads is governed by these regulations.
7. No firearms or bows are permitted in the GMF, unless carried for permitted hunting activities. Permitted hunting activities are described above.
8. Dogs are allowed on the GMF, but must be on leash. Horseback riding is strictly prohibited on the GMF. All other pets are prohibited on the GMF.
9. All visitors should observe the “carry out whatever you carry in” rules with respect to trash and refuse. There are no trash receptacles provided for use in the GMF.
10. Sanitary facilities such as outhouses are available on a limited basis on the GMF, and should be utilized whenever possible.
11. Rock-climbing, hang gliding and other extreme sporting activities are prohibited.
12. All required permits and vehicle permits/decals shall be clearly visible at all times.
V. Limitation on Liability – Compliance with GMF Rules
All visitors to the GMF, in acknowledgement of the risks and dangers inherent in a large natural forest environment, shall access the GMF at their own risk, and shall assume full responsibility for their own safety. Such visitors also shall be fully responsible to the Corporation for any damage that they cause while on the GMF. Anyone using or accessing the GMF in a manner that violates GMF rules may be asked to leave the GMF, shall risk forfeiture of any future rights to access the GMF, and may be subject to civil or criminal prosecution for trespassing.
To the extent that fees are charged by the Corporation in connection with these regulations, such fees relate not to permission to enter or go upon the GMF (which access rights are free of charge), but rather to the special nature of the activity for which the fee is charged. In any event, any such fees are not intended to, and shall not be interpreted to, affect the liability protection that the Corporation enjoys pursuant to Section 52-557f through 55-557k of the Connecticut General Statutes by virtue of providing access to the GMF free of charge.
Above and beyond these limitations and provisions that shall apply to all GMF users, the Corporation reserves the right to require users to execute specific liability waivers prior to entering the GMF.
All questions, and required requests for permission to access the GMF, should be directed to:
The Great Mountain Forest Corporation
201 Windrow Road
Norfolk, Connecticut 06058