THE HISTORY OF THE BETHANY HORSEMEN
Bethany has always been known as a town that is very friendly to horse owners. Our most beautiful trail riding tract is the area surrounding Lake Chamberlain, a parcel originally owned by the New Haven Water Company. In 1959 the Water Company considered closing Lake Chamberlain to horses. Jacob Podoloff, long-time horseman and Bethany resident, heard about the proposed trail closing and negotiated an arrangement for riders to form a responsible patrol organization to report trespassing and other incidents that might endanger the water supply. The organization was named The Bethany Horsemen.
The use of this beautiful area has not been without its challenges. When the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority (RWA) assumed control of nine Water Company properties in the early 1980's, they decided not to renew the former agreement that granted use of the Lake Chamberlain trails. This decision was not based on misuse, but because the RWA feared that horses would cause erosion which then would create siltation in the reservoir. In addition, the RWA did not want to grant special use of the reservoir to a single group (fishing and hiking were not allowed at that time).
Through persistence and patience, The Bethany Horsemen, led by President Ann Lehman, were able to prove that properly controlled riding was compatible with the prime function of water supply lands. Use of the trails was officially restored in 1985.
Requirements under the new arrangement included organizing and funding a permit system for equestrians, parking for horse trailers, community service events, public liability insurance, and making sure all horse trails were properly maintained and marked. Our agreement with the RWA is renewed annually which is why new tags are issued each Spring and all members must sign a new waiver.
The RWA again considered discontinuing recreational use of the Lake Chamberlain trails after 9/11. However, the monitoring function that The Bethany Horsemen has provided over the years helped tip the scales in our favor to continue riding around the area.
We became The Bethany Horsemen, Inc. in 2003 and are now incorporated as a non-profit recreational club. Keeping Bethany's RWA and private landowner trails open to horses is our number one priority. Check out Rules of Riding to find out how we conduct ourselves on horseback. Happy trails everyone!