By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Plainville continues to be the only town in Connecticut along the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail that has not been able to construct any portion of the trail.
For 10 years, the town’s Bicycle Friendly Committee has played a role in that project with the goal of creating a complete and safe path through Plainville to provide out-of-town riders an opportunity to visit local businesses.
The committee also continues to explore federal and state funds to support the project. During a meeting held last Monday, Jim Cassidy and Pete Salomone of the Plainville Greenway Alliance spoke to the Town Council about the portions of the linear bicycle trail through Plainville and parts of Southington and Farmington that are not cohesively connected to the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail and Farmington River Trail. During the meeting, Cassidy and Salomone asked the council to consider budgeting funds annually to help with the overall project and enhancements, including bike racks, benches, fencing and general maintenance items. They also urged the council to show their support for project funding to state representatives.
“We need you to be heard as far and wide as we possibly can,” said Cassidy, a member of the Bicycle Friendly Committee. “It’s critical to be as vocal as you can.”
Cassidy said 10 years ago, the federal government would pay 80 percent of a trail’s construction while the state and local governments would both pay 10 percent. Today, only the federal and state government play a role in the funding format of constructing trails.
“What will happen when the state comes up with some money to plan the gap here in Plainville—we don’t know how that’s going to happen, whether they’re going to do it themselves, with the DOT design team, or whether they’ll suggest hiring a consultant,” said Cassidy.
Approximately 80 miles long, the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail runs from New Haven to Northampton, Mass and is known to be one of the most historic greenways in New England. Last year, the Plainville Town Council approved to apply for a grant that would help fund the construction of a multi-use trail through Norton Park. However, the grant was not approved, but the town has continued to showed support to close the 4.3 mile gap between Southington and Farmington.
Once the entire Farmington Canal Heritage Trail is completed, it will eventually be a part of the East Coast Greenway, which will run from Florida to Maine.
During the meeting, Cassidy and Salomone presented a map depicting the trail, including competed sections of the trail as well as sections that are currently being planned and other sections where nothing has happened (from Southington to Plainville).
“About 45 miles of it are complete in Connecticut,” said Cassidy, adding that a total of $110 million has been spent on the trail to date.
Cassidy said the cost to close the gap between Southington and Plainville is estimated to be about $10 million. He said currently the gap that exists in Cheshire and Farmington are both being planned.
Cassidy added that last year, the trail had 200,000 or more users in the north.
“If we build a trail here in Plainville, people who are using the trail up north or down south, will come to Plainville,” said Cassidy.
Salomone said Simsbury Free Bike, a non-profit organization that allows people to borrow a bicycle for a $10 deposit, and to receive their money back at the end of the day. Salomone said one of the non-profit’s facilities is the Simsbury Inn, which has kept track of how many bicycles loaned out in a given day.
“Last year it was 300 bicycles, and on average, each person who had a bicycle spent about $200,” said Salamone.
During the meeting, Salmone also mentioned how much money the Erie Canal Trail brings in per year by its users who spend half their costs on lodging. The trail, which runs from Buffalo to Albany and provides week-long tours, is run by the state of New York.
“They’re looking at over $250 million a year,” said Salamone, adding that completing the trail gap in Plainville will help businesses in town become more successful. “They’re spending over $200 a day on their rides as they go along…about half is going into lodging, and the other half is going into food, snacks.”
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO