Closing the gap: Trail study discussed

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

Over the last decade, local citizen groups, trail enthusiasts and bike advocates joined efforts in working to close Plainville’s gap in the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail.

But now that it has received funding, the Capitol Region Council of Governments is helping Plainville and surrounding communities look further into closing the last gap of the trail.

CRCOG is conducting a study to find possible routes that would connect the trail with Plainville, New Britain, Southington, and the CTfastrak station in New Britain through a world-class multi-use trail network. Serving as the overall manager of the project, CRCOG has partnered with VHB, along with firms Mobycon and Bluezones for the project.

“It started originally as primarily looking at this gap in Plainville, and then we decided that the CTfastrak trail is so close, it provides another great multi-use trail. Why not connect the two,” said Timothy Malone, principal planner of CRCOG.

Known as one of the most historic greenways in New England, the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail is an 84-mile multi-use trail that stretches from New Haven to Northampton, Mass. Although most of the trail is complete or in the process of being designed, a significant gap exists in Plainville and Southington.

In an effort to increase connectivity and mobility, the study team has reached out to the public to better understand where residents would like to go and what a trail through their community would look like. Over the course of 18 months, the team will engage the public through workshops and meetings. The first series of events is a public information meeting that will take place Tuesday, July 26, 5 to 7 p.m. in Plainville Library’s auditorium.

The goal of the meeting is to introduce people to the study itself and the study team while giving them an opportunity to offer initial input, said Malone.

“There’s going to be a brief presentation on why the study is being done, what to expect from the study…what activities are going to happen,” said Malone. “After the presentation, there’s going to be an opportunity for people to meet one-on-one with members of the team or in small groups…to have an informal discussion about what people’s experiences are or what they want to see happen.”

Long-time trail advocate Jim Cassidy of the Plainville Greenway Alliance said this portion of the project will look at over a dozen ways on how to get the trail through town, adding that the Alliance does not favor one route over another.

“We want people to come out and find out what these different routes are, and let us know what their feelings are about it. That’s all going to be factored into the final decision about which route to really use,” said Cassidy. “We see our role as a cheerleader to get as many people from the community out there to talk about this as we possibly can.”

The study team will engage the public again through a series of collaborative workshops on Oct. 3, 4, and 6. The expected deadline for trail completion is uncertain, as next steps of the project involve applying for funding to design the trail and then seeking funding for construction.

“Right now the state is investing a lot of money in trails, so we hope that will be the case when we finish the study,” said Malone. “They have dedicated a fair amount of funding recently to completing trails and upgrading infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians.”

Malone added that there is a “renewed interest” among community groups and partners involved with the project, especially with the town of Southington completing its short portion of the trail and Farmington’s project to extend the trail from Red Oak Hill Road, into Northwest Drive in Plainville.

“It’s been studied before, and there was a lot of indecision about how to go, what route to take,” said Malone. “Now being the last gap… there’s a renewed sense of urgency to get it finished. There’s a lot of momentum.”

The public information meeting will take place Tuesday, July 27, 5 p.m. at Plainville Public Library’s auditorium, 56 East St., Plainville. Polish and Spanish interpretation is available upon request with 48 hours of advanced notice. For more information, contact Timothy Malone at (860) 522-2217, ext. 224, or tmalone@crcog.org.