By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER
The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, also known as Rails-To-Trails, continues to be a subject of debate during council meetings.
Past minutes of the council show a group of determined citizens are in strong opposition to this project. Katherine LaBella, Roberta Lauria, Joel Edman and Joanne Edman continue to attend these meetings and share their concerns.
“Tonight I would like to respond to the idea that expressing concerns about the current proposed alignment is premature because the plan is conceptual in nature,” said LaBella. “It is my belief that the time to talk with our elected officials is now. Your first vote will start a process that will impact us for years to come. Although we’re being told that the gaps closure plan is in a conceptual phase, residents of the Old Mill Condominiums are being affected by the plan now.”
LaBella requested her statement be included in the minutes of the meeting.
“I oppose any trail or alignment that will affect any neighborhood in Plainville,” said Lauria. “Simply put; if there are no rails, there should be no trails.”
Similar sentiments were shared by Mr. Edman, who wore a sign that read “No Rails No Trails” written in red ink around his neck.
Before the public comments section of the Dec 18 meeting, Town Manager Robert Lee introduced Timothy Malone of the Capital Region Council of Governments, Mark Jewell and Theresa Carr, of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. to give a presentation on the trail path, called “Alignment C”.
Also introduced was Bruce Donald, the Tri-State Coordinator with the East Coast Greenway. Donald had been a presenter at the Oct 18 public workshop held at the Plainville High School. Plainville Chief of Police, Matthew Catania, added his perspective from a law enforcement perspective, having worked and lived in towns that have portions of the trail.
Malone said this is the last gap in the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail yet to be completed, in construction or in design.
Carr gave a brief overview of how this particular trail path was chosen.
She explained that all of the citizen feedback was heard and taken into consideration, as the intended path way has been updated since the Oct 18 public workshop. Jewell then took over, walking the room through the intended trail areas, showing renderings of possible construction sites.
Catania has been in law enforcement for about 35 years, and while he admits that crimes can happen on the trail, they aren’t the kind of crimes that some people fear could occur.
“No one should get up here at the podium and say ‘Nothing ever happens on the trail,’” said Catania. “Of course, some things do, but the abundance of crime that takes place on a trail is the graffiti or simple mischief. But what I have noticed is, by and large, it’s a great reduction of crime.”
Very few in attendance of the council meetings have spoke in favor of the FCHT. Gayle Black is one person who wants to see the gap closed, as she expressed that she has traveled to surrounding towns in order to use their portions of the trail.
“I hope there’s going to be more than myself standing up for the trail,” said Black. “I’ve roller bladed in Farmington, day and night. Night time, the only thing that bothered me were the bats and the insects hitting my glasses. I’ve never had an issue when I’ve been on the trails by myself.”
Black also said that she hopes the closure of the gap allows the use of the trail for winter activities such as cross country skiing and snowshoeing.