PLAINVILLE - Town leaders and steering committee members of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail gap closing project met with residents at Plainville High School last week to try to figure out how best to make the trail work.
The cafeteria was set up with several stations showcasing the revisions to the steering committee’s preferred trail alignment, known as Alignment C.
Shown were possible trail routes and photos from North, South and Downtown. Over 100 residents visited stations in the first half-hour of the event.
Residents were invited to leave comments and feedback.
Town Manager Robert E. Lee provided studies on the Radnor Trail, the Little Miami Scenic Trail, the two Massachusetts Rail Trails, all of which showed properties adjacent to trails increasing in value.
Economic Development Director Mark Devoe then welcomed the guests and then introduced presenters.
“We are trying to listen and we’ll continue to listen,” he said. “We are very pleased and proud to see the turnout. This is a great process and we are planning tonight. We are here to listen to your concerns, get them down in writing and elevate them to the decision makers.”
Devoe said he favors the trail.
“It will help economic development by providing a shot in the arm to downtown,” he said. “It will also be a means of recreation and a safer means of transportation for pedestrians and bicyclists.”
Some residents, many of whom live on Pierce Street, were unconvinced.
Joel Edman argued that if there is no rail to use, there should be no trail. For many years, Lee had pursued negotiations with PanAm Railways, which has been unwilling to give up their active rail.
“It’s not just my backyard. ... There are many other properties which will be impacted, including Perron Road, Pierce and Hemingway streets,” he said. “Railroad beds, especially inactive ones, are perfect for trails - mostly straight, few curves and flat with no wetlands issues. That’s not to be for Plainville. No rail, no trail.”
Other residents, including several cyclists, spoke in favor of the project.
Joyce Fritz said she is “all for it.”
“I’m a cyclist. I bike to work in Farmington and I would love to see the trail come in and off-road as much as possible,” she said. “It will be wonderful to get families from all walks of life coming out to visit.”
Fritz brought several other bicycling enthusiasts with her.
She expressed dismay at the opposition.
“I’ve lived in Plainville for 30 years and I’ve seen that people don’t like change,” she said.
No final decision has been made yet and the routes are still open to revision.
Initially, Alignment C was proposed to connect to Tomasso Nature Park and Perron Road, but that is no longer the case. The route is now intended to travel down the western edge of Carling Technologies’ property.
The routes also showed an alternative path for the trail traveling down Broad Street. It could instead go down Pearl Street, Hemingway Street and Willis Avenue.
The changes were made after resident feedback, and are intended to reduce right-of-way issues and environmental impact.
The goal is a trail running from Pierce Street to Norton Park. The current Alignment C trail is 5.3 miles long, 10 to 12 feet wide and 98 percent off-road.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.