From Dream to Reality
A work group collaborated in 2003-2004 on a chapter of the Plan of Conservation and Development to propose a system of recreational trails linking various parts of town. In the fall of 2007, the group became aware of grant money for planning Greenways from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. When they attempted to apply for funding to plan the trail, the group learned that they needed to become more organized. So in the spring of 2008, they entered into a formal agreement with the Litchfield Community Center to act as the fiduciary agent for the Litchfield Community Greenway. They had a fundraiser, “Thrills in the Hills,” which brought in enough money to publish a brochure.
In the fall of 2008, members of the group attended a workshop given by the Federal Department of the Interior and learned more about what it takes to put together a Greenway plan. They submitted and won a grant from the Department of the Interior Park Service, and had the technical assistance of John Monroe from the fall of 2009 to 2010. He created a detailed trail log with us to help us with planning and seeking future grants.
Before any agreement could be made to use the trail, the group had to form their own non profit corporation, Friends of the Litchfield Community Greenway, Inc. and purchase liability insurance. They now have an agreement with White Memorial to use their trails instead of the most fragile section of the trail between Alain White Road and Route 202. They have also worked out a draft lease with Connecticut Light and Power, to use of the railroad bed as a recreational trail. Many of the abutting landowners have been consulted.
The group began by focusing on one two mile section of the old railroad bed that extends from the end of South Lake Street, near where there is a trail to the Little Pond boardwalk, to the entrance to White Memorial off Bissell Road. We had a ribbon cutting, opening this section on Trails Day 2010. On Trails Day 2011 we also led a bike group to explore the whole length of the trail.
Beyond the entrance to White Memorial going toward Bantam, there are several barriers: The bridge over Butternut Brook once used by the railroad will have to be rebuilt, the tunnel under High Bridge Road has been filled in, and a significant washout impedes movement behind Circle Drive.
A fortunate development is that the Town of Litchfield is undertaking a project to rebuild the jambs that regulate the water level in Bantam Lake near High Bridge Road. The Town has proposed to add a footbridge over the Bantam River, which can be also be used by the Greenway.
The section from South Lake Street along Russell Street must be shared with the Public Works Department, and has many abutting landowners. CL&P will be removing its equipment from the corner of Russell Street and Route 202, which will make room for parking and a small park at the beginning of the trail. A grant has been submitted to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for funds to make these improvements.
In the spring of 2011, fundraiser in 2011 in conjunction with the Village Striders, has improved their financial condition. In the fall of 2011, they won designation by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Greenways Council as a designated Connecticut Greenway. The path of the Greenway now appears on the statewide greenway map.