Members of the Shoreline Greenway Trail (SGT) say it is time to get started on the next trail section in Madison. SGT representatives spoke at the Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting on Feb. 27 to give details on the proposed section and point out that time is now of the essence.
The SGT is a planned, 25-mile continuous path designed for cyclists, walkers, and hikers. Once completed, the trail will span five towns, with Lighthouse Point in New Haven marking one end and Hammonasset State Park in Madison marking the other. The Hammonasset section of trail in town is already completed.
The next proposed section of trail would stretch from Nathan’s Lane to the East River Bridge and would have ideally connected with the heavily disputed and recently voted-down proposed section in Guilford. If built, this section would bookend the town of Madison.
The section from the East River Bridge to Nathan’s Lane would cover approximately 4,000 feet, according to SGT vice-chair and chair of the Madison group for the project Virginia Raff. Speaking to the BOS, she reiterated that the trail received a federal grant of $800,000 several years ago as well as a state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection grant for $130,000 to complete this section.
“It costs the town nothing except [Director of Engineering Services] Mike’s [Ott] valuable time,” she said. “There are no out-of-pocket dollars.”
A study was completed mapping the trail route and now Raff said she would like to see the project moved into the design phase. She said Madison residents are committed to the trail, citing the fundraising dollars and volunteer hours that were put into the Hammonasset section.
“Starting in January we are part of the Connecticut Trail Census. They have chosen 15 trails around the state to measure how much it is used,” she said. “We got the first raw data [and] in January there were 4,100 users, which was the third highest in the state.”
Raff said the trail could help Madison in ways beyond providing a recreational outlet.
“We believe that Madison could become a very important center for biking and recreation, which would have a strong effect on the economy,” she said.
While there are still several steps before the new trail section could break ground, Raff said it is time to pick up the pace.
“We need to get to work on the new section and we need to do it pretty soon, because if we are not underway by September 2019, we lose the money,” she said. “It is very important that we make some motions on that and I hope you will direct Mike [Ott] to move ahead with the design so that we can get on with the process.”
First Selectman Tom Banisch had previously expressed some doubts over a new trail section, particularly as Guilford struggled through numerous meetings before voting their trail section down. He had suggested holding public hearings on the trail in Madison, a position he still supports.
“The plan is to have public hearings or workshops so people can come in and give us some input because we have the same problem in Madison that they have in Guilford—there is no defined route through the entire town,” he said.
The proposed section of the trail is not yet approved and Banisch said he wants to hold these meetings before Ott moves into a design phase. The town currently does not have a date for the meetings.
“I want to get Academy School up and running first,” he said. “You don’t want to overwhelm people with stuff or it looks like you are just jamming things through, and that is not what I am trying to do. I am really trying to give people an opportunity for input and understanding.”
To learn more about the Shoreline Greenway Trail, visit shorelinegreenwaytrail.org.