Port Call: Don’t Move The Trail

by Melinda Tuhus | February 2, 2007 8:18 AM | | Comments (4)

birder.JPGWho knew that industrial areas can be great for bird watching? That’s what Randy Domina (pictured), a member of the New Haven Bird Club, told members of the Port Authority as he and other argued for a trail for birders, walkers and bicyclists in the area abutting New Haven Harbor. Others said no way.

About 30 people attended and half a dozen spoke at a public hearing Thursday night on the proposed Strategic Land Use Plan for the Port of New Haven.

The city created the Port Authority in 2003 in order to boost business and generally promote economic development around New Haven Harbor, the busiest port between Boston and New York. But environmentalists and recreationists are crying foul, saying a Harbor Trail through the area has been incorporated for years into the city’s comprehensive plan and should be incorporated into the strategic plan for the harbor.

Chris Ozyck, city parks promoter and creator of the Vision Trail (which linked the harbor with downtown back in 1995, in time for the Special Olympics, but which has since fallen into disrepair) came to the hearing with a visual aid in tow. He brought a map of the land that supporters of the Port Authority want to use for development and that he and others want to carve a sliver out of for the long-planned Harbor Trail.

chris.JPG“It’s the only viable connection around the harbor,” Ozyck (pictured) said, outlining all the previous approvals the idea has won “” from Mayor John DeStefano in his very first term at the South Central Council of Governments, to proponents of urban green space, family-friendly activities and healthy outdoor exercise. “This is about civics running into political influence,” he said, meaning the businesses around the port that he says have undue sway over decisions about the use of the land.

He said the Port Authority’s proposal to move the trail out of its original location onto busy Woodward Avenue and even part of Route 1 is a recipe for failure. Click here for more of his comments.

Some business owners spoke in favor of the authority without weighing in on whether the trail should also be a part of the scene. One, Ralph Gagliatino of Sea Support, said the trail just isn’t viable at its original location due in part to the fact that post-9/11, port security has been beefed up and anybody in the vicinity will have to have all kinds of security clearances and identifications, including at some point biometric IDs so their retinas can be scanned.

Jan Okolowicz, project manager of the Port of New Haven’s Strategic Land Use Plan emphasized the possible danger to pedestrians/cyclists from the heavy truck traffic in the area, as well as the problems posed by potential terrorists.

“There’s another level now that wasn’t on the table six or seven years ago, which is: who’s going to be walking around in here? And do we even want the public in, not for their own safety but because it provides opportunities for other people” “” i.e., bad guys — to get access to the area?

cordalie.JPGCordalie Benoit (pictured), president of the Elm City Parks Conservancy (Ozyck is a former president), scoffed at that rationale, since I-95 also cuts right through the same area. Click here to listen to her indignant response.

poster.JPGOzyck’s visual included a drawing (pictured) of how the trail could look, with trees and high chain link fences on both sides, that would enhance security but that users could see through.

To make the project viable, the Board of Aldermen must approve the transfer of 15 acres of land to the Port Authority “” land that opponents say legally must be maintained for public use. Ozyck said after the meeting that he’s talking to legal counsel and plans to sue the Port Authority to protect the original path of the Harbor Trail, basing his lawsuit on state statutes that say when park land is taken by state or city authority they must provide commensurate land.

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Posted by: charlie | February 2, 2007 9:54 AM

Moving the trail from where it is now should not even be considered as an option. The existing de facto path from West Haven to Long Wharf to the Tomlinson Bridge, then through the port to the East Shore Park needs to be maintained. It's the only viable way to circumnavigate the harbor -- which is one of the most beautiful harbors in the world, the reason why so many people bike or walk around it on a regular basis.

Posted by: CHris O | February 2, 2007 3:25 PM

We will be walking both of the trail routes Saturday Feb 3 at 1:00. Meet at the East Shore Park at the entrance to the Port. Bring a camera, sturdy shoes, and dress warm. Its about a mile. Not recomended for kids ( the Woodward- Rt 1 path that is ) - Chris

Posted by: Thomas Straub | February 4, 2007 10:37 AM

I regularly bike through the Port Auhtority area and vigourously oppose any proposal to eliminate bike access to the area.

Tom Straub

Posted by: Nan Bartow | February 5, 2007 10:10 AM

After having walked the two trails, I can definitely say that the Harbor Trail, which has been incorporated for years into the New Haven's comprehensive plan, is the only workable trail and is the one that should be incorporated into the strategic plan for New Haven Harbor. The trail along Route 1 and Woodward Ave as proposed by the Port Authority is not feasible and will never be built. If the New Haven wishes to attract and retain vigorous people of all ages who love to walk, roller-blade, hike, and bike the Greenways, the city must complete its proposed trail system with attractive trails. To see how popular these trails can become if they are built well, try walking the Farmington Canal Trail in Hamden and Cheshire. This scenic trail is crowded with people of all ages running, riding, and walking along as they enjoy being outside. The Harbor Trail expects to tie into the Greenways trail that will go from Maine to Florida along the seacoast and will also tie into the Farmington Canal Trail through the Vision Trail. New Haven, do not lose this promising opportunity to become a city of the future, a destination city for tourism and recreation. Don't let yourself become a gap in the system. Build the Harbor Trail where you have always promised to build it in your comprehensive plan for the city. The Harbor Trail will be a spectacular success if you do it right. If you let this opportunity go, future generations will always ask why.

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