There’s good news for walkers and bicyclists in Branford — the new segment of the Shoreline Greenway Trail on the Tabor property should be complete by Fall, and a new committee is organizing called Branford in Motion.
The committee, being organized by Frank Gasparro, will emphasize safe biking and walking, and will explore ways to increase biking opportunities in Branford. There is also interest in the project by New Haven’s City Engineer Giovanni Zinn, who has come up with creative solutions for bike travel in the city.
Connecting the Towns
The Shoreline Greenway Trail (SGT) is an effort to develop a 25-mile hiking and biking trail extending from Lighthouse Point in New Haven to Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, passing through East Haven, Branford and Guilford.
“The Tabor trail is one of the more exciting things going on,” said Judy Miller, chair of the SGT and co-chair of the Branford chapter. Miller gave an update on progress during the annual meeting of the Branford chapter last week at the Blackstone Library.
“It’s a lovely recreational area,” Miller said. Although the Tabor section measures less than a mile long, it will be integral because of its scenic views, access to Chet’s Pond, and the connection to Pine Orchard Road and the Birch Road SGT trail. The 10-foot-wide Tabor section, which begins on Tabor Drive, will be handicapped-accessible.
Chet’s Pond is named for Chet Blomquist, who serves as co-chair of the Branford SGT team. Blomquist was honored by the town in 2011 as a trailblazer for his efforts to establish a 28-mile walking trail along Branford’s perimeter, and for his work with the SGT.
Blomquist, pictured at top, gave out two of his hand-made walking sticks following Sunday’s meeting. The 90-year-old has made 229 walking sticks, all of which he has given away.
Miller said bids for Tabor trail construction should be going out soon, with estimated completion in the Fall. The trail will cross a portion of the town-owned 77-acre Tabor Drive property, and replace a rough-hewn temporary trail that was previously created.
The estimated base cost for the Tabor section is $440,000, with 80 percent funding from the Federal Highway Administration, and 20 percent from Branford and state bond funds.
In the coming months, the Branford chapter of the SGT also plans to bring ideas and issues to public hearings for a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) study being conducted by the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission. The study will focus on a half-mile radius around the Shoreline East Train Station.
Biking and “Branford in Motion”
Miller said there has been an explosion of interest in biking throughout Connecticut in recent years, both in terms of recreational and economic advantages. “Biking brings economic vitality into the centers of towns,” she said.
Miller said it’s important to connect shoreline towns, recreational destinations and transit hubs like the Shoreline East train stations. She emphasized the environmental importance of walking, biking and using trains, rather than driving. For example, the newly expanded Shoreline East Train Station in Branford has bicycle racks for parking, and the Shoreline East also allows cyclists to bring bikes on the train.
“Bicycling improves the quality of life,” Miller said, stating there is a need for bike lanes and more bike racks in Branford . For example, the new renovation of the Blackstone Memorial Library does not include plans to expand the meager bike rack now provided by the library.
“We’ve made a lot more progress in Branford on sidewalks than bike lanes, but we’re working on it.”
That’s one of the goals of Branford in Motion, an independent committee being organized by Branford newcomer Frank Gasparro, who spoke briefly at Sunday’s meeting. He wants to emphasize bike safety and awareness, and he’s looking for committee volunteers and ideas from Branford residents. He is trying to assess interest in developing bike lanes and adding more bike racks and stands.
“The goal of Branford in Motion is to get people moving,” Gasparro said.
Miller also announced that New Haven city engineer Giovanni Zinn will speak at the SGT gathering May 5 at 7 p.m. at the Tabor Lutheran Church, following a walk across the Tabor property at 6 p.m. Miller called Zinn a creative problem-solver who has worked on bike access in New Haven.
Click here to read an article about some of Zinn’s plans for bicycle lanes in New Haven.
To reach Gasparro concerning the Branford in Motion Committee, contact him at email@example.com
Towns Along the Trail
Miller said the SGT trail is getting built “one section at a time,” working with the towns and volunteers. “We will gradually knit together a connector,” she said.
In East Haven, a 1/3 mile section of SGT was completed in November. It crosses the scenic Farm River State Park and connects with a previously completed SGT segment at the town-owned former D.C. Moore School property in East Haven. “It’s a nice place for a Sunday walk,” Miller said.
On the other hand, progress has been stalled in Guilford where residents opposed a plan to built a 3/4 mile trail on the east side of town from the Madison line to Boston Street. Guilford’s Board of Selectmen voted in January to scrap those plans and the SGT committee is now working on new designs.
In Madison, plans are underway to extend the existing SGT trail, which is an important hiking and biking trail for Hammonassett Beach State Park. Miller said Madison is working on designs for a trail section along Route 1.
Miller said there is exciting news in Clinton, where members of the Bike and Pedestrian Alliance of Clinton previously came to the SGT and said they want to build a trial that would extend from the Madison line through Clinton. The trail would make use of some roads that are wide enough for cars, bike and pedestrians.
Clinton’s proposal was unanimously approved by the town’s selectman last week, and the alliance is now working to raise funds to undertake Phase 1, which would extend from the Madison line to the Clinton Town Beach.
Additional information about SGT can be found at www.shorelinegreenwaytrail.org