PLAINVILLE - Bike trail supporters and detractors packed the auditorium of the Middle School of Plainville Monday to make their voices heard on the proposed path.
Steering committee member Tim Malone of the Capitol Region Council of Governments began the public hearing with an overview of the project. Theresa Carr of the steering committee took notes on comments made by members of the audience.
Residents and out-of-town visitors filled nearly every seat.
The proposed trail alignment, maps of which were provided to attendees, would create a 5.3-mile bicycle path from Northwest Drive to Town Line Road that is 98 percent off-road. This would close the “Plainville Gap” in the East Coast Greenway, a network of connected trails throughout the region. State funding has been promised to support the project.
The steering committee and town leaders such as Town Manager Robert E. Lee and Director of Planning and Economic Development Mark Devoe have supported the trail, arguing that it will bring increased business to the town as well as being a positive amenity.
Trail opponents have raised concerns about privacy, safety, environmental impact and property values.
Lee and Devoe have said that environmental impacts would be minimal, trails do not cause an uptick in crime and barriers could be included to ensure privacy. They have also cited studies showing that having a bike path increases adjacent property values. Malone backed up these rebuttals.
Resident Barbara Davison was among those that supported the trail.
“This is the best possible route and it goes through many beautiful parts of town. Farmington and Southington have invested in trails and seen the benefits,” she said.
Members of the local chamber of commerce, police department, parks and recreation department and youth services supported the trail gap closure.
Resident Kathy LaBella was among the voices of opposition. She argued that the state will not have enough money in its transportation fund to support the construction of the trail.
“The governor has postponed $4.3 billion in transportation projects and if they do seek to raise money for this fund it will be through burdensome tolls and gas taxes,” she said. “It is fiscally irresponsible to spend money on a recreational trail when there are so many critical projects that need to be funded.”
Malone said that he has spoken with the state Department of Transportation and that they consider the project a priority. Town Council Chair Kathy Pugliese also reiterated that the council will not support the project if state funding does not come through.
Joel Edman, who wore a “no rails no trails” sign around his neck, said that he does not want to see a historic mule haul trail behind his home on Hollyberry Lane bulldozed or paved over or nearby wetlands destroyed. His sister, Joanne Edman, said she didn’t want to have the trail “intrude” in front of or behind homes along it.
“This is a want, not a need, and in this depressed economic climate the state and the feds can’t afford it,” said Joanne Edman. “If the rail is ever abandoned and we can use that line, then and only then would this be acceptable if it doesn’t cost too much.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.