Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Please come out to hear the preliminary recommendations by the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) regarding the feasibility study of a multi-use trail in the right-of-way along the water side of the Merritt Parkway.   

The next meeting will be in 

Trumbull, May 15, 2014 at 7pm

at the Trumbull Library Community Room, 33 Quality Street.

It is important that many proponents of the trail show up to speak up and counter the opponents who have been coming out in force to these town meetngs with objections that in many cases are based simply upon a fear of change.

Following are some common objections to the trail with a summary of the answers.  More detailed back up is available upon request.
  • Crime - Studies consistently show that crime on trails or vandalism of nearby homes improves after a trail in built.  Vandals don't ride away on bicycles.  The increased evidence of people on the trail actually causes crooks to go elsewhere
  • Privacy - People on the trail stay on the trail.  In fact recent experience with the Farmington Valley Trail is that initially barriers were put up bordering on the trail at the request of the local homeowners.  Most of those have been taken down now at the request of the same people since they now want access to this amenity.
  • Cutting of trees and reducing the natural setting - The trail will be located in approximately the middle of the 150 foot right of way on the East side of the Parkway.  This means that there will be about 70 feet between the path and the neighboring homes as well as the Parkway.  This should provide plenty of screening during the months when the trail will have most of its use.  Many of the plants that are there now are invasive.  Part of building the trail can be to replace the native plants and trees.
  • Housing values - It is well documented in numerous studies that housing values increase and homes sell faster the closer they are to the trail.  This is because the trail is viewed as an amenity.
  • Cost to build - $200 to $250 million does sound like a lot of money.  Perhaps there are ways to reduce the cost and we can focus at first on the easier sections since we would not expect all thirty-eight miles to be build at one time.  This would also prove the viability of the project.
There are of course other significant benefits such as:
  • Health - Encouraging people to exercise in an enjoyable  inexpensive way will lead to longer life
  • Economic benefit do to increased tourism - one example is:  In 2011 the Orlando Sentinel noted that the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council reported that three bike paths in Central Florida bring $42 million to the local economy every year. There are now a preponderance of properly researched academic studies that confirm this success. 
  • Reduction in road congestion - Usage statistics show that people will use trails if they are safe and available.  The Farmington Valley Canal Trail has 25,000 users with a fraction of our population density.  
  • Reduced pollution 
  • Improved quality of life aka FUN!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Please consider attending Connecticut DOT's presentation on the Merritt Parkway Trail feasibility study. The fourth of eight DOT public meetings along the Merritt Parkway, New Canaan will be the location for the next meeting.

The meeting is Wednesday, April 30th at 7pm at the Outback Teen Center, 71 Main Street, New Canaan, CT.

Your voices need to be heard so please share your questions, support, and passion for the trail.

Please also consider seeking out the reporter, Nelson Oliveira, who will be attending the meeting and publishing his story in the "New Canaan News", "The Stamford Advocate", and "CT Post" (all part of Hearst Media Services). It is very important that the advocates have their voices heard this time around! Let's focus on the positive aspects and not the estimated price tag for the project.

Mark your calendars for the proceeding meeting in Trumbull, May 15, 2014 at 7pm (Trumbull Library Community Room, 33 Quality Street, Trumbull, CT). To continue tracking the public meeting schedule please visit http://www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?a=4185&Q=492498.

Monday, March 31, 2014


Please save these dates and show your support by attending the next round of CT DOT's presentations on the Merritt Parkway Trail Feasibility Study. Both the meetings in Fairfield and Westport had a good turn out and strong representation from the trail advocates. We need to remain strong and continue to increase our numbers in order to exhibit our dedication to the Merritt Parkway Trail vision, i.e. create a safe, attractive multi-use trail along the Merritt Parkway right-of-way for both enjoyment and transportation.
There are others of course who do not see the value of having a trail and have strong representation at these meetings. We need to do the same by showing up, making thoughtful comments, and bringing the passion and excitement we all have for this tremendous opportunity for Connecticut residents and tourists alike. Please plan on attending either one or both of these upcoming town meetings:
Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Stamford Government Center
888 Washington Blvd
Senior Center Auditorium, 2nd Floor
Stamford, CT

Presentation at 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 

Outback Teen Center
71 Main Street
New Canaan, CT

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2014 News

I'll bet the Merritt Parkway was a wonderful experience, once upon a time.  It looks idyllic in those vintage photographs; it was designed to be enjoyed.  No wonder they named it "parkway" rather than "highway".

For most motorists today, the Merritt has never lived up to its moniker.  These days it's a "parkway" mainly when congestion is so bad that traffic is at a standstill, and you shift your car into park so you can stretch your legs a bit.  The trees are beautiful, but difficult to enjoy when you're bumper-to-bumper, stressed out, or going 65 with the next car just 10 feet from your rear bumper.

But here we are, 80+ years after the Merritt Parkway was built, with an opportunity to put the "park" back in "parkway" - by creating the Merritt Park Trail!  Have you ever wanted to truly enjoy the trees, the landscape, and the geologic outcroppings?  Only when we're on foot, bike, or horseback will we truly have a "park" experience along the parkway.

Early this year, ConnDOT will bring its recommendations for creation of a Merritt Park Trail to the people in Merritt Parkway towns, through a series of town meetings.  We urge you to join us for these meetings to express your opinions and demonstrate your support for public parks, safe and healthy recreation, new venues for exercise, and new options for green transportation.  A Merritt Park Trail will expand opportunities for each of these in the towns along the Parkway.  Those meetings will be scheduled soon, and we'll keep you apprised.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Trails, Crime, and Loss of Privacy

Two issues that arise nearly every time a new trail project is proposed are crime and loss of privacy.  The proposed Merritt Parkway Trail is no exception.  Fortunately, to address those concerns, we have decades of trail development and use to look back on.  And time and time again, the answer we find is that these concerns are unfounded.

Studies that draw conclusions from rail-trails are not necessarily apt parallels for the Merritt Parkway Trail.  Abandoned rail corridors sometimes become magnets for illicit behavior which moves elsewhere when the trail is built; the undeveloped space in the southern half of the Merritt corridor has never attracted that kind of behavior, so it would be misleading to use rail-trail studies to make a point.  More appropriate parallels are those trails built in highway rights-of-way.  There are plenty of those to look to for experience.  One prominent example is also in Connecticut.

In Manchester and East Hartford, the Charter Oak Greenway has been under development for decades, piecemeal, to connect residential neighborhoods and other destinations including Manchester Community College and Charter Oak Park.  Future sections will connect to Bolton Notch State Park, the DOT commuter lot on US Rt 44 in Bolton, Rentschler Field (home of UConn Huskies football), the Pratt & Whitney facility, and the Connecticut River.  Today, 7.8 miles of this trail are complete, with fewer than 5 miles left to build.

Most of the completed Charter Oak Greenway has been built on land alongside I-384.  Much of it is in sight of abutting homes.  As part of the Merritt Parkway Trail feasibility study, ConnDOT interviewed Manchester’s Director of Public Works and Chief of Police.  The Charter Oak Greenway is closer to the nearest homes than the Merritt trail will be, so any negative influences would be magnified.  And what did ConnDOT find?  No complaints about loss of privacy, even as the trail passes only 20 feet from a home in one location.  No influence on emergency response.  The only trail-related complaint was about tree removal.  Fortunately, in the Merritt corridor, the right-of-way is so wide that no trees which may have to be removed will be visible from abutting homes.

We shouldn’t blame Merritt Parkway abutters for bringing up these questions.  It’s only natural to worry.  Thankfully, trail success stories from all over the country can put those concerns to rest.  And we can focus on making the Merritt Parkway Trail the best it can be, for neighbors and visitors alike.

To keep apprised of trail development, or to show your support for the trail, please like us on Facebook www.facebook.com/merrittparkwaytrailalliance, visit our website www.merrittparkwaytrail.org, and share this message with your friends and family.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Merritt Parkway Trail update

Much hay was made of the 2011 Scenic Byways grant award received by ConnDOT to study the feasibility of the trail from Greenwich to Stratford.  And the study received a good deal of attention last year as the DOT conducted a series of workshops in towns along the corridor, as well as walking through much of the corridor to put eyes on some of the topographic challenges that this project faces.

It’s been a quieter time lately on this topic, as the DOT has returned to their Newington offices to analyze their findings and prepare for meetings that should start in late spring or early summer to present their findings and get more feedback.  But there is still much to share.

You’ve likely heard the rumors about how the original design of the Merritt Parkway included a bridle path running from end to end, but that this element of the design was eliminated prior to construction.  But did you know that a bridle path was developed anyway?  Shorter stretches of bridle path were linked with logging trails, informal footpaths, and old woods roads to create a 37-mile bridle path which was, apparently, well-used year-round in the 1930s and early 1940s.  In 1946, the State of Connecticut Merritt Parkway Commission, in its 1946 booklet, “Rules and Regulations Governing the Use of the Merritt Parkway”,  codified the use of these trails by clearly stating “Rule 11: Equestrians are permitted on the bridle paths of the Merritt Parkway.”

Recent weather has also given many people dreams of tranquil cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing.  This will truly be a 12-month trail: whether paved or unpaved, the Merritt Parkway Trail will be a wonderful recreational resource in winter as well as the warmer months.  We hope that you will stand with us as we continue to advocate for development of what will be Fairfield County’s premier recreational and active-transportation resource.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Some common questions about the Merritt Parkway Trail

What is the Merritt Parkway Multi-Use Trail?
The proposed Merritt Parkway Trail is a 37.5-mile shared-use path, parallel to the Merritt Parkway from the New York border to the Housatonic River, for walkers, bicyclists, equestrians, cross-country skiers, and other non-motorized users.

Why Create It?
Our region lacks a corridor for safe east-west travel by bicycle. In addition to its transportation use, this trail will also become a popular facility for recreation and exercise, and a tourism venue.

Who Will Use It?
The Merritt Parkway Trail will be used by commuters, students, families, tourists, and anyone wishing to use a safe route for healthy recreation and transportation.

A Trail Right Next to the Highway?
The Merritt Parkway roadway is in the northern half of a 300-foot wide corridor. This means that there is a strip of land 150 feet wide in which to locate the trail. We can create a trail far enough from the road to be safe, and far enough from abutting homes to avoid privacy concerns.

Wait...What Was That About Tourism?
The Merritt Parkway Trail will be a segment of the East Coast Greenway, the 2900-mile biking and walking route connecting cities from Maine to Florida. People travel from around the country and from overseas to see the U.S. east coast by bike or on foot via the East Coast Greenway. The Merritt Parkway Trail could also become part of U.S. Bicycle Route 1, a route designated by state and federal authorities.

Will I Be Safe On This Trail? Will It Lower My Home’s Value?
Studies show that multi-use trails such as the proposed Merritt Parkway Trail are safe facilities. Studies also show that proximity to trails enhances home value.

How Much Will It Cost?
We don’t know yet. To construct a trail for a full range of muscle-powered users could cost as much as $1 million per mile. That’s about as much as it costs to build the soundproofing barriers you see next to I-95. But whereas those sound barriers serve only the limited number of people living by the highway, the trail will serve everyone!

How Can I Help Make the Trail Happen?
Spread the word--and your enthusiasm--to your friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Let your town and state elected officials know you support the trail. Attend the next public meetings, which will be scheduled in late spring or early summer 2013. And be sure to join our email list for periodic updates—SUBSCRIBE BY ENTERING YOUR EMAIL ON THE TOP OF THIS SCREEN!