Bike trail gets rubber stamp from Town Council

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Wed., Feb. 23, 2011
Glastonbury resident Lewis Lassow opposes the bike trail expenditure. Photos by Steve Smith.
Glastonbury resident Lewis Lassow opposes the bike trail expenditure. Photos by Steve Smith.

On Feb 22, the Town Council unanimously approved a fund transfer that will spark the construction of a multi-use trail connecting Smith Middle School to Bell Street, through the open space known as Addison Bog and Wetlands.

The transfer of $600,000 covers part of the total $872,000, and will be reimbursed by a state grant.

Residents at the public hearing mostly supported the trail’s construction, but some thought the expenditure - regardless of where the monies come from - is inappropriate at this time.

Town Manager Richard Johnson said plans for the 1,400-foot path have gone through a lengthy local, state and federal approval process.

“This is not a path, this is a road,” said Lewis Lassow, of Chapman Drive. “I think it borders on a totally frivolous use of precious taxpayer funds. Where does the state of Connecticut get $600,000 to grant us for this proposal, when it’s $3.7 billion in the hole? Where does the Town Council get the $275,000 to spend? From all of us.”

Lassow called for expenditures to be spent on essential services only, and not what he termed a “road to nowhere.”

Barrington Way resident and Glastonbury Bikeways member Brian Summers disagreed, calling the path a safer connection from eastern parts of Glastonbury to the Town Center, and hopefully, a part of a future network of trails.

“It would allow for safer access for not only bikers,” Summers said, “but walkers, runners, people with strollers, and really anybody with a roller wheel. It will also allow for easier public access to the beautiful forest area.”

Richard Baber, of Crossroads Lane, president of the Glastonbury River Runners - a local, non-profit running club - gave his support.

“We do most of our running on town roads,” Baber said, “which, while legal, isn’t really always safe.”

Baber said his group often travels to neighboring towns which have multi-use trails, such as Manchester and Vernon, and looks forward to the day when Glastonbury has such a network of trails.

Richard Marks, of Juniper Lane, also with Glastonbury Bikeways, reiterated comments he made at the council meeting two weeks prior.

“This project has been on the books for several years, and has received the necessary rounds of scrutiny,” he said. “The goal is to make Glastonbury more pedestrian-friendly, bicycle-friendly and wheelchair-friendly.”

“I respect the need to watch our pocketbooks,” said Scott Harris, of Niepsic Road. “My feeling is that this is a high-priority thing because we really have to look at our health and well-being. I don’t look at it as a ‘road to nowhere.’ It’s a start to somewhere.”

Councilwoman Carol Ahlschlager agreed with the goals of better access.

“Not everyone has access to forests and woods,” she said. “Not everyone has access to a safe place to walk. I think we have the responsibility to provide that with our town lands. This is the result of careful planning and thought. We don’t do anything capriciously when it comes to our land.”

“It is part of a larger master plan,” said Councilman Whit Osgood. “It is part of the concept of getting people downtown. There’s a lot to be said for it.”

“We are very mindful of our expenditures in this town,” said Councilwoman Marti Curtis, “and the fact that our taxpayers do bear the burden of all of our projects. That being said, when we are deliberating the final consequence or end result… we are firmly convinced that the benefit outweighs the expense, and this has been a long-standing dream of many in this town, and surrounding towns.”

Council Chair Susan Karp thanked town staff for bringing the project forward at a time when the bidding process was highly favorable for the town. Original estimates for the project were around $1.2 million.

“A lot of people worked very hard to make sure the project came forward in the way that took into consideration all of the objectives of the town,” Karp said.

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