That Sunny September Day
dave the cat
I work 6 days a week with only Saturday as my day off. What a glorious sunny day was September 15th! I decided to see if the New Haven section of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail had been completed. I travelled from Longmeadow, Mass' most southern town, down to Connecticut's most southern city. I hadn't been there since 2003, when only a small 1/2-mile stretch was done. I got down on the railpath at that time and saw where the New Haven-Northampton Railroad met the New York-Boston Railroad, but was afraid to go through that tunnel, fearing rats! Now I was seeing the planned trail all complete, and it looked very good! I was pleased with the oblisks put on each brick column that designated each street crossing. What a nice job! I concur with other reviewers descriptions of that neighborhood, the Newhallville section, but I grew up in East Orange, N.J., right outside Newark, so I felt right at home there. The beginning of the trail that will transgress 80 miles eventually has been very nicely done!
Farmington Canal Heritage Trail from Hamden Shopping Plaza south to New Haven
This portion of the trail is unsafe to walk. I hope the TrailLink staff do not disapprove this comment for posting, as it is important for people to be aware of the unsafe areas, as much as the beautiful areas. I have walked or biked this trail from the Hamden Shopping Plaza north for many many years and have always enjoyed it greatly. This is my first experience walking south from the Plaza to New Haven, and I have to say, I was scared, even though it was Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. I walked too far on this trail, as far as Basset St. but came back on the main road, Dixwell Ave. As you approach New Haven, you begin to see people hanging around the trail, smoking, drinking something, yelling comments at bikers. There are poles with big red buttons that say "Press if you need help". There are many isolated areas with no one, but you, on the trail (odd for a beautiful Sunday afternoon). Woman should not be walking on this trail by themselves, ever.
Great ride from Cheshire to New Haven
I rode this trail a few weeks ago with my brother. We started in the middle, in Hamden, and rode to New Haven first. I had ridden this path earlier and I was curious to see whether the trail had extended beyond Yale yet. There are frequent road crossings at the New Haven end through diverse neighborhoods, with police emergency kiosks periodically. Be cautious and look both ways as drivers are not expecting you and probably will not slow down or stop for you.
We were also stopped by a gate, even though the trail beyond appeared to be paved and ready to go. We headed back and somewhere around Skiff street in Hamden, they were doing construction for a paved underpass, whereas previously we had to cross the street at a light. This section is likely done by now and very welcome (as there will no longer be this busy road crossing).
The trail generally parallels route 10, with infrequent road crossing until the end at Cornwall Street in Cheshire. Overall the trail is well maintained, and frequently used by walkers, joggers, road bikes, and skaters. End to end it's probably about 14 miles. I look forward to the trail continuing northward, connecting with the rest of the East Coast Greenway.
Busy on nice days but a nice ride
I have been enjoying the Cheshire-Hamden stretch of this trail for many years. On very nice sunny days you need to watch out for little kids on bikes and even Big Wheels and Razor scooters - it seems that parents don't teach their kids to ride single file and they don't really pay attention to their own kids - I have had a few near misses when little kids panic and abruptly stop mid path.
Aside from those hazards, the trail is mostly flat with a few hills near the Hamden end which may be a challenge for new riders. Some interesting spots include the areas before and after Lock 12 where the stones lining the sides of the old canal are still visible, the section that briefly runs parallel to the Merritt parkway and the intersection with Brooksvale park. This park on the Cheshire hamden line is a pleasant place to stop for a break, look at the horses, goats, bunnies and chickens in their pens, or explore the trails by foot or mountain bike. I have seen a fox along the path, as well as swans in a marked nesting area in Cheshire.
The parking area on Cornwall Ave can get busy, but there is an overflow lot across the street with plenty of room. I suppose you could park at the elementary school a block away if it is real busy.
At the time of this writing, the first half mile from Cornwall south is in need of some paving - there is a bump in the asphalt every 50 feet or so and is annoying on a road bike.
You could also take a detour in hamden and explore the Quinippiac University campus, about a 1/4 mile away - the main quad has some interesting architecture. And across the street from there is Sleeping Giant State Park - many hiking trails, picnic tables and a water spigot.
I agree with the other review that the stretch from Hamden to New Haven is interesting but not worth the risk. Once you hit New Haven, you are basically in the projects for a mile and what looks like a rough neighborhood. There are a dozen side streets to cross and I found that local drivers did not stop at crosswalks. It is somewhat confusing why the city would spend the money to revitalize the rail trail yet not address the dilapidated surroundings. Once you emerge from this section, you are on the outskirts of the Yale campus - you could ride another mile to the New Haven Green, but I chose to turn back. The Hamden to New Haven section also lacks anywhere to stop should you need a bathroom - I chained my bike to a signpost and went to the Hamden Stop and Shop.
Overall, the Cheshire to Hamden stretch is very pleasant. As of this writing, the Plantsville to Cheshire stretch is under construction, so it will be nice one day soon to go Southington to Hamden, about 15 miles end to end.
Northern Section and Southington Section
I used to post semi-regularly on here when it was the older site.
Anyways, I was on the northern tip a day before Fletch6's post and the workers there told me it would be put in place on the 23rd or 24th.
I rode my bike on the side road to the west and the other small bridge that was out, you had to ford the mucky, oily river, only a few feet. There's a great old country store and coffeehouse on the main drag (168), called Red Riding Hood's Basket.
I read the local paper after this trail, the Suffield Observer and there was a small mention of the northern portion. The contract is done by November 30 so they have until then to finish everything before the money runs out. It was about $500,000 or so, 1/2 of what it was a year ago before the recession.
Anyway, a very good piece of news regarding the Southington-to-Cheshire portion. Tony Tranquillo, Town Engineer, today said that the state has approved the trail from Plantsville to Cheshire, the bids are out and due in October, and work is expected to start this year. Completion should be about this time next year.
Attempt to ride on this trail to Mass failed when I was hit by a car in Cheshire
I last wrote on this website three years ago (when I was twelve years old) when my dad and I rode 120 miles (over four days) on the Airline Rail-Trail from New Haven to Massachusetts. We ran into all sorts of problems on that trail. This year, I had heard about this trail, the Farmington Canal Trail, and decided to try to ride it to Southwick, MA, and to bike from there across MA to my grandparents' house.
The trailhead for this trail is very very close to the New Haven train station. It is near the intersection of Grove and Prospect Sts in New Haven. The trail is very nice for maybe a mile to Starr St and Shelton St. Just ride on Shelton to the next street, make a left, make a right on Dixwell Ave, and within a few blocks, you will find the paved trail again. I know, at the moment signs say "trail closed," but that didn't seem to stop people walking on it. Just keep going on the trail. I decided to go around the Putnam Ave bridge that says "bridge out" but I think it may be safe to ride on. From the bridge, the trail is nicely paved (but with an uphill grade that can tire you out by the time you get to Cheshire) until Cornwall Ave in Cheshire. At Cornwall Ave, the trail abruptly ends for a while. I made a right on Cornwall, went up the hill, and made a left on Route 10. A mile into my ride on 10 (which, by the way, is decently flat for a street in the CT hills) and I was hit by a car (I was putting away my cell phone, and I must have strayed out of the shoulder because I felt a large piece of metal hit me, and the next thing I knew it was half an hour later, and I was lying with my head on the curb with a huge headache and my hair all bloody.)
I like this trail, although the grade can tire you out after a while. I hope to try this again, maybe in August. I took several pictures of this trail, and they are all on this website.
For now, goodbye,
2008 FCHT Update
I recently spoke at our annual meeting in Avon on the state of the rail-trail system of which the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail (FCHT) is the north-south spine and part of the East Coast Greenway. We have had a remarkable 2008, but so have the areas to the north and south. The truth is that we are close to having one of the premier regional multi-use rail-trails in the United States.
The FCHT runs about 84 miles from New Haven to Northampton, MA. To our south, New Haven has completed the design for the final section north to Hamden, with construction starting in the spring of 2009. In Hamden, the final 2.3-mile section to the New Haven border should be done this month, including a new bridge over Putnam Avenue for a continuous off-road route of over 14 miles well into Cheshire. Cheshire is looking for funds to complete their remaining gap in the trail north. In Southington, the town is designing the section from Cheshire to the paved trail in the town center. The rail corridor north to Plainville was recently abandoned and can finally go into development. Local advocates and the Town of Plainville are working on both an on and off-road route for the trail. Negotiations continue with Pan Am Railways on the still active rail line to create final trail routes in the existing right-of-way.
From Farmington, the trail is paved for 21 continuous miles with a soon to be finished break in East Granby and a small gap in Suffield. Farmington and Avon are complete. In Simsbury, the piece of the trail that currently runs on sidewalks from the Hop Brook Bridge to Drake Hill Road and then to Iron Horse Blvd will be replaced by an easement for the trail and construction will take place in 2009. 5.57 miles in East Granby and Granby were paved last fall and finished this year. After much delay, construction of the Salmon Brook Bridge has finally begun and should be completed by December with the help of a $70,000 grant from our organization. To the north, progress has been slow in Suffield due to DOT’s requirement that the existing bridges over two small brooks be replaced rather than refurbished, doubling the cost. DOT recently released more funds, although the town still does not have authorization to re-bid the project at the new “improved” budget of $660,000 for their .37 miles of trail to the Massachusetts border.
In Massachusetts, the trail has been completed 3 miles north from the state line in Southwick. The 3.2-mile Phase II is designed and construction is pending the installation of a gas main under the right-of-way. Phase III will follow. In Westfield, one of the few elevated trails over a community in New England has been designed and is awaiting funding. Farther north, in a town known for resistance to the trail, a new group, Friends of the Southampton Greenway now exists. Even better, the town has recognized the trail by placing it in their new open space plan. Massachusetts has earmarked funds for the purchase of the right-of-way, and the railroad is willing to hold the land until the town is ready to move on the project. The first 4.2 mile section of the Manhan Trail in Easthampton is complete and a portion of it will become part of the FCHT. Finally, in Northampton, the connector between the Norwottuck Trail in the northeast to the Manhan Trail in the south is being constructed right through town. The connection with the FCHT is in design, and will include a section of rail-with-trail.
The majority of the FCHT is in completion due to the tireless work of local advocates, area towns and like-minded agencies.
R. Bruce Donald, President, Farmington Valley Trails Council
"The person who posted the pics later on down this page hit the nails on their heads. Just like that.
I must say that this 2-mile section of trail was quite enjoyable and is the exception, meaning that the trail made me want to see what was in this center of Plantsville Village, not the rest of the trail.
The trail parallels Main Street in Southington and starts at Kane Street and North Main. A ballast running path like most of the trail follows shortly at Kane and Curtiss Streets with benches and a parking area and 10 bicycle racks. When you come along to the Center Street area, this is where it gets interesting.
This little old bustling village is still intact and although some factories are abandoned, they are in great shape structurally. In this area are at least 25-30 factories and only about 5% are not in use or given adaptive reuse as another life. Most from the side look abandoned but it turns out to be a business park on the other end and mostly restaurants and nice bars. Center Street leads from Summer Street, the trail and to Queen Street. It consists of a village of industry mixed with small apartments and quaint stores that's very pedestrianized, with small promenade streets. The crosswalks are brickwork with lots of benches, lightposts and bike racks. I saw it on an evening weekday, so I can imagine what it's like when it's teeming with people.
Back on the trail, past some other factories, you go over a small bridge where there looks to be a small depot on the right. There's a bumper near the river and a siding and going around to the front it's 3 or 4 companies in this weird annex of buildings, like an unsymmetric array of barns. There's a parking lot near here with spots for 17 cars and 8 more bike racks.
The trail ends at West Main Street and Summer Street. The right-of-way ends here but across the road in the weeds, just an inch to the left of the tracks is a nice gazebo. Before the track ends, there's a nice restaurant/bar on the left.
There were 32 bike racks in total on this 2-mile stretch of trail."
New additions coming soon
"In the September 2006 edition of the New Haven Business Times, (New Haven, Yale Propose Agreement for Civic Improvements), it was announced that Yale will provide New Haven $10,250,000
for various upgrades INCLUDING ""complete the greenway on the historic Farmington Canal Line from the campus to the Audobon District"". It will also repair the distressed Prospect and Temple Street bridges over the Farmington Canal.
Work should begin this fall once the money is in place.
Here's the problem. The trail ends near the new English Dept building under one tunnel, two streets from Audobon. This means they will clear the trees and debris for 2 more tunnels! Great news, but not really. It ends at Hillhouse Avenue. They should complete is under two more streets (Orange and State), under the parking garage, etc. and have it go under State and come out at the current Amtrak/State Street Station where it's been proposed.
I guess funding is always a problem. It will take a little while I guess.
(Technically after the new additions are finished, you can follow the ROW a few more streets down to Bassett Street. There are some grassy and wooded areas, a stretch with lots of glass with double rails in place, etc. Then it becomes very overgrown, but you can follow it closely and do some rough riding through neighborhoods until you hit Stop and Shop where it starts. There is a lot of debris still by the industrial park.)"