Charter Oak Greenway Nearing Completion, Bridges On The Way

Contact ReporterNature's Path & Way To Go

The bridge is coming! The bridge is coming!

Whenever I write about major trail bridges in eastern Connecticut I feel a bit like Paul Revere and Peter from the folktale “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

For a decade — from 2002 to 2012 — I wrote a half-dozen columns about a covered bridge in Andover that would be built over a pair of railroad bridge abutments and fill a gap along the Hop River linear trail. It was coming. It was not coming. This time it was really coming. It was delayed. It was tied up in litigation. And in 2012 the covered bridge trail crossing over Route 316 finally came, much to the delight of hikers and bikers — and a Nature column writer who cried “The bridge is coming!” for years.

And now we have the Charter Oak Greenway’s trail bridge across Camp Meeting Road in Manchester. The grand opening date was originally in May. That came and went. The abutments are in place next to I-384. The trail is paved up to the abutments. Bikers and hikers were supposed to go from the current terminus on Camp Meeting Road to Finley Street by now.

But the project was delayed due to the state Department of Transportation having to tweak the bridge design and a three-month wait for fabrication. A new deadline of late summer 2017 was given. And now that has come and gone with no bridge.

The good news is the project isn’t standing idle while it waits for the bridge. The 2.75-mile trail has now been completed well into Bolton on its way to Bolton Notch State Park. A newly paved section from Finley Street parallels the eastbound lanes of I-384 and along the eastern portion of exit 5 to Route 85. Long stretches of split rail fencing have been installed along the path.

Crews are now working on creating a lane across the Route 85 bridge over I-384 for future hikers and bicyclists. The path has been laid out and landscaped as the trail winds down to the westbound side of I-384 where crews are installing a concrete barrier to protect trail users from the highway. The path will eventually cross Route 6/44 near the commuter parking lot and then to Bolton Notch.

The 10-foot-wide paved path will connect with the Hop River Trail at the Notch that runs east to Willimantic and north to Vernon. Both the trail and greenway are part of the 2,900-mile East Coast Greenway that runs from Calais, Maine to Key West, Fla.

There are 200 miles of the East Coast Greenway in Connecticut, including 79 miles of protected off-road trails. Those trails include the Hop River, Air Line Trail and Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. The remaining mileage is on-road. Trail advocates are hoping to develop a 37.5-mile-long path along the Merritt Parkway.

On the western end of the Charter Oak Greenway connection, a spur has been completed linking East Hartford’s Great River Park to Main Street. The trail runs from the southern end of the park from a bridge across the Hockanum River to the Connecticut River Academy and under Route 2 to Main Street. Paved paths now link to the Charter Oak Greenway off Silver Lane in East Hartford.

The extension of the Charter Oak Greenway is expected to be completed by November 2018. Hopefully the bridge will be in place by then, allowing hikers and bicyclists to travel from the banks of the Connecticut River to the highlands of eastern Connecticut. I just hope I’m not crying wolf again.

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