The East Coast Greenway (ECG) is a 2950 mile bicycle route from Key West, Florida, to Calais, Maine at the Canadian border. 30% of the route currently follows off-road trails, with the remaining 70% following on-street routes that are usable by experienced cyclists. The goal is to have the entire distance be off-road. The ECG is a fantastic, long-term project, but one with a lot of work to be done.
In Connecticut, 33% of the ECG route has been completed using such off-road trails. The main route follows the Farmington Canal Trail from New Haven to East Granby, where it turns southeast through Bloomfield, and east through Hartford, Manchester, and Willimantic. This route takes advantage of significant stretches of already-built recreational trails, but it also includes a number of serious obstacles before approaching the 100% off-road goal.
The Jonah Center for Earth and Art is advocating a 50 mile bike trail route that would depart eastward from the Farmington Canal Trail in Cheshire, follow mostly off-road trails east through Meriden and Middletown in order to connect with the Air Line Trail in Portland. This route would utilize existing bike trails in Meriden and Middletown, plus approximately 25 miles of the extremely scenic Air Line Trail to reach Willimantic, where it would reconnect with the East Coast Greenway. Of this proposed 50 mile Cheshire to Willimantic route, approximately 32 miles have already been constructed. Most of the remaining 18 miles follow routes already planned, designed, or proposed by engineering staff in Middletown and Meriden.
The Jonah Center recently initiated conversations among the Lower CT River Council of Governments (RiverCOG), the City of Meriden, the City of Middletown, the Town of Portland, and the Town of Cheshire to start cross-boundary communication, build support, and advance this idea. The project appears very promising not only because it would complement the Connecticut section of the East Coast Greenway, but because it would result in a 125 mile loop trail in central Connecticut, passing through Meriden, Middletown, Portland, East Hampton, Willimantic, Manchester, Hartford, Bloomfield, Simsbury, Avon Farmington, Plainville, Southington, and Cheshire. Such a loop trail would be a boon to bicycling in Connecticut and bring visitors to the communities along the entire route.
The City of Middletown is applying for a $2 million state grant to fund bikeway planning, easement acquisition, design, and construction of off-road trails from the Meriden line to the Arrigoni Bridge. This route is outlined in Middletown’s Complete Streets Master Plan.