Westfield, MA prepares to join the rail trail network in the Pioneer Valley.
The New Haven & Northampton Canal rail trail project, known in Connecticut as the Farmington River Greenway, continues to move along towards completion. The section from Suffield, Connecticut over the border to Southwick, MA opened May, 2010, allowing 22 miles of continuous bike riding. The next town on the trail, Westfield, MA, is currently undergoing several public works projects in their downtown area.
During the question and answer period of April 25, 2010 Wayne Feiden’s talk on the future of the rail trail network sponsored by the Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways, a representative of the Westfield Friends of the Columbia Greenway Trail, Jeff, talked about the status of the greenway. [I did not get his last name, but would be happy to add it if someone lets me know.]
The conversion of the canal and old rail lines is broken into 3 sections, Southern, from the Southwick town line, Central, through downtown Westfield, and the Northern, to the Southampton town line. All three sections are in the design phase.
This summer, the Westfield DPW is scheduled to pave a portion of the Southern Section from the Southwick line, up to the first intersection.
A unique feature of the Westfield bike path is that it is entirely an elevated path. This means there are nine bridges on the Westfield section of the bike path. Two in the Southern Section, six in the Central Section, and one in the Northern Section. This unique feature also means that the project is taking longer in the design phase. The Central Section has the most design completed, 75%.
A photo gallery of the current condition of portions of the Greenway can be seen here. You’ll note the many bridges. An urban planning class at Westfield State College (now University) completed a study on the conditions of cycling facilities and challenges for cyclists in Westfield as of 2009. The report also includes photos and recommendations for encouraging cycling and making cycling safer.
This path will be exciting to ride, and will surely be a boon to Westfield businesses as people come to cycle this path and bike across those bridges. Bike tourists taking the long ride from New Haven will be happy to find the revitalized downtown Westfield welcoming them and their dollars.
Once the Westfield section is completed, the only uncompleted section between the Connecticut line and Northampton, MA will be through Southampton, MA. Craig Della Penna reminded everyone that although there has been sophisticated resistance to trail development in Southampton, their Town Meeting recently voted to move forward with trail development.