Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Air Line Trail reaching towards Middletown

With a license signing ceremony in Portland on Wednesday night, the Air Line Trail 'rails-to-trails' linear park that begins at the Massachusetts state line will stretch a bit closer to the Connecticut river and a Middletown connection.

Reaching across eastern Connecticut from Thompson to East Hampton, the linear trail dates from the 1870s, when a rail line was built following an imaginary line from New York to Boston, drawn 'through the air' as it were in the shortest possible route. The long since defunct railroad has been converted over much of its length from into a popular 'greenway' and state park, popular with hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders.

For reasons lost to history, Portland did not acquire the property carrying the defunct rail line, as most other municipalities did. As a result, the state park currently ends in East Hampton. But a town steering committee has working to extend the trail through town with the goal of connecting to the Arrigoni Bridge, providing access to the downtowns of both Portland and Middletown. 

A major step forward in that plan will take place Wednesday night as the town signs a license agreement with the Eversource energy company (neƩ Northeast Utilities) extending the Air Line Trail over 2.27 miles of Eversource's property.

Phase I site plan
(click to embiggen)
The signing ceremony will take place at 7:30 pm at the Waverly Center at 7 Waverly Ave. With the signed agreement, the town can move forward with improvements needed to open the trail to the public. First Selectman Susan Bransfield, the Board of Selectmen, representatives from Eversource, volunteers and supporters will gather to celebrate. All are invited to come learn about the trail. Refreshments will be served.

The Air Line Trail Steering Committee will also hold a special "Freezin' for a Reason" guided hike on Saturday, January 23rd at 10 am, to preview the trail that will be open to the public once required improvements are completed.  More info can be found on the committee's Facebook page.


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