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Fairfield mulls spot on trail blazed from Maine to Florida

Published 8:13 am, Saturday, February 16, 2013
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Police Commission members appear intrigued by the idea of Fairfield's stretch of a 3,000-mile trail envisioned from Maine to Florida, but want more details before get the go-ahead for the East Coast Greenway.

Police Chief Gary MacNamara said the non-profit East Coast Greenway Alliance wants to put up signs in town, marking Fairfield's portion of the trail planned for bicyclists and hikers.

"OK, so they put up signs," said Chairman Walter Flynn. "What does that mean?"

MacNamara likened it to signs that delineate the Appalachian Trail and, in fact, the East Coast Greenway parallels the Appalachian Trail and is seen as an "urban complement" to that forested route.

Currently, in most of Fairfield County, maps for the greenway follow existing roadways, though the long-term goal is to route the greenway along the proposed Merritt Parkway Trail, according to Eric Weis, trail program coordinator for the allianace.

In Fairfield, the greenway trail that could be used now would take hikers and bikers off the Post Road at Riverside Drive, through the Ash Creek Open Space, to the Old Post Road and Oldfield Road, down Sasco Hill and over Harbor Road, out to Pequot Avenue and then onto Beachside Avenue in Westport. Weis said the town's traffic authority -- the Police Commission fills that role -- needs to give its approval for those signs. If approval is granted, The alliance would like to put up the signs this year.

"I think we need a little more in the way of a presentation," Flynn said.

MacNamara said he would contact the group and have a representative come to a future meeting.

According to the group's website -- www.greenway.org -- a great deal of the proposed route is already publicly owned, and any funds to acquire, plan and build the greenway would come chiefly from federal transportation funds. There are committees in each of the 16 states to coordinate route selections and get local approvals.

Initial focus has been on making user maps and guides, and depositing trail markers and informational kiosks along the route. Permanent routes are expected to be off-road trails or routes that are otherwise separated from motor vehicle traffic. On-road sections are viewed as interim, according to the website, with the goal of working to find a way to move them off-road.

At this point, 77 percent of the "spine" route is staked out along interim trails. There are also plans for 2,000 miles of alternate routes to allow access to cities along the coast that are not on the spine route. When completed, the greenway would run from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Fla.

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