A public hearing held to hear residents' support and criticism of an ordinance to fund the construction of a multi-use walkway from the Bissel Boat Launch at Windsor Meadows State Park to Hartford's north end lasted over an hour Tuesday night. Residents and citizens throughout the Greater Windsor area filled council chambers before Tuesday's town council meeting, during which the council voted to approve the appropriation of bonds to fund the $870,000 project.
The vast majority of those who addressed the council spoke in favor of the ordinance. Windsor resident Florence Barlow addressed the council, stating that the trail would be a great investment and would help fight concerns over obesity.
Leo Canty, Windsor resident and chairperson of the Windsor Democratic Town Committee, expressed his belief that, given tough economic times, there is no better time to "invest in infrastructure" based on low construction rates and quality bond rates.
If approved, the trial, which has recently completed the design stage, would not be completely funded by the town. According to the project engineer, Victoria Houle, the state would provide $377,240 in grant monies for the project, contingent upon the town's ability to match 20-percent of the grant funds, which would amount to about $94,000.
Councilor William Herzfeld and former town councilor Tim Curtis both addressed the positive economic impact of the trail. In particular, both men mentioned that the trail would have the potential to attract visitors from surrounding towns, and those residents could spend money in Windsor.
The trail's potential to stimulate Windsor's economy was strengthened by the presence of a number of people from towns other than Windsor on Tuesday.
Diane Siano of Plymouth, Conn. addressed the council as a representative of the Connecticut Horse Council and the Volunteer Horse Patrol. Siano, who already rides her horse on trails in Windsor, was enthused by the prospect of the trail's construction and the ability to ride her horse to the Hartford line.
Residents of South Windsor, Newington, Bloomfield and Bethany, mostly equestrians, also showed their support of the trail's construction.
The presence of non-Windsor residents was particularly pleasing to Mayor Don Trinks, who said, "We haven't even broken ground yet, and we've already drawn interest in the area.
The trail did meet opposition as well. Chief among the concerns of Windsor residents was the current economic climate.
Windsor resident Greg Wimble said that it was not the right time to invest in a project of recreational nature. Instead, Wimble said, the town should invest in public safety or education.
Wimble also expressed concern over the trail's connection between Windsor and Hartford's north end. His concern, which was echoed by a couple of other residents at the meeting, was the town's ability to "maintain a safe environment" for those using the trail that would lead into the state's capital.
None of the members of the town council expressed concerns regarding the trail's safety; however, councilor's Aaron Jubrey and Ronald Eleveld. Jubrey and Eleveld each said that this was not the right time to invest in a recreational project. Eleveld continued by saying that the town should not spend this money when more money could be invested into the town's educational system.
When taken to a vote, the council approved the appropriation of bonds to fund the project by a 6-3 vote.
The Public Works Department has estimated that it would cost between $3,000 - $5,000 to maintain the trail on an annual basis.
The hope, according to Houle, is that the trail would increase access to Hartford for bikers and open access to the Connecticut River, something the town does not currently have.
The Town Planning and Zoning Commission will have to have to recommend approval of the project following the final design stage and permit approval.