Commentary: Plainville-Southington trail debate: To be continued

Commentary: Plainville-Southington trail debate: To be continued

Record-Journal

News editors read at least hundreds, possibly zillions, of stories every year – obviously, that’s our job.

Out of those many, many stories from 2017, I’m going to pick just a few that spoke to me for one reason or another. This is totally subjective, my picks are not necessarily “top stories,” you will have other events that touched your heart or made you laugh or gave you pause.

Here are stories I followed with particular interest and not because it’s my job.  

The heartbreaking fire that destroyed the Berlin train station was a real kick in the gut for many folks. I grew up in a railroad family, my Dad worked for the Boston & Maine line and was stationmaster in a station a lot like Berlin’s. It was right across the tracks from our house and I spent many afternoons there as a kid, just hanging out.  

Every time I visited the Berlin station, it took me back. The way the space echoed, the dusty light, the stark beauty of the old benches worn down by decades of restless waiting passengers. I always recommended the Berlin stop to would-be travelers. So convenient, easy parking, no crowds or traffic. 

A new station is in the works with the intent of opening in the spring. Meanwhile, the town is looking to find ways to pay tribute to the old station and is waiting for Amtrak to release artifacts retrieved from the site after the fire. Train service opened here pre-1850 and there’s a lot of history to honor.  

In lighter news, Cheshire brought back fireworks to its Fall Festival after trying out a laser show as a lame substitute the previous year. Yipee!

The laser option was brought in as a safe alternative due to concerns about endangering the community pool roof. Now a new launch site is available (the Chapman property) and the chamber and businesses raised money through a raffle to offset the more expensive pyrotechnic display.

Town Council chairman Rob Oris said, at the time, that last year’s light show wasn’t the same as fireworks.

Whew! Accept no substitutes for the thrill of the real thing. The sulphur, the bone-rattling booms, the debate about “was that the grand-finale?” “No wait, THIS is the grand finale.” Even the duds add to the excitement and anticipation. And yes, a little bit of danger is a big part of the joy, every once in a while you have to live on the edge.

Finally, the saga of the trails plan to close a four-mile gap between Plainville and Southington is one I’ve followed closely.

The rails-to-trails project, overall, appears to be a significant success in terms of use, possibly improving the fitness of area residents and definitely enhancing their access to the outdoors. The sticking point for the Plainville-Southington connection is the need to take the trail outside of the rail bed, as unlike other towns, Plainville has active rail lines and is unable to use the rail right of way as part of the route. 

After a bunch of public meetings exploring possible alternatives, options have been narrowed down to one preferred route that is mostly off the road. Some folks in close proximity to the proposed route welcome nearby access others vehemently oppose it.

At this time, the proposed trail route would start on the existing bike facility on Northwest Drive and end on Townline Road and Redstone Street. It would pass through the western edge of Carling Technologies behind Peron Road.

The PlainvilleGreenway Alliance, Town Manager Robert Lee and other town officials, along with the Capitol Region Council of Governments have pushed forward for a solution that will satisfy those who have concerns as the project moves forward.

The leadership needed to bring big undertaking like this together is a fascinating aspect of this story. A great community needs resources like the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. But making that plan a reality is no easy feat.

The Town Council may vote on the proposed route as soon as February and this topic will continue to be one of my most watched stories in 2018, too.

Olivia L. Lawrence is assistant editor of the Record-Journal weeklies


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