SOUTHINGTON — Construction to extend the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail north from Lazy Lane to Aircraft Road is underway after years of planning and delays.
The project, the third and final phase needed to complete most of the town’s segment of the popular linear trail, is scheduled for completion in 2024.
The trail runs with little interruption between New Haven to the Massachusetts border and beyond, along the former New Haven and Northampton Company (NH&N) railbed, which was constructed along the route of the Farmington Canal in Connecticut and the Hampshire and Hampden Canal in Massachusetts, respectively.
Planning for the privately funded Farmington Canal began in the 1820s, following the success of the 363-mile Erie Canal, according to the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail website.
After numerous engineering and construction setbacks, the first commercial canal boat, the James Hillhouse, left New Haven bound for Simsbury in 1828. The canal was finally completed from New Haven to Northampton, a distance of 84 miles, in 1835, with a series of 28 locks in Connecticut providing a drop of 220 feet from the Massachusetts border to New Haven.
Commercial operations on the canal ceased in 1848.Pandemic delay
State and local officials cited the pandemic as the cause of delays in designs and approvals needed for the trail segment, which crosses wetlands at several different points, requiring both local approval and permission from the Army Corps of Engineers. Southington engineers worked with the state Department of Transportation on the trail’s design.
The Lazy Lane-Plainville town line section, about two miles long, is the last portion to be finished in Southington.
Plainville’s section of the trail hasn’t yet been completed.
Most of the heritage trail, which runs from New Haven into Massachusetts, is finished in Connecticut. Unlike many other towns and cities along the trail, the Plainville portion cannot use rail beds because the rail line in town is still being used.
For more information about the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail go to fchtrail.org/history.