A vacant urban meadow in the Behind the Rocks neighborhood, the scene of a long-awaited groundbreaking Friday, may one day become part of a network of trails that will make Hartford a greener place to live, city officials say.
Called the South Branch Trail of Hartford's Park River Greenway, the pathway extends through land that features some of Hartford's most varied wildlife and makes for excellent bird watching. Mayor Eddie A. Perez says the trail marks a small but important step in making the city a healthier place to live.
"It is going to take what is essentially abandoned land and turn it back into an asset for the city," said Jack Hale, executive director of the Knox Parks Foundation, one of many groups that are helping to develop the trail, which has been a decade in the making. "It will become a recreational and transportation amenity for anyone who wants to use it, and particularly for that neighborhood."
Hale, who lives in the neighborhood, said he has seen all kinds of wildlife, such as foxes, turkey, deer and many migratory birds, on the land.
"I saw a Baltimore Oriole out there the other day," he said.
The first portion of the trail, to be about 1,700 feet long near the former Charter Oak Terrace housing project, will run from Nilan and Brookfield streets in southwest Hartford through a meadow and forest to the corner of Brookfield Street and Flatbush Avenue. Another section of trail will be added later and will extend closer to the river.
The trail will be predominantly paved pathway that can be used by bikers and walkers. Some portions of the trail planned for the future will be made of crushed stone materials, primarily for walking.
Hale said the trail's planners hope to continue constructing new sections as funding becomes available, linking the trail to West Hartford's Trout Brook Greenway, connecting it to trails through Pope Park and Bushnell Park, and eventually to a system of pedestrian and bike trails that run along the East Coast.
Perez, who attended the groundbreaking Friday, said there is still a lot of work ahead, both for the trail and to make the city a greener place to live. He described the building of the trail as recapturing an oasis that was once lost to the city.
"Recapturing green spaces is important work in any community, especially more urban communities," Perez said. "We are giving people a chance to get back to nature and maybe do some walking and maybe get a little healthier."
Several local nonprofit organizations and state and federal agencies worked to make this initial step possible, Hale said.
Contact Daniel E. Goren at email@example.com.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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