Walktober blossoms in Norwich

Norwich The popular Walktober series of walking tours, talks and events encompasses 35 towns in eastern Connecticut and Massachusetts, but this year, the calendar of events requires two close-up maps of Norwich just to show the 39 walks and five special events in the Rose City.

There are walks with zombies to relive the filming of "Remains" in downtown, walks for dogs and a walk describing visits to the city by Owney, the famous 1890s postal dog, walks through woods, along city streets and even tours of historic City Hall and Otis Library from basement to attic.

You can trod through the Norwichtown streets of local early 20th century artists or take a walk with today's national bestselling author Wally Lamb to see the Norwich neighborhoods of his own youth and learn how they inspired his writing.

On the water, kayakers can paddle up the Yantic River to the base of the historic Uncas Leap falls, while others can board the Project Oceanology research vessel Enviro-Lab to explore the depths of Norwich Harbor.

And when you're done with all that, you can witness an interview with Benedict Arnold at the Leffingwell House Museum or follow the footsteps that 1860 presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln took on his tour of downtown Norwich.

"It's a very diverse, huge variety of walks," said Regan Miner, project coordinator for Norwich Historical Society, which helped organize many of the events. "We're really excited to have Wally Lamb lead a walk, and we have many events going on."

With all the events in Norwich, officials at the Last Green Valley office in Danielson asked Norwich to host a visitors information center. The Norwich Historical Society will open the historic 1780s Daniel Lathrop Schoolhouse on the Norwichtown Green starting Oct. 1, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, throughout the month. It also will have a public restroom.

No other town throughout The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor hosts as many walks and events as Norwich, and it started coming together less than a month after Norwich hosted 22 Walktober events in 2013.

Jason Vincent, vice president of the Norwich Community Development Corp. and a member of the Last Green Valley board of directors, wanted to push the tourism potential of Walktober last year. Vincent called a meeting in August 2013 and tried to emphasize how the city could take advantage of the hundreds of participants Walktober could bring to the city.

"It didn't take," Vincent said.

Then organizers and walk leaders saw the popularity of the events first-hand. Nearly 1,000 people participated in city walks in 2013.

Vincent called another meeting in November, and 30 people attended. Numerous groups offered to lead walks with new and varied topics and experiences.

NCDC is co-sponsoring many of the events and is taking calls and reservations for those that require it. Miria Toth, NCDC office and marketing manager, said 20 people already have signed up for the 10 a.m. Oct. 4 kayak/canoe tour of the Yantic River. The tour's host, Thayer's Marine, offered six free loaner kayaks, and all are taken, Toth said. Additional kayaks are available for rent, but the tour is limited to 32 total participants.

The Thames River Estuary-Norwich Harbor tour aboard Enviro-Lab is half full and limited to 25 participants, Toth said.

And nine people have registered for the popular third annual Norwich Grub Crawl - a tour of historic downtown combined with samplings from several ethnic restaurants - on Oct. 26.

Vincent said the numerous groups leading walks and events, including the Norwich Historical Society, city Historian Dale Plummer, Slater Memorial Museum, Leffingwell House Museum and NCDC tried to schedule walks so that visitors can take in more than one Norwich event in one day.

If two events conflict with each other on one day, they will be scheduled for different times on another day.

And most of the events are timed so visitors can grab breakfast, lunch and/or dinner in Norwich before or after the tours.

c.bessette@theday.com

Twitter: @Bessettetheday

MORE INFORMATION

The Walktober calendar of events is free and available at:

• the city manager's office at Norwich City Hall, 100 Broadway

• NCDC, 77 Main St.

• Otis Library, 261 Main St.

• and online at www.thelastgreenvalley.org

For more information about the Norwich walks and events, contact NCDC at (860) 887-6964 or email regan.miner@yahoo.com.

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