New London obtains money for new walking and biking trail

New London — Construction could start as early as this year on a new pedestrian and biking trail connecting downtown to the Fort Trumbull peninsula.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection last week announced a $265,000 grant to the city through its recreational trails program. The trails program is aimed at expanding biking and walking opportunities throughout the state.

The money will help pay for the construction of a portion of a bike and walking trail running south along South Water Street and connecting to a new walkway that will top the hurricane barrier at the end of Sparyard Street, adjacent to the railroad tracks, and on to an existing but deteriorating path along Shaw’s Cove. The path will connect to a loop that runs along Bank Street, which already contains sharrows, shared bike and car lanes, installed by the city’s Public Works Department.

Abel Donka, a member of the Economic Development Commission whose time working on the project dates back nearly eight years, said money for design of the trail, $61,000, was awarded in 2015 and the effort had always been to construct the trail with limited use of city funds.

“The key was to get this paid for so New London taxpayers would not be burdened,” Donka said.

The goal is to interconnect the entire city and eventually have a network where someone can walk or ride a bike from Connecticut College to Ocean Beach Park and all places in between.

“This is going to be an ongoing process,” Donka said. “This is a humongous first effort. We’re going to get a lot for a very little.”

The newly constructed path will piggyback on other projects underway around the city and help accommodate a bicycle ride sharing program coming to the city this summer. The City Council in August approved a five-year license agreement with P3 Global Management to establish a series of six bike share stations across the city.

Anchor Engineering Services is handling the design of the trail. Portions of the trail await approval by the Army Corps of Engineers. The government shutdown may lead to delays in those approvals, said City Grants Manager Elizabeth Nocera.

Nocera said there are portions of the plan to develop the loop that still need to be designed, such as how to accommodate bikes turning from Bank Street onto Howard — a busy intersection. Nocera said the grant’s required 20 percent match will come through work performed by Public Works. The work will later be connected to bike-friendly routes under development on Williams Street and Hodges Square. 

The New London grant was a portion of $3 million the state distributed to a handful of the 73 applicants who had applied for grant funding. The Connecticut Greenways Council served as an advisory committee to DEEP for grant selection. The Connecticut Greenways Council in 2003 made a 3.5-mile stretch of sidewalk between Connecticut College and City Pier an official state greenway.

“Through our recreational trails program, we are providing funds that will provide safe recreational opportunities for families and friends to travel throughout the state,” said DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee in a statement. "Whether biking or walking any time of year or snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the winter, Connecticut offers attractive year round opportunities for people of all ages.”


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