Planning and zoning approval 'last hoop' for Salem trail

Salem — The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the last three crossings for the trail that runs behind the Salem School and Town Hall after a public hearing Tuesday night, completing an approval process that started in 2008.

Tuesday night's approval of the three crossings was the "last hoop" for the multi-purpose path, which is open for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and other recreational activities.

Four other crossings already were approved.

Andrew Frausini, a Hartford Road resident, said he and his wife really saw the value of the trails when they ran into other people in town while on a hike.

"I think this is a no-brainer for the town," he told the commission. "It puts the community back together in a way that we're able to see each other and spend time just chit-chatting, talking."

He said he hopes the trail can be marketed more to residents so they come out to enjoy it, as well.

Most of the crossings on the path were approved by the commission and the Inlands Wetlands and Conservation Commission in 2008.

However, because the path crosses Harris Brook, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection also had to grant permits for all seven crossings on the trail to ensure the plans would have minimal impact on the areas.

The permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and DEEP were granted in August after more than three years of site visits and studies.

The trail was open for use during that time, but no work could be done on the crossings.

Tuesday's public hearing was held to discuss the plans for the last three crossings and approve the special exception permits for the riparian corridor overlay zone.

Harris Brook is a tributary of the Eightmile River, which is protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

The town of Salem had to create the riparian corridor overlay zone in 2007 to protect the 50 feet of land buffer on either side of the brook, and permanent structures or bridges in the zone require a special exception permit from the town.

Multi-Purpose Path Committee member William Martin, who lives near the trail on Music Vale Road, added during the hearing that the three crossings are designed to be above the 100-year flood level of Harris Brook, and they are far enough apart to allow free passage by animals in the area.

Crossings 3 and 6, which are located behind the school and Town Hall, would be Fiberglas pedestrian bridges, while Crossing 7 on Round Hill Road would be wider and able to bear the load of a vehicle.

Sue Spang, who is a member of the Multi-Purpose Path Committee and the chair of the Recreation Commission, said the idea for a trail system in town started among members of the Recreation Commission around 2002.

"I had lived in Colorado previous to that, and I was always using those trails," said Spang. "Everyone used them, and they were all over the place. When I came back here ... there was nothing in Connecticut, really, to speak of."

Spang told the commission that Crossing 7 only would be used by construction and maintenance vehicles or emergency personnel to gain access to the path.

Large rocks currently are in place to discourage vehicular access so visitors are free to safely use the trails.

Zack Adams, whose property on Music Vale Road includes part of the path, said he and his family use the trails every week, and they like the thought of being able to walk to Salem School on the trails.

"That was actually something that my wife and I found very attractive when we bought the property, this access to the town trails," he said.

The Multi-Purpose Path Committee has a grant for $211,000 to pay for Crossing 3, which is 70 feet long and 10 feet wide.

Crossing 3 is slated for construction and completion this year, and Crossings 6 and 7 will be constructed as grants are available.

a.hutchinson@theday.com

Twitter: @ahutch411

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