“Rails with Trails” and “The Economic Benefits of the Naugatuck Valley Greenway.”

The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area in cooperation with the Northwest Hills Council of Governments, the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, and the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments Present:

“Rails with Trails” and “The Economic Benefits of the Naugatuck Valley Greenway.”Rails with Trails Symposium - Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area

The seminar is for local elected officials, local and regional planners and trail advocates.

Join us:

  • Date: Monday, March 20th
  • Time: 11:30 am to 1:30 pm
  • Location: E. Paul Martin Room, 2nd Floor, Town Hall, 10 Main Street, New Milford.

A light lunch will be provided by the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area.

Tom Sexton will discuss Rails with Trails. Tom is the Director of the Rails to Trails Conservancy’s Northeast Regional Office. Since joining RTC in 1991, Tom has been instrumental in leading RTC’s policy, promotion and trail assistance efforts across ten states in the Northeast. He founded and now directs the RTC’s annual Rail-Trail Sojourn series, a trail-building program that, since 2002, has led thousands of cyclists on rides throughout the eastern US. He also biked the first Western New England Greenway tour in 2013.

Mark Neilsen will discuss the Economic Benefits of the Proposed Naugatuck River Greenway. Mark is the Director of Planning / Assistant Director of the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments. He has long been involved in the planning efforts for the Naugatuck River Greenway and was on the research team for the recently released “Pathways to Revitalization: Economic Impacts of Phased Completion of the Naugatuck River Greenway.”

If you are interested in attending please RSVP to by Thursday, March 16th. Space is limited so please do not delay in responding.

Download the two presentations in PDF format:

The Annual Western New England Greenway Conference 2016

Saturday, October 29, 2016

10 am – 3:30 pm

at the Bennington Museum,

Bennington, Vermont (Registration – 9:30 am to 10 am).

Join us as we continue to develop the Western New England Greenway (WNEG), a contiguous network of bike routes that connect New York City with Montreal. The WNEG connects with the East Coast Greenway in Norwalk, CT and connects with Quebec’s famed Route Verte at the Canada border.

Next Event:wneg-ride-2014-west-cornwall

  • Western New England Greenway Conference
  • Saturday October 29, 2016 – from 10 AM to 3:30 PM
  • Bennington Museum, Bennington Vermont
  • Agenda (Draft)

2016 Keynote Speakers:

  • TBA

There is no cost to attend, and your input is needed. Join us as we continue to plan a contiguous bike trail from New York City to Montreal.

Download the agenda here!  There is no cost to attend, lunch and refreshments are provided. Seating is limited and attendees must pre-register (see below).

Organizations in Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut are already working on creating bike trails. By working together, we can create a seamless network that stretches more than 250 miles.

Please register below if you would like to join the discussion, and explore how to make this idea a reality. Additional information and an agenda are being developed, and your ideas are welcome. Refreshments and lunch will be provided.

Goals of the Conference include:

  1. Introduce / reintroduce all potential collaborators of the WNEG to one another.
  2. Explore means to overcome significant challenges to the WNEG
  3. Agree on list of tangible goals / outcomes for 2017

Pre-Register Here:

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Heritage Tour 2016

Heritage Cycling Tour 2016 • download PDF Flyer

Lodging / Hotel Options

Western New England Greenway - Heritage Ride 2016 graphic

Western New England Greenway – Heritage Tour 2016



November 19, 2011
Western New England Greenway Initial Meeting

On Saturday, November 19, 2011 a group of 24 people gathered at the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont to discuss the merits and challenges of establishing a “multi-segment, multi-state” greenway that would link NYC and Montreal.

The corridor being pursued largely follows Route 7 through the very western portions of CT, MA and VT. It would link with the East Coast Greenway at the Merritt Parkway near Norwalk, CT. at the Southern terminus, and with the Quebec’s Route Verte at the Northern terminus (Canadian border).

Dan Bolognani, Executive Director of the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area chaired the meeting and other speakers included:

  • Tom O’Brien of New Milford, CT, on four existing CT trails and plans to link them
  • Sara Lafayette, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission on plans for a complete N-S trail across the Massachusetts Berkshires
  • Bruce Lierman, Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition on their support
  • Lou Bresee, Lake Champlain Bikeways on trails and routing in Vermont
  • Jim Brangan, Assistant Director, Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership
  • Patrick Hare, Hare Planning, making the “economic benefits” case for developing broad support

Goals of the conference included:

  1. Introduce all potential collaborators of the WNEG to one another. Agree on list of tangible benefits from WNEG to individual trail segments
  2. Reach consensus for creating, developing and maintaining the WNEG, and begin the process of each party agreeing to future actions, and getting commitment
  3. Develop a sustainable organizational framework to act as a catalyst for the implementation and long-term growth of the WNEG

Following this series of presentations on both currently existing and proposed off-road bike paths along this corridor, and low/slow traffic back roads, the group agreed that the potential for this trail is high. Having so much trail on the ground or in the works is a real advantage. The immediate goal would be for a route that is both on and off road. The fact that National Heritage areas form the two bookends offers significant resources to the effort.

The end of the meeting was spent discussing next steps, that is, how to organize. It was agreed that most of the key stakeholders were present, and Dan Bolognani volunteered to prepare meeting minutes, establish a web site and to call a follow up meeting of the key stakeholders to develop a strategy to bring back to the larger group.

The potential for linking to other trails to create loop cycle touring is extensive, including a route using the Farmington-Connecticut River and Cross Vermont Greenway corridor to link New Haven, CT and Burlington, VT; links to the Erie Canal route in NY State, and the Mountain Division across Maine and New Hampshire and the Lamoille Valley Trail in Vermont to link Burlington with Portland, Maine; and finally, via Danbury, CT linking to the North and South County Trails in Westchester County NY and then to Manhattan.

Specific Discussions

There was general agreement that the Western New England Greenway was a good idea, and that an organization should be formed to pursue it.. A suggestion was made that we talk with other groups that are more similar to our efforts (ie: Alleghany Passage)

The form of the organization was discussed, but no decisions were made.

  1. It was generally agreed that with each state there would be a state organization made up of the groups of 2-3 people working on each segment within that state.
  2. It was generally agreed that there should be a organization for the whole Western New England Greenway, but no decision was made about whether there should be limited state representation, for example one or two people from each state, or whether each segment should have one or more representatives to the multi-state organization.
  3. Member vs. Non-membership organization – Non-membership emphasized – use representatives of existing organizations (ie: National Heritage Areas, regional planning agencies, environmental agencies, advocacy groups, etc.)
  4. Suggestion of 2 representatives from each state to create a leadership group to develop mission, hold a strategic planning session, and develop structure or organization.
  5. Suggestion to mail everyone from the conference to set up working group

There was consensus that the Trails & Greenways Committee of the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area should draft a mission statement.

  • Although it was not explicitly discussed, it seemed to be clear that Bike Committee of UHVNHA should take responsibility for the next meeting and/or circulation of emails, etc.
  • UHVNHA could also draft objectives/goals for the WNEG (i.e. – The East Coast Greenway’s was all off road, What should ours be?)
  • Planning and Approach – there is a big difference between having formal planning and the “just doing it” approach – we will need to decide what is appropriate

There was general agreement that a “ride it now” map should be prepared by selecting the best on road routes where no off-road trail is available, and that the map for each state should be prepared by the people in each in state.

  • For CT, that probably means that representative from each segment should get together and agree where the segments should meet. In practice that means the meetings of segments from New Milford south because the Housatonic Covered Bridge Trail and the New Milford River have already agreed on how they will meet.
  • For MA, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission already has a mapped route from CT to VT.
  • For VT, the main area that needs mapping seems to be from the southern end of Lake Champlain to the MA border.

There was discussion about whether it would be a good idea in the long run to map more than one route because different types of riders prefer different types of trail, although no formal decision was made.

  • There might be an on road route for road bikers with no gravel roads
  • Another route with gravel roads might be good for slower riders with hybrid or mountain bikes.
  • Finally there might be an off road route that maps the finished off road sections and the projected off road route for the rest of the greenway.

Next Steps

  • There should be an annual conference to serve as a way to update all 250 people and be a report card for the WNEG initiative
  • The core working group thus far should develop a mission, map and website
  • Mail everyone to give them opportunity for input and give chance to join working group if needed
  • Set up more formal structure later on
  • The reality is we could map this out now, but that the idea of having a mega-trail may strengthen our statewide, regional and more local biking efforts

Suggested goals (to be integrated into the overall mission statement and stated goals for the upcoming year):

  1. Look to create loops and spur trails to connect to nearby village centers, heritage sites, commerce, schools, etc.
  2. Connect to Route Verte (Montreal) to generate additional interest in the trail system
  3. Long-term goal to create a multiple route system with both on and off road options
  4. Outreach to politicians is critical and will be integrated into our strategy

Download select notes from the Conference:

Complete conference notes (PDF)
Proposed organizational structure (PDF)
Organizational paper (PDF)