Cyclists experience nearly 300-mile Greenway ride

Tom O'Brien has many fond memories of the 289-mile bicycle ride experienced last week by his son, Jake, and him.

The New Milford River Trail Association president and his son joined with eight other cycling enthusiasts for the Western New England Greenway bike ride, starting in Burlington, Vt., and finishing Friday in New Milford.

The ride was done to promote the possible creation of a greenway for bicyclists from Quebec's province-wide Route Verte to Long Island Sound.

"We had a few riders join us in every town we passed through," O'Brien said. "In Fairhaven, Vt., the state's commissioner of tourism and marketing, Megan Smith, joined us and rode for awhile."

Those local riders inevitably served as tour guides to point out historical aspects of each town, as well as helping find the "best coffee houses" along the route, O'Brien said.

"Most riders were in their 60s, retired," he said. "The fastest riders in our group were consistently my son, Jake, and (former Brookfield first selectman) Bill Davidson."

The route paralleled Route 7, with some five miles of it along the inter-state route itself.

A van was provided by the Upper Housatonic National Heritage Area that followed the riders, transporting their gear.

"By the time we arrived on the Green in New Milford, there were 24 riders," O'Brien said. "A good friend from Woodbury, Matt Griver, had driven to Great Barrington (Mass.) and joined us Monday morning for the ride."

At the Villager Restaurant in Kent, riders joined them from Hat City Cyclists in Danbury, along with some Kent residents.

At the Gaylordsville Country Store, more riders joined in. Still more were added along the route to New Milford's village center.

The celebrant cyclists capped their ride with a victory lap around the Village Green as thousands of Village Fair Days patrons looked on.

"This greenway is an idea that came out of a collaboration of volunteers with our trails committee," said Dan Bolognani, executive director of the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area.

"There are two heritage areas involved," Bolognani said. "Ours and the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership, which incorporates all of western Vermont."

Funding for the greenway would come from the National Park Service, Bolognani said, since the heritage area and heritage partnership are part of the National Heritage Program through the National Park Service.

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