Area cyclists trail blaze the Greenway
It's called practicing what they preach.
New Milford bicycling advocate Tom O'Brien and former Brookfield First Selectman Bill Davidson began Sunday a 335-mile ride along the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont.
Their destination is Long Island Sound.
O'Brien and Davidson are joined by O'Brien's 16-year-old son, Jake, on a Diadora Firenze bike, and eight other cyclists.
The ride is to promote the creation of a Western New England Greenway, a planned bike trail that would run from Montreal, Canada, to Long Island Sound.
For those interested in lending their emotional support for the cyclists, they are scheduled to arrive Friday, July 25, about 4 p.m. for a reception on the Homestead Inn lawn, along Elm Street in New Milford.
Local riders are encouraged to join them at the Gaylordsville Store at 3 p.m. that day to ride the leg from there to the New Milford village center.
"A number of people will be doing single-day rides with us along the route," said O'Brien, who is riding a vintage Bob Jackson touring bike. "We'll start by dipping our bikes' rear wheels in Lake Champlain, near Burlington, and end the ride dipping the front wheels in Long Island Sound."
Maps of the cyclists' route will be available at the New Milford stop for anyone interested in riding with them.
The Western New England Greenway, when completed, would be a multi-segment, multi-state route.
The corridor mostly follows Route 7 through the western portions of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. It would connect with the East Coast Greenway at the Merritt Parkway near Norwalk at its southern end and with the province of Quebec's Route Verte at its northern end.
Davidson became involved with the project two years ago, when he attended a conference in Burlington hosted by the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area and other environmental organizations. At the time, he was Brookfield's first selectman.
"For a long time, Brookfield has been trying to build the Still River Greenway and, with funding now in place, we hope to build it next year," Davidson said. "It would be one of the links in the Western New England Greenway."
An avid bicyclist, Davidson, 73, rides 20 to 25 miles each day on his Specialize Raobaix carbon-fiber road bike. He's ready to take on the 40-to-50 mile trek each day of the ride to Long Island Sound.
"I'm doing this in a quasi-way out of interest for what it means for the town," Davidson said. "But it's also for my own interest in starting the bike trail."
For O'Brien, who has been working to create the New Milford River Trail for several years, bringing his town's bike trail into the interstate bike route would be a dream come true.
"In the course of working on the New Milford River Trail, I came to realize three other organizations in western Connecticut were doing the same thing," O'Brien said. "We started meeting and realized others in Massachusetts and Vermont were doing it also. We realized if we all worked together, we could build a huge trail."
The goal is to enhance sustainable transportation and recreation opportunities by linking the communities along the route, according to Dan Bolognani, executive director of the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, which developed the proposal.