NEW MILFORD -- Biking advocate Tom O'Brien and former Brookfield First Selectman Bill Davidson began a 335-mile bike ride in Burlington, Vt. on Sunday morning, bound for Long Island Sound.

Joined by O'Brien's son, Jake, and eight other riders, they aim promote creation of the Western New England Greenway, a bicycle trail running from Montreal to Long Island Sound.

Around 4 p.m. on Friday, the riders are expected to arrive in New Milford for a reception on the Homestead Inn lawn, near the Village Green. Local riders are encouraged to join them at the Gaylordsville Store at 3 p.m. to ride the leg from Gaylordsville to downtown New Milford.

"We'll start by dipping our bikes' rear wheels in Lake Champlain and end the ride dipping the front wheels in Long Island Sound," said O'Brien, who is riding a vintage Bob Jackson touring bike. "A number of people will be doing single-day rides with us along the route."

Maps of the route will be available at the New Milford stop for anyone ininterested in riding part of the proposed greenway.

When completed, the Western New England Greenway would be a multisegment, mutlistate bike route, generally following U.S. 7 through the western portions of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. It would connect at its southern end with the East Coast Greenway at the Merritt Parkway near Norwalk, and with Quebec's Route Verte at its northern end.

Davidson became involved with the project two years ago when he attended a conference in Burlington held by the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area and other environmental organizations. At that 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 Specialized Roubaix carbon-fiber road bike. He said he is 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 recreational opportunities by linking the communities along the route, according to Dan Bolognani, executive director of the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, that developed the proposal.

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322