Vernon in line to receive federal trail grants
By Jason Rowe
VERNON - A new downtown hiking trail is one of the projects receiving a boost from a series of grants recently announced by Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
Under the federal grant program, Vernon would receive $27,840 to construct a multi-use trail, which will link several parks and historic sites throughout downtown.
The grant also will be used to assist with the installation of instructive signs for trail users.
Vernon was one of 18 towns or state agencies to receive funding under the National Recreational Trails Program of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration.
Funds are distributed to the states through a formula established by Congress.
In all, more than $782,000 in grants were awarded for projects in a number of communities.
The state Department of Environmental Protection will receive nearly $180,000 for general maintenance and repairs of the state's existing trail system.
The idea of developing a downtown trail system with informative signs first surfaced in the fall of 2004 after several Yale architectural students and professors studied the area and made suggestions for improving the central business district.
At the time, signs were expected to be used in the Rails-To-Trails system connecting with Snipsic Lake.
At the time, officials thought that linking the system to downtown's historic mill buildings and other sites would draw more trail users and encourage them to frequent the area.
Saying she was not expecting the grant, Mayor Ellen L. Marmer added that the award comes as a pleasant surprise.
In announcing the grants, Rell said the trail improvements will help the state and towns preserve natural resources.
"They are an important investment in the future of our state and in the ability of future generations to enjoy Connecticut's great outdoors," Rell said in a news release. "The range of programs being funded through these grants is impressive. It shows the strong focus our state and local governments and local organizations have placed on efforts to keep improving Connecticut's network of trails."
Funds for the recreational trails program are drawn from the Federal Highway Trust Fund and represent a portion of the federal motor fuel excise tax, officials said.
Grants are offered each year through the DEP's state parks division.
DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy said the trail improvements are consistent with her department's "No Child Left Inside" program.
"Improving and expanding our trails and greenways fits in perfectly with the goals of this initiative," McCarthy said in a prepared statement. "With these new funds, we are going to make it even easier and more enjoyable for families to get out their hiking boots, bikes, or cross-country skis and spend time together through an enjoyable outdoor experience."
©Journal Inquirer 2006