Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Urban walking trail on tap for downtown Rockville

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
Friday, April 25, 2008

Jason Zahner / Journal Inquirer

VERNON — An urban walking trail through the downtown Rockville section of town highlighting the area’s history and mills is now in the works with volunteers and town staff hoping to have trail blazers hiking the concrete paths this fall.

Think Boston’s Freedom Trail but without the tri-corner hats and a nod to the Industrial Revolution rather than the colonial rebellion against the British.

Parks and Recreation Director Bruce Dinnie says the new footpath, stretching from Saxony Mill on West Street to Roosevelt Mill on East Main, will add to the town’s more than 30 miles of hiking and biking trail system.

Dinnie says that town staff and volunteers have created a rough draft for the route and decided which areas to emphasize. They plan to erect cast aluminum, tabletop-type signs for each of the eight stops along the trail, with an engraved synopsis or short history on the location.

S. Ardis Abbott, local historian and Historical Society museum director, is working on the various narratives, and town staff are talking with property owners this week seeking permission to place the signs on their lots, Dinnie said.

“We’ll use a symbol, like the Fox Hill Tower to direct people along the trail, and when you get to a certain point, a sign would be there explaining the history,” Dinnie said.

For example, at stop number five at Central Park the sign might feature the Cogswell Fountain, Town Hall, the Civil War Museum, and the Citizen’s Block building, he said.

“The best case scenario is we can open this fall,” he added.

The trail, which runs along West Main Street, through downtown Rockville, and then along East Main Street, includes such stops as the Springville Mill, Ano-coil, the Florence Company, and Amerbelle mill.

Some of the stops, like the Saxony Mill, are listed on the National Historic Register of Places, while much of the hiking area travels through the downtown, also listed as a National Register Historic District.

The trail is being funded with a $27,840 state grant from the Department of Environmental Protection.

Costs for creation and maintenance of the towns trails systems, which includes Rails to Trails and the Tankerhoosen Greenway, are typically funded with grants of one sort or another, Ann Letendre, Friends of Hockanum River Linear Park member said.

Since its inception the small band of Vernon Green Volunteers has managed to obtain 27 grants totaling $730,000, Letendre said.

“That’s remarkable for a group of volunteers who work 20 to 30 hours a week on the trail system,” she said.

Environmental Protection Commissioner Gina McCarthy and the Connecticut Greenways Council recently presented two awards to the town of Vernon and its various volunteers in recognition of the town’s dedication to development of its trail system.

“It’s one of our most valuable resources and anyone who has ever walked the trails in Vernon realizes how fortunate we are to have them,” Dinnie said.

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