A shared-trail corridor along the scenic length of the Taconic State Parkway? This was just one of the suggestions raised at CLC’s Columbia County Trails Conference in April 2011, now documented on the Columbia County Draft Trail Vision Plan.
A recent New York Times article reported that Connecticut state transportation officials are in the early stages of exploring the creation of a hiking and cycling trail along the Merritt Parkway right-of-way. The proposed paved trail would run roughly in the center of a 150-foot wide buffer on the Parkway’s southern side, and pass through eight communities for a distance of just over 37 miles. The Taconic corridor through Columbia County is approximately the same length.
The Merritt Parkway idea is almost 20 years old, and was first explored in a feasibility study prepared by the Regional Plan Association in 1994. The study noted that informal paths already existed along as much as 15% of the right-of-way. Now the state transportation department has a grant from the National Scenic Byways Program for an updated study.
The revived suggestion is facing some opposition from neighboring owners, typical of concerns that often meet new trail proposals. But there are also strong supporters who cite research attesting to the value of trails and their positive effect on property values. The Merritt Parkway is designated as a national scenic byway and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.