By PHYL NEWBECK
It’s been almost a decade in the making, but Colchester is about to get a new walking path, and recreation director Glen Cuttitta says it’s well worth the wait.
The one-mile crushed stone path is 8 feet wide and suitable for bicycles and pedestrians and is the first phase of a multi-stage process for developing Colchester Village Park on Main Street, Cuttitta said.
The 66-acre parcel was purchased almost 10 years ago, and the town has slowed tried to determine the best way to use the property ever since, Cuttitta said. The first step was building a parking lot to access the land, and the second step was creating the one-mile path around the property’s perimeter.
Construction began last fall, but early snow prevented it from being completed. Work is about to start up again and a ribbon cutting ceremony will be scheduled for this summer, Cuttitta said.
The path’s surface will be similar to that of the Causeway’s, so it will be smooth enough for bicycle tires, he said. Although the path isn’t complete yet, it’s already being used. The town hopes to groom the trail next winter to make it suitable for cross-country skiing. In upcoming years, some spur trails may be added for those who don’t want to do the full circuit.
Plans for the remainder of Colchester Village Park have yet to be determined and are dependent on recreation impact fees and permitting.
“We’re going to let this roll for now and see how people take it,” Cuttitta said.
Initial plans were to turn the park into an active recreation area with ball fields and courts, but that would require a larger parking area and might be redundant given the amenities at Airport Park, Cuttitta said.
For now, there are a number of walking trails that traverse the wooded property, but none of those are groomed surfaces.
The landscaping contract for the path was awarded to a local contractor, TK Landscape Architects on Blakely Road.
Principal Terry Krinski said his relationship with the parcel goes back to the 1990s.
“It’s a gorgeous property,” he said. “It has a lot of diversity of plants and topography, and Indian Brook cuts through it.”
Krinski said the northern part of the property has deep sand and is relatively flat and suitable for further trails and active recreation, while the southern section has heavier soil and steeper slopes. He enjoyed helping with the design, noting recreational trails are in high demand across the state.
“We tried to follow some old logging trails to minimize the impact,” he said, noting he and Cuttitta spent a good deal of time marking the few trees which were cut. “We cleared as little as possible,” Krinski said.
“That paid off. The trail fits in really nicely, and you have the sense that you are walking through the woods,” he continued.
Krinski believes the trail is almost 90 percent complete with only some seeding, grading and topsoil to be added.
Local Motion executive director Karen Yacos is pleased the path is coming to fruition, saying it only helps Colchester’s reputation as a place to enjoy the outdoors.
“The new walking path is a step in the right direction and will allow for additional opportunities for walking right in town,” she said. “This type of improvement enhances quality of life and is an important local economic driver, helping to create a lively, active town where people want to live and spend their vacation and where new businesses want to locate.”