Connecticut Greenways are More than Just a License Plate

July 7, 2010

You may have noticed them during your travels around town, cars with Connecticut license plates supporting the state’s greenways. The plate displays a green road and trees that are intended to raise the awareness about the importance of greenways in Connecticut. But what are greenways and why should the state be advocating them? The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) says that “greenway systems offer an exciting opportunity to reestablish connections between the State’s natural and cultural resource base and its people.”

But Connecticut greenways are more than just a license plate. In my opinion they are a shining example of the state’s successful efforts over the past two decades to acquire and preserve open space land. If you have ever hiked a trail in Connecticut there’s a good chance you were experiencing one of the state’s greenways.

Connecticut’s greenways program was established in 1995 by the General Assembly. Public Act 95-335 created the Connecticut Greenways Council, which has the responsibility of designating greenways around the state. Members of the council are appointed by the Governor and legislative leaders, and most have backgrounds in trail and greenway development.

According to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), state law defines greenways as a “corridor of open space” that may:

  • protect natural resources, preserve scenic landscapes and historical resources or offer opportunities for recreation or non-motorized transportation;
  • connect existing protected areas and provide access to the outdoors;
  • be located along a defining natural feature, such as a waterway, along a man-made corridor, including an unused right of way, traditional trail routes or historic barge canals; or
  • be space along a highway or around a village.

In order to meet the criteria for official designation as a greenway, the DEP says that open spaces and/or pathways must fit at least one aspect of this definition – the critical element being “connectivity.” Many people are familiar with the “rails to trails” initiatives that converted old railroad beds into walking trails. These conversion projects are made possible by greenway advocacy.

Two of the most notable greenways in our region of the state are the Farmington Canal Heritage Greenway and the Farmington River Trail. Being one of the largest greenways in the state, the Farmington Canal Heritage Greenway extends from Massachusetts all the way down to New Haven, traversing directly through the towns of Simsbury and Avon. The Farmington River Trail loops off of the Farmington Canal Heritage Greenway from Simsbury into Canton and down into Farmington. While not completely finished, both trails allow you to walk, run, bike and roller blade, which all lead to healthier lifestyles.

Our region of the state is known for its aesthetic beauty and tranquility. Greenways allow people to take advantage of these outdoors treasures in a manner that is safe, fun and healthy.

For more information about all of Connecticut’s 59 greenways please feel free to contact me at [email protected]. For information regarding the state of Connecticut’s greenways license plate, go to www.ct.gov/dmv and click on “license plates.”