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New Canaan Gives Merritt Trail Mixed Reviews

NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Derek Bennett of New Canaan believes a walking trail along the Merritt Parkway would strengthen the community by getting neighbors out and about and talking with one another.

“I think more biking and walking and similar activity will foster better community and more economic activity,” he said. “You see people more when you’re not driving.”

Bennett and nearly 30 other New Canaan residents shared their thoughts and questions Tuesday with Connecticut Department of Transportation officials who are conducting a study on a possible multiuse trail. The proposed trail would extend the length of the Merritt, from the New York state border to the Sikorsky Bridge near Shelton.

The DOT is hosting community meetings in all cities and towns along the parkway to hear what residents think and to let them ask questions. “This is a chance for people to ask us the questions that we can get answers for,” said William Britnell, a DOT principal engineer.

Those who like the idea cited opportunities for adding community interaction, connecting the trail with existing walking areas and downtown New Canaan and educating residents about local areas and waterways.

But some residents had concerns, especially for safety along the trail. Residents also mentioned concerns about distractions for drivers, noise from the parkway disrupting the natural escape and the cost to build the trail.

Alan Plassche of Brushy Ridge Road said the state’s fiscal health worries him. “Before we do any feasibility study, we should see who is promoting this concept and how many people will use it,” Plassche said.

Resident Richard Stowe said he likes the idea of walking and hiking trails but doesn’t want any paved trails. “I like discreet, natural trails,” he said.

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