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Brief history of Farmington River Trail

Updated: May 28, 2021

• Iconic Trail Traces Origins To Historic Canal

By Ethan Guo — Special to Today Magazine

When the pandemic began last year, thousands of people in the Farmington Valley community were collectively confined to their homes. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, flocks of people took on walking and jogging to pass time and local trails observed an increase in traffic.

Trails and town parks have always played a role in the Valley, which boasts a plethora of locations for the casual walker, routine runner, pastime biker and amateur birder.

A few iconic sites, such as Talcott Mountain and the Farmington River Trail, have served innumerable folks and become an integral part of the Valley’s identity and history.

The Farmington River Trail carries its history all the way back to the early 19th century with the formation of the Farmington Canal Company, which built a canal from New Haven, CT to Northampton, MA. It took 10 years marked by meager funding, accidents and complaints, but the canal was finally finished in 1835.

Alas, this canal would be cast into the shadows as the up-and-coming locomotive took America by storm. The New Haven and Northampton Railroad corporation ran a line along the same canal river route and dominated transportation until the mid-20th century, when automobiles eventually wrestled the pedestal away.

In time, the railroads fell into a state of despair, causing the Connecticut legislature to initiate the rails-to-trails movement, creating the Farmington Valley Trails Council. The council is still in operation today and has overseen the construction of over 80 miles of recreational trails in Connecticut.

Naturally, the Farmington River is the common-denominator feature of the Farmington River Trail — photo by Wendy Rosenberg

Today’s charming trails, which lie on the skeletons of the railroad, next to the faded canal, all started two centuries ago.

It is often easy, living in the rural suburbs, to take green spaces for granted. However, just as New York City reigns over thousands of fallen trees, there is a feasible future where these recreational reserves are bought by the highest bidder and turned into neighborhoods or store complexes.

What a great shame it would be, to the thousands of daily trail-goers, for such a future to befall the sites that are laced with such history, abundant with scenery and wildlife, and carry such a weight of importance in the Farmington Valley community. +

• This article first appeared in the May edition of Today Magazine, our monthly publication — an Avon resident, Ethan Guo is a sophomore at Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor

• Today Magazine covers the heart of Connecticut's Farmington Valley, recording the underreported upside of the Valley's five core towns — Farmington, Avon, Canton, Simsbury and Granby

For information about news coverage and/or advertising • 860-988-1910 — office

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