STRATFORD, Conn. -- Stratford is trying to connect the dots – both literally and figuratively – to form an optimistic picture of its future.
One of the long-range, integrated initiatives the historic town is weighing is the linking up of its network of biking and hiking trails to the East Coast Greenway.
Stratford, aiming to balance economic development with cultural and natural resources, is working on the second phase of the network.
According to Linda Pepin, chair of the Stratford Greenway Committee, the first section of the loop is a ½-mile path along the Housatonic River from Main Street, behind Frank DeLuca Hall of Fame Field to the Birdseye Boat Launch. Phase 2 is a path from the launch to the area of the Metro-North train station on Main Street.
A significant piece of the puzzle is the town’s “Complete Streets” initiative, a vision and “action agenda,” it says, for redefining Stratford’s transportation network.
A public information session on “Complete Streets” will be conducted at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, at Town Hall, 2725 Main St.
The study area included all streets within a half-mile radius of the train station.
The hope is, Pepin said, that the bike/hike path eventually will be combined with whatever “Complete Streets” does at the train station.
In the future, the path system could head north from Main or Putney streets to along the Merritt Parkway (Route 15), where it eventually would link to the coastal city of Milford’s trail network, which ties into the East Coast Greenway, Pepin said.
According to Jay Habansky, the town’s planning and zoning administrator, “Complete Streets” will produce five or six “feasible” projects.
“As funding comes in, the town will work through that list,” he said.
If all goes well, the town's streets will become “healthy, active corridors for all modes of transportation,” he said.
Or, as Greenway Committee member Harold Watson said: “It’s not all about the cars anymore.”
The 63-year-old retired teacher, environmentalist and avid bicyclist, said a fully integrated pedestrian/bicyclist network will protect the environment and bring in more visitors who could boost the local economy by patronizing local businesses.
“I see a day when someone can put his bike on the train, get off in Stratford and ride to the beach, have some seafood, bike back to the town center, visit the library and historical society, then go to the theater,” he said.
Under the “Complete Streets” initiative, agencies and organizations will also work together to spur “smart growth.”
The study area also extended north along Main Street to Paradise Green and northwest along Nichols Avenue to Lincoln Street. It focuses on nine key corridors: Barnum Avenue, Broad Street, Broadbridge Avenue, E. Broadway Street, Ferry Boulevard, King Street, Main Street, Nichols Avenue and West Broad Street.
Among the locals’ wish list are ways to safely walk or bike from Stratford Center to the harbor and the completion of the bike/hike loop from the historic district to coastal attractions, such as Long Beach and McKinney Salt Marsh.
While there are sidewalks on Main Street and part of Barnum Avenue, there are little or none connecting residential neighborhoods with the downtown. The study recommends installing sidewalks on both sides of Broad Street, Ferry Boulevard, King Street and Barnum Avenue, east of Main Street.
The town also was advised to repair sidewalks on Nichols Avenue and East Broadway and add benches, lighting, landscape buffers, trees and curb extensions elsewhere. Bus stops also need upgrading and bus and rail service arrival and departure schedules need better coordination.
“Complete Streets” and the Greenway project may continue on two separate tracks, but they are otherwise interlaced.
“Quality urban planning means that projects and initiatives all support each other,” said Habansky, adding: “There’s no one thing that’s the silver bullet.”