One of the joys of living in and visiting The Last Green Valley is the ability to explore the Air Line State Park Trail, which runs diagonally through the National Heritage Corridor. But for people with mobility challenges, it isn’t always easy to find detailed information that will help them decide whether they, too, can access and enjoy the trail.
To help fill that void, The Last Green Valley, Inc. (TLGV) began collecting and publishing objective information to help trail users make informed decisions about whether a trail segment is right for them. TLGV received a CT Recreational Trails grant through CT DEEP to purchase HETAP (High Efficiency Trail Assessment Process) equipment during the summer of 2017. TLGV staff and a dedicated team of volunteers were trained and began assessing 20 miles of the Air Line State Park Trail from Pomfret to Willimantic as part of the grant.
The main piece of equipment resembles a baby jogging stroller and is pushed along the trail by HETAP team members. “Gertrude,” as named by the HETAP team, has a computer and associated instruments that capture the elevation, longitude, latitude, grade, cross slope and distance at regular intervals along the trail. Over the last three years, the HETAP team has rolled Gertrude from Pomfret though Willimantic all the way to Hebron and has also assessed the Air Line State Park Trail segments in Thompson. The information collected was analyzed and turned into trail signage that is now posted at street crossings along much of the Air Line State Park Trail. The information can also be found on TLGV’s website, www.thelastgreenvalley.org, in the Online Explore Guide.
The HETAP team is currently awaiting completion of the Pomfret to Putnam section of the Air Line Trail State Park so those segments can also be assessed. Additionally, the team has completed assessments for Killingly & Putnam River Trails, Cat Hollow Park, the Lebanon Green, and portions of the Hop River State Park Trail. Information for those trails can also be found on the TLGV website.
The HETAP team found during its assessments of the Air Line State Park Trail that much of the trail has stone dust, a minimal grade and cross slope in many areas, and is suitable for people with mobility challenges. However, the main concern is access to the trail at street crossings as all gates are locked and passage around the gates is usually very narrow – too narrow for someone in a wheelchair or using another mobility aid to navigate.
The HETAP team is always looking for additional trails within The Last Green Valley to assess. If you know of any trails that might be easily accessible for someone with mobility challenges, and you would like a formal assessment, please contact LyAnn Graff, HETAP Coordinator at email@example.com or by calling 860 774-3300.
The Last Green Valley is a 35-town National Heritage Corridor that includes 26 towns in eastern Connecticut and 9 towns in south-central Massachusetts. The Last Green Valley, Inc. is a member supported organization that helps people care for, enjoy and pass on the historic, cultural and natural resources of the region.