Action: Transform the Blue Trails into a world class trail system through improvements to bridges, boardwalks, signage, and footpath sustainability.
What is it?
Since 1929, CFPA and its volunteers established and grew the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail (BBHT) system to its current size – 825 miles of trails winding through 96 towns. It takes a LOT of ongoing diligence and physical work to sustain these trails, but this continued work is fundamental to CFPA’s mission. CFPA has made great efforts over the past decade to raise the bar on the overall trail standards across the system which can vary significantly from trail to trail or sometimes from trail segment to trail segment. To make the system “world class” and recognized as such will include several improvements in basic trail infrastructure -- bridges, boardwalks, signage, and sustainable trail design – as well as enhanced monitoring and reporting to support a culture amongst trail volunteers of continual improvement. The Strategic Plan includes several specific recommendations on these necessary system improvements.
Why is it important?
The BBHT’s have often been called CFPA’s most significant outdoor asset and legacy to the people of Connecticut. The trails are free to all, and provide great benefits to the public year-round – recreation, public health, connecting communities, attracting people to towns and neighborhoods where trails occur, etc. The trails provide clear benefits, and they are also a bargain to maintain compared to other kinds of trails. For example, a multi-use, paved trail would cost approximately $1 million per mile to build, but CFPA’s costs to maintain the entire BBHT system for one year costs roughly $300,000 or ~$365 per mile. At the heart of the BBHT system is the New England Trail that was designated as a national scenic trail in 2009. This provides both some funding from the National Park Service, and gives national significance to our success at transforming the BBHT’s into being world class.
What will the impact be?
There is significant work that must be done to re-route or harden trails to address the trail erosion and sustainability problems that were mostly caused by laying out trail routes that lead directly up and down slopes. There is also significant work to remedy trail abuses from ATVs and vandals, to repair structures damaged by storms, or replace structures weakened by old age. Yes, there is a lot of work to be done not only to improve and repair the trails, but also to make them more user-friendly. Challenges aside, making the BBHT’s world class is fundamental to CFPA’s efforts to provide transformative outdoor experiences in Connecticut and should make an impact in several ways: 1) it will improve safe use and enjoyment of the trail system by walkers, runners, and others; 2) there will be budget impacts on CFPA for the trail work and staff support, but fortunately much of this should be underwritten by a combination of membership support, grants from sources like Connecticut’s new Recreational Trails and Greenways Program, and support through the National Park Service; 3) CFPA is already recognized in Connecticut as a leader in the trails community, but improving the system will further solidify this position; and 4) CFPA’s work on the trails will attract financial supporters and volunteers to sustain CFPA’s role as the heart of Connecticut’s circulatory system -- the BBHT’s.