Farmington Canal Heritage Trail

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Farmington Canal Lock 12, Cheshire, CT

The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail is an 80-mile (130 km) multi-use rail trail located in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The trail was built on former New Haven and Northampton Company (NH&N) (later New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad [NH]) railbed, which was constructed along the route of the Farmington Canal in Connecticut and the Hampshire and Hampden Canal in Massachusetts, respectively.

The sections from New Haven to Tariffville are part of the East Coast Greenway, a partially completed trail intended to link Maine with Florida.

Railroad history[edit]

In 1821, a group of New Haven businessmen convened to construct a canal in Connecticut much like the Erie Canal that had just been completed in New York. It took ten years to complete and was open for use in 1835. Twelve years later, rail became the more cost efficient transportation option and facilitator of trade. A rail bed was put down to follow the same route that the canal had.

The line changed hands throughout its lifetime, from the NH&N, NH, Penn Central, Conrail, and finally Guilford, who abandoned the line in segments throughout the 1980s. The Connecticut Department of Transportation purchased most of the line from Guilford for railbanking purposes. In 1991, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) provided states the ability to utilize federal funds to finance the conversion of derelict railroad corridors into rail trails.

The trail runs from downtown New Haven, Connecticut to Northampton, Massachusetts, closely following the path of the original Canal and Route 10.[1]

Portions of the original canal still exist, such as an historic "lock house" dating from the time of the original canal, as well as retaining walls, canal locks (elevators for boats), old sections of canal, and other features. In Cheshire, Connecticut, the only restored lock along the original Canal line has been incorporated into the Lock 12 Historical Park.

History on Trail

Trail status[edit]

The entire route of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail is not yet completed (72% in Connecticut, 47% in Massachusetts). The trail is divided into three sections:

  • southern: New Haven-Plainville, Connecticut
  • middle: Farmington-Suffield, Connecticut
  • northern: Southwick, Massachusetts-Northampton, Massachusetts (In Southwick, the trail s known as the Southwick Rail Trail and in Westfield, It is known as the Columbia Heritage Rail Trail.)

Southern section[edit]

As of October 2009, two sections of the trail are paved and open to traffic. With the completion of a 12-mile (800 m) section in New Haven,[2] there is a continuous 14-mile (23 km) section from Prospect Place in New Haven (41°18′49″N 72°55′30″W / 41.3137°N 72.9251°W / 41.3137; -72.9251) through the length of Hamden to Cornwall Avenue in Cheshire (41°29′55″N 72°54′52″W / 41.4985°N 72.9144°W / 41.4985; -72.9144). In August 2006, Yale University announced it would contribute towards the completion of the final two blocks of the trail through downtown New Haven, from Hillhouse Avenue to the Audubon Arts District. The southern 2-mile (3.2 km) section in the town of Southington was completed in 2010. The last major gap in the trail contains the northern section of Southington, the whole town of Plainville, which has an approved a feasibility study calling for a proposed route of approximately 4.4 miles (7.1 km) in length including both off-road and on-road facilities.[3][4] To the north of Plainville the last 2.2 miles (3.5 km) of Farmington need to be completed. This 9-mile (14 km) gap is the largest remaining in Connecticut.

In December 2010 the Town of Cheshire indicated it will begin plans and design on the construction of a new section from West Main Street (Connecticut Route 70) to Jarvis Street and has assembled more than $812,000 in federal and state funding. It is anticipated that Cheshire will add one million dollars to the grants to complete this new section.[5]

On December 14, 2010 a Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (CT DEP) grant for $250,000 was accepted and added to existing federal grants of $562,000. There are a number of reasons for the Town of Cheshire to favor building the new unconnected section rather than extending the current trail north from Cornwall Avenue : the difficult issues involving in acquiring rights of way as well as building a path through the wetlands from Cornwall Avenue to West Main Street, the current traffic safety issue for bicycle and pedestrian traffic crossing West Main Street and the offer by the state of Connecticut to help pay for the design of the connecting section from Jarvis Street to the Town of Southington's section of trail.[5]

The biggest project of 2011 was the construction of a tunnel under Skiff Street in Hamden so that users of the trail do not have to detour up to Skiff Street to cross it. A dedication was held on Friday, October 21st, 2011. Funding for the tunnel became available when the bids for the final phase of Hamden's portion of the trail came in about $1 million less than forecast, a sign of the economic times. Because of the shortage in funds for the completion of Hamden's portion of the trail, the funds that were raised were able to be reallocated to the tunnel under Skiff Street. Convenient auto parking near the trail is available on Sherman Avenue, by the York Hill Campus Entrance to Quinnipiac University.

East Coast Greenway

Farmington Canal State Park Trail[edit]

Farmington Canal State Park Trail is forms a portion of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail in the towns of Cheshire and Hamden. The site of the greenway was originally used by the native Quinnipiac tribes as a path prior to its expansion as a road by the colonists.[6] A canal construction project began on July 4, 1825, with the first sections opening in 1828. On June 22, 1836, the Farmington and Hampshire companies were in severe debt and transferred their ownership to New Haven-Northampton Company, resulting in a loss of more than $1 million in investor capital. In 1847, investors in the company petitioned the state for the right to build a railroad. The approved railroad was constructed in one year on the banks of the canal for a total cost of $186,000.33.[7] Rail service lasted until the 1980s, when it was discontinued and the Farmington Valley Trails Council was founded in 1992 to preserve the canal by converting it into a park.[8] Part of the Farmington Canal State Park trail, specifically the 2.9 length of the Farmington Canal Linear Park, was dedicated May 22, 1994.[8] Located on North Brooksvale road is Lock 12 Historical Park, a restored canal lock and museum which is known as the "best-preserved relic of Connecticut's canal era."[9][6]

The developed section of the trail within state park boundaries runs 5.5 miles (8.9 km) south from Cornwall Street in Cheshire to Todd Street in Hamden and includes the historic Farmington Canal's restored Lock 12, located south of Brooksvale Road in Cheshire. The paved, multiple-use trail is used for hiking, biking, jogging, in-line skating and cross-country skiing.[10]

Middle Section[edit]

The middle section includes about 27 miles (43 km) of paved multi-use trail. All of this section is paved and well marked, including East Coast Greenway blazes for the applicable segment up to Route 315 in Simsbury. Almost all of it is off road, although there are numerous road crossings, and some sections run alongside roads similar to a sidewalk. As of July 2009, the bridge which carries the trail over Salmon Brook overlooking Granbrook Park in East Granby is completed. As of October 2009 the 0.37-mile (600 m) gap in Suffield has been paved to the Massachusetts line, so that the trail is now continuous from Farmington (41°43′41″N 72°51′43″W / 41.7280°N 72.8620°W / 41.7280; -72.8620) through Southwick, MA - a distance of 27 miles (43 km). Both Simsbury and Avon completed short pieces of on-road trail in their town centers recently. Intersections with the Farmington River Trail are (1) near the start of the trail, on Red Oak Hill Rd/New Britain Ave. in Farmington, and (2) at the intersection of Rt. 10 and Drake Hill Rd. in Simsbury. Coordinates for all parking lots and facilities can be found at

Northern Section[edit]

Southwick, MA has finished 6.4 miles (10.3 km) to the Westfield, MA line (42°06′21″N 72°44′38″W / 42.1058°N 72.7438°W / 42.1058; -72.7438). Westfield's section of about 3.2 miles (5.1 km) has been approved by MassHighway, to include 9 bridges making it (once completed) one of the very few elevated trails in America. Southampton is working on the purchase of the railroad right of way. Easthampton's Manhan Trail is now 3.7 miles (6.0 km) long and will become part of the larger Canal Heritage Trail. Northampton, MA is finally complete as of 2011.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Farmington Canal Heritage Trail and Farmington River Trail Guide, FVTC, Tariffville, CT: 2009
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^,0,2613652.story
  5. ^ a b Cheshire Herald, December 22, 2010, article "Linear Trail Will Take A Different Route", author Josh Morgan, retrieved December 27, 2010
  6. ^ a b Leary, Joseph (2004). A Shared Landscape: A Guide & History of Connecticut's State Parks & Forests. Friends of the Connecticut State Parks, Inc. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0974662909. 
  7. ^ G. M. Guignino. "The Farmington Canal 1822-1847: An Attempt At Internal Improvement". Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  8. ^ a b "Farmington Valley Trails Council - History". Farmington Valley Trails Council. 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  9. ^ "Cheshire Land Trust". Cheshire Land Trust. June 25, 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  10. ^ "Farmington Canal State Park Trail". State Parks and Forests. Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Retrieved 2013-02-05.