Conservation Officials Consider 10K Running or Walking Event to Spotlight New Canaan’s ‘Greenlink’


Citing a successful model from Darien, local conservation officials say they’re thinking of launching a 10K running or walking event in New Canaan that would spotlight the town’s “green link” connecting public parks and the downtown via trails and sidewalks. 

Robin Bates-Mason, a Town Council member who sits on the legislative body’s Land Use and Parks & Recreation Committee, and also volunteers with local nonprofit organizations such as Planet New Canaan and the New Canaan Beautification League, said the Darien Land Trust uses an event to bring awareness to its properties around Darien.

“It’s quite popular,” Bates-Mason said during last week’s meeting of the Conservation Commission, where she was a guest. Participants pay a $15 fee, she said.

The appointed body’s chair, Chris Schipper, said it could be “an interesting project.”

“I like the idea of people walking and riding,” Schipper said during the Oct. 14 meeting, held via videoconference. 

Referring to his request on behalf of open space advocates to allocate a portion of a $6 million windfall in federal funds through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Schipper added, “And I have, in the course of discussing ARPA funds and allocations of funds, I’ve said we really have to promote walk-ability and bike-ability here in New Canaan and I think we have some support from [the Department of Public Works], we just have to get around some of these state road restrictions.”

“And I can tell you it drives me crazy I come up 106, regularly coming back from Greenwich, and I see young moms with a stroller walking alongside [Route] 106. No sidewalks, and all it takes is one second on a text message. It’s got to be addressed. So I’m adamant that we get that greenlink so that it’s safer and more enjoyable for people to walk in town. We’ve got these great parks. We ned to make them accessible and make them stroller- and senior-accessible.”

New Canaan’s ‘greenlink’ began to take formal shape with the opening on Earth Day three years ago of a trail that runs through Irwin Park and New Canaan Land Trust and Nature Center property. Town officials have asked for the state’s permission to install a crosswalk from the Nature Center entrance, across Route 124 and onto a sidewalk that runs along the eastern side of Oenoke Ridge toward the downtown. From there, the greenlink continues with a crosswalk to the new plaza at the northern end of Mead Park, along the restored and beautified Gold Star Walk and then into the reinvigorated and reimagined Bristow Bird Sanctuary. 

Schipper, who was instrumental in securing a conservation easement to make the first stretch of the greenlink possible and has led efforts to restore Bristow, is seeking to continue a safe pedestrian path from Bristow to Waveny.

Schipper was one of a number of local residents and officials who on Oct. 5 addressed the Town Council regarding how New Canaan would allocate the ARPA funds. There, on behalf of the Conservation Commission, he called for the Town Council to steer one-third of ARPA funds toward “public space and sustainability programs,” such as the parks and greenlink, improved tree coverage, migrating town land care equipment from two-stroke engines to quieter machines and tools, an expanded food scrap program or recycling, water testing, electric charging stations and solar initiatives.

“Our belief is this allocation meets equity, health and climate resilience hurdles that are laid out in the ARPA plan,” Schipper said. “No town asset has had greater use during this pandemic than our public places. Investing for the long term in public spaces supports public health long-term. Improved public space accessibility—and there you must think seniors and strollers—through an interconnected network or ‘greenlink’ of sidewalks and trails, will generate long-term public heath benefits from outside exercise and less fossil fuel combustion. Think about executing a town-wide plan improving walkability and bike-ability. Our parks need a lot of trail development and improvement for better accessibility. Public facilities like bathrooms and wireless hot spots. Park maintenance of trees and gardens for pollinators and year-round beauty. Educational signage and more. Our parks add immeasurably to the quality of life for our residents.”

The Town Council is expected to take up proposed allocations of the ARPA funds at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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