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Fairfield County Residents Worried About Merritt Trail

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Bob Riggs, who has lived near the Merritt Parkway in Fairfield since 1995, believes he knows the pros and cons of a proposed 37.5-mile bike, pedestrian and equestrian trail along the roadway.

“We have cars whizzing by on the Merritt Parkway at 80 mph, and a trail so close can create more safety and privacy issues,” said Riggs, an architectural engineer who has worked on similar projects. “But there is a need for a good walking and bike trail in Fairfield.”

Riggs was among about 75 residents who turned out Tuesday night at Osborn Hill Elementary School to express opinions on the proposal during a state Department of Transportation session.

Alloe Stokes, who has lived in the Southport section of Fairfield for 38 years, said the idea of a multiuse path for walkers, bikers, joggers and equestrians “is a lovely idea. … But in the current economic climate, we should be spending funds instead to develop public transportation.”

Advocates for the trail said its advantages far outweigh any potential problems.

“This would be a phenomenal countywide trail that would benefit so many people,” said Tom Corell, a board member for the Fairfield Bike Walk Coalition. “Fairfield is a very dangerous town for bikers, and this trail would provide a safe and natural alternative to the busy and hazardous Boston Post Road. This trail is long overdue.”

Ariane Mermod, representing the Fairfield Bridle Trails Association, said she would love to have another trail to ride her two horses on but isn’t convinced.

“There are too many safety issues right now and other questions that need to be answered before I can say I would support this,” said Mermod.

Residents also raised concerns the trail would result in more crime, higher taxes, maintenance issues, teenage vandalism and increased road accidents because of distractions along the trail.

State officials are seeking public feedback on potential trail designs as part of a nearly $1.3 million feasibility study, said Will Britnell, principal engineer for the DOT’s highway design unit. The trail would go through Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Norwalk, Westport, Fairfield, Trumbull and Stratford.

“We’re here to get your feedback, then put together a design proposal that we will bring back to you in a series of public hearings in the fall and winter,” said Britnell.

Additional workshops are scheduled for May 1 in Westport and May 17 in Norwalk.

For more information, visit www.CT.gov/DOT/MerrittTrailStudy .

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