|By G. Michael Dobbs|
CHICOPEE About 50 people gathered for a meeting at the Chicopee Boys & Girls Club to react to plans to build one segment of the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway through the neighborhoods of Ward 3.
As planned, the segment is a part of a system of paved walkways that would follow the river in Agawam, Springfield, West Springfield and Chicopee. The system of walkways would link together from the Longmeadow-Springfield border and eventually end at the Holyoke Canalwalk.
To date, there have been parts of the system completed in Springfield and Agawam, with phase one of the Holyoke Canalwalk completed and phase two underway.
Mayor Michael Bissonnette explained the Chicopee portion under consideration would run 2.8 miles from the Medina Street Boat Ramp to Nash Field in Willamansett. It would run next to the dike that protects that area from flooding on property that was taken by the city years ago for flood control, he added.
There is a funding pool of $3 million for the construction of the River Walk components in the region, he said, as well as a grant for the Department of Urban Development for planning the Chicopee segment.
Looking at the map, Bissonnette said that at this time the linking of the Chicopee section of the River Walk to the Springfield link, which culminates in the North End, has not yet been planed.
Comments from the residents about the plan will be compiled with many of their suggestions considered for the next phase of design, the mayor said, adding that the project is at the 25 percent level of the design.
Those additional design elements include fencing to separate the walk from private property, a pavilion along the route and improvements to Nash Field.
Ideally, Bissonnette, explained the construction of the River Walk can be times with the federally mandated sewer separation projects in Willamansett.
Approval of the plans from the Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the flood control system, is also a requirement, he added.
He said the "big issue" will be the connection to the Springfield leg, which he believes will be through Delta Park and adjacent to Center Street. He added that one suggestion was to link the two parallel to the train tracks from Springfield through Chicopee to Holyoke the new route the northbound Amtrak trains will take but Bissonnette viewed this suggestion as unsafe.
The Chicopee River Walk is not part of this project, and Bissonnette said the next phase bringing the paved walk and bikeway closer to the former Uniroyal site "is on the front burner."
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