Posted on Wednesday, June 13 2007 by Bill Dusty
On June 13th, 2007, the first meeting of the Friends of the Riverwalk was held in the Municipal Building in West Springfield, MA. The purpose of the meeting was to establish a plan for the promotion of the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway, a paved pathway extending from Agawam in the south to Holyoke in the north, with eventual plans to link to other bikeways in the region. Portions of the River Walk have already been completed (including Springfield), while other sections are still in the planning or construction phases. This first meeting was attended by six people who discussed  promoting membership in the Friends of the River Walk;  promoting the use of the River Walk;  planning for security and long-term maintenance of the River Walk. Also discussed were ideas regarding possible sponsorship of sections of the bikeway, as well as encouraging greater use of and accessibility to Springfield’s Riverfront Park, which is vital to the plan of creating a greater community awareness of the River Walk’s route along the City’s waterfront.
Safety was a highlight of the meeting, in particular the planned stretch of bikeway extending from the North End of Springfield and linking into Chicopee. This link is unpopular with some residents in Chicopee who live on properties abutting the proposed route of the path leading into Springfield. These residents are concerned about a possible influx of crime from Springfield due to the improved accessibility into Chicopee provided by the linked paths. Other safety concerns included the River Walk’s route through certain areas of Springfield’s own riverfront. Possible strategies discussed were police patrols (walking or bike patrols) and/or volunteer patrols along sections of the walkway. Also, encouraging greater use of both the pathway and Riverfront Park would help to bring in more people, which in turn would create a safer environment overall.
The group also considered ways to promote and help maintain the River Walk and Bikeway. Promotional ideas included the distribution of flyers, media coverage, corporate sponsorship – particularly from businesses bordering the River Walk – and planning events along the pathway as well as within Riverfront Park. For maintaining the pathway, an “Adopt-a-Trail” campaign, similar to current neighborhood models, was discussed.
The topic of visibility was discussed, as both the bike path itself and Riverfront Park reside on the west side of Interstate 91, and thus remain fairly “unseen” by the general population who live, work, or visit Springfield. All agreed that greater accessibility and visibility were vital to the pathway’s success. Currently, the City relies on parking lots located beneath I-91 as primary parking areas for visitors to the park. There is also a parking lot available near the Memorial Bridge, located on the western side of I-91.
Funding for the design and construction of the River Walk and Bikeway program has been provided primarily from grants under the ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act), beginning in 1995 with the construction of Springfield’s pathway.
The next meeting of Friends of the Connecticut River Walk is planned for August 1st, 2007, at 6:30pm, at a meeting place to be announced. Anyone interested in joining the group and attending future meetings, or who would like to learn more about the Friends of the Riverfront, is encouraged to contact Andrew Smith at, Asmith@PVPC.org.