Public supports latest bike path proposal in Ludlow
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | April 16,2013
CHRISTIAN AVARD / Staff Photo
Naomi Johnson of Dufresne Group Consulting Engineers shows an overview of a proposed bike path in Ludlow. A project study will bereleased in the fall that will include more details.
LUDLOW — Residents want a new bike path in the community.
Twenty-two people crammed the Ludlow Town Hall Conference Room on Thursday for a public hearing on a proposed bike path north of Ludlow Village. The local bike path committee is now in the planning phase and they will examine what their options are and the regulations that have to be met.
Residents were excited about the proposed bike path, especially Timber Inn co-owner Glenn Heitsmith, who said a bike path will benefit the local economy.
“It’s long overdue and it’s one more offering to make this town more complete as a recreational destination,” Heitsmith said.
The proposed bike path will begin at the park and ride location at the Ludlow Fire Station on Pond Street, parallel to Route 103 and connect with Locust Hill and Ranta roads. The path will continue to Jackson Gore ski area at Okemo Mountain Resort, the Ridge Road crossing at Route 103, and end at Buttermilk Falls, according to Jason Rasmussen of the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission.
“Right now we’re developing a concept study,” Rasmussen said. “We need to make sure it’s doable and then seek funding and that will be up to the town.”
The Dufresne Group Consulting Engineers of Windsor provided the draft plans and said only one right-of-way will need to be negotiated. Dufresne Group planner Naomi Johnson said the right-of-way is at Jackson Gore, and Okemo Mountain Resort said they would allow the bike path to extend onto Jackson Gore property.
“Bicycles are a big component. We see that as a strong link and something that’s important to us and to other businesses in the town,” Ted Reeves, vice president of Okemo Real Estate and Development, said.
Cost estimates will be determined once the project study is released. Rasmussen said they expect the report to be ready by November.
Rasmussen said the project may need storm water and wetlands permits, depending on where the path will be situated. Buffer zones will also have to be determined but Rasmussen said stricter regulations are being enforced, especially after Tropical Storm Irene.
“They prefer to see a 50-foot buffer or larger. The closer you get to the river, the more time it takes and the harder it gets to build these things. A lot of it depends on what we have as a final location,” Rasmussen said.
Bike Path Committee member Sharon Bixby said a bike path has been in the making for the last 20 years. The original plan was to start a bike path from Ludlow Village and travel south along Route 103 to Fletcher Fields at the Ludlow-Cavendish town line.
While the town supported the concept, the project ran into several obstacles. Town officials said the regulatory process compromised progress and prehistoric landmarks were protected along the proposed shared-use path.
The original project was abandoned, but Bixby thinks if the town can get a bike path north of Ludlow Village, it may spur more interest to revisit the southern bike path proposal. Marji Graf, executive director of the Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, hopes that will be the case.
“If we start small and we get successful, then we can build up. We need a success. We’ve got to start small and build up,” Graf said.