Envisioning a Bigger and Better Windsor Locks Canal Trail State Park

Envisioning a Bigger and Better Windsor Locks Canal Trail State Park

By Laura B. Hayden

As North Central News readers continue to wait for the reopening of the south entrance to the walking trail at the Windsor Locks Canal Trail State Park (on the Windsor Locks side) one Enfield resident foresees a brighter-than-ever future for the outdoor recreation area. Consultant William Hosley says the State has ample reason to designate it a “priority park” for improvements because of its proximity to the boom of redevelopment taking place on the Windsor Locks end of the trail. This includes the almost complete factory-to-apartment conversion of the Montgomery building (located at the end of the Trail on Main St./CT 159 at the Connecticut River) and plans for a new train station nearby, in addition to other Main Street improvements.  

The added attention “could turn a good state park into a spectacular one,” says Hosley. “It already parallels the river at one of its most majestic spots with scenic vistas and pristine nature reserves, home to eagles and diverse wildlife.” The trail’s existing paved path between the Connecticut River and Windsor Locks Canal replaced the towpath once used by mules and their human drivers to tow freight along the canal until the system was rendered obsolete by railroads in the mid-to-late 19th century.

Earlier this year, nesting eagles kept part of the 5.4 mile trail from Suffield to Windsor Locks temporarily closed. “The eagle nest unfortunately failed,” according to state park supervisor John Guglielmoni, but access to the full trial reopened mid-June. Howeer, the trail can only be entered on the Suffield side. 

Still the continued closure of the south entrance is no reason to stop looking toward future possibilities for the park, especially for Hosley. Last summer Hosley posted a five-minute video on his YouTube channel featuring feasible improvements that would turn the site into one of the top state parks in Connecticut. The most innovative would be the installation of a footbridge – approximately 250 feet long – that would connect the path to King’s Island, an hefty stone’s throw away. According to Hosley, “One hundred to 200 people set foot on the island every year,” after canoeing or kayaking over from the canal path’s shore. Walking trails already exist through King Island’s 120 acres of forest. The proposed footbridge has the potential of extending the park’s bike path to a 15 mile loop connecting Suffield, East Windsor, and Warehouse Point according to Hosley’s promotional video. 

“State parks and trails all exist in competition with one another,” says Hosley. With the footbridge and other amenities like wayside overlooks and trailside signage, he feels the Canal Trail Park can raise its profile to that of the Farmington Canal Greenway which covers approximately 84 miles from New Haven, CT to Northampton, MA. 

Hosley admits “the Canal Trail State Park has not been a State Department priority, but with the Montgomery building conversions and impending new transit station in Windsor Locks, that could change. “It’s an opportunity to think big,” says Hosley.  

Visitors to the Windsor Locks Canal State Park can enjoy the view, but the walking trail is temporarily off limits in connection with the redevelopment of the Montgomery Mills building adjacent to the Windsor Locks entry of of the park. 

William Hosley’s vision to improve the Windsors Locks Canal includes a footbridge over this narrow and shallow area of the Connecticut River. It would lend access to King’s Island by foot or bike.

While the Windsor Locks Canal State Park Trail is temporarily not accessible, the park still offers a serene areas to visit.

A sign by the locked entrance to the walking trail spells out the reason for the temporary closure: 

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has announced the temporary closure of the Windsor Locks Canal State Park Trail. The land upon which the Windsor Locks Canal State Park Trail is located is owned by The Windsor Locks Canal Company and leased to the state for the public use as a state park trail. 

In connection with the redevelopment of the Montgomery Mills building, DEEP and the Windsor Locks Canal Company are finalizing various impacted arrangements, including trail access. Until those arrangements are complete, the trail will be closed to the public. DEEP apologizes for the inconvenience and is working to resolve this issue. 

While the Windsor Locks Canal State Park is still open, the trail to Windsor Locks is closed.

To find out more about this project contact Hosley at wnhosley@snet.net. His video can be viewed at Envisioning a Canal Park & Revitalized Windsor Locks downtown

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