Western New England Greenway Bikeway Gains National Recognition
Western New England Greenway (WNEG) Bike Routes
Portions of the Western New England Greenway (WNEG) recently gained national recognition by being designated a U.S. Bicycle Route (USBR 7) by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). The designation officially places USBR 7—comprised of back roads and scenic bikeways starting in Norwalk that run throughout Fairfield County’s Route 7 region—on a national Adventure Cycling Association mapping system. The entire touring network system covers more than 11,000 miles in 24 states and the District of Columbia. It features mapped routes that include listings of nearby lodging, dining, cycling shops and heritage sites.
The WNEG-Western New England Greenway connects western parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont along 380 miles of quiet country back roads and existing bike trails that connect, crisscross or parallel Route 7. Formed as a grassroots ambition by volunteer cyclist enthusiasts, the WNEG is part of a multi-segment system that serves as an international link between the East Coast Greenway—a 3,000-mile route from Maine to Florida that begins at the Merritt Parkway in Norwalk— and the 3,130-mile route, La Route Verte, at the Canadian border in Quebec. It also links the two iconic cities of New York City and Montreal via back-road bike routes.
The 85.2 miles of the USBR 7 in Connecticut is routed along the Housatonic River along gently-rolling terrain marked by farmland and river views. The bike route includes a ride along the Saugatuck Reservoir in Weston. When entering New Milford, cyclists are encouraged to stop at Lover’s Leap State Park, and travel toward Kent where they cross two covered bridges, the West Cornwall Bridge and Bull’s Bridge.
The ambitions of the volunteer cyclists who formed the WNEG were to highlight the many scenic bike routes connecting Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. The multi-segment, multi-state Greenway has been developed with supportive administration by the nonprofit Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership (Burlington, Vermont) and the National Park Service RTCA – Rivers, Trails and Conservation Program which provides technical assistance.
Since 2010, a group of volunteers from the three states has coordinated four annual conferences, created a website and Facebook site, and published maps of the most favorable on- and off-road routes that now comprise the Western New England Greenway.