Celebrating trail advocacy, history in Manchester, Connecticut

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At Charter Oak Park (from left): Robert Morra, First Selectman, Town of Bolton; Barbara Amodio, ECGA Ambassador; David Waldburger, ECGA volunteer; Niles Barnes, ECGA Director of Greenway Programs and River Relay cyclist; Beverly Duncan, ECGA Ambassador; Tim Yarborough, River Relay cyclist; Rob Dexter, ECGA Ambassador and River Relay cyclist; and Jay Moran, Mayor, Town of Manchester. Photo by Bruce Donald

A rainy afternoon couldn't dampen the smiles in the newly completed Rotary Music Garden area of Charter Oak Park in Manchester, Connecticut, on the East Coast Greenway’s Charter Oak Trail. A group of long-time volunteers, friends, East Coast Greenway Alliance staff, and local elected officials met to greet Rob Dexter, our East Coast River Relay cyclist, as he rolled in on the last day of his relay leg.

Manchester Mayor Jay Moran welcomed the group and, along with First Selectman Robert Morra and Selectman Gwen Marrion of Bolton, spoke with passion about celebrating not only the River Relay but also the transformation that trails have made in their communities. Major segments of the Greenway were recently completed or under construction in their communities.

Long-time trail advocate and former East Coast Greenway Alliance trustee Bill O’Neill offered historical background on the fight to build out the local trail system and praised his town's leaders for their support of trails. O'Neill also helped organize a 1992 tour of the Greenway from Boston to Washington, D.C., which his daughter, Karen, rode 25 years ago. He also helped with the 2000 WAVE relay up the entire Greenway, complete with the passing of water from Key West to Canada — early precursor to today's River Relay.

Bruce Donald, tri-state Greenway coordinator, spoke about the River Relay and the enormous strides that Connecticut has made on its 200-mile stretch of the East Coast Greenway. He cited Manchester and Bolton as two of the communities most dedicated to trail building and making vital connections. 

After the talks, cyclists Rob Dexter, Niles Barnes, and Tim Yarborough headed out for Hartford — smiling even though they were pedaling off in a driving rain.  

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