Sourced from the Republican-Amercan
By Neil Tolhurst
January 22, 2022
Contrary to the trademarked slogan of the Salvation Army, sharing isn’t always caring. Sometimes, not sharing is caring.
Since the early 1970s, a portion of the Army Corps of Engineers property at the Thomaston Dam has been available for off-road motorcycle riders. The narrow, rugged woods trails and riding areas are on the west side of the river flowing through the property. They have been maintained by the Corps and volunteers from the Pathfinders motorcycle club. There is a proposal for sharing these trails and areas with hikers and bicyclists. That’s a very high-risk mixture.
The Naugatuck Valley Greenway is planned to extend north to Torrington. A completed research project identified possible routes, including on existing Thomaston Dam trails and areas open to off-road motorcycling. Thomaston First Selectman Edmond V. Mone has asked U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., for federal funding for this project.
Placing a greenway route section with off-road motorcycling is a disaster waiting to happen. As a hiker and bicyclist who uses greenways, I don’t want to be endangered by that mix. Other hikers have told me they agree. They see safety issues and have no desire to hike with dust, possible flying stones, and noise from dirt bikes.
Years ago, when I lived in Boston, I rode my dirt bike in a Massachusetts state forest where there were motorcycle trails, hiking trails and bicycle trails. Where those trails crossed each other, it was dangerous and scary. That hazardous mix can be avoided by using one of the other proposed greenway routes on the east side of the river on Corps of Engineers property.
Motorcyclists are not opposed to extending the greenway, just to putting it on the west side of the river.
When I put my hiking boots on, I don’t want to be on the same trails as off-road motorcyclists. When I ride my bicycle, I have the same desire. When I put my motorcycle boots and helmet on, I don’t want to worry about sharing trails with hikers or bicyclists. It’s beyond my level of risk acceptance.
The Corps of Engineers requires riders to have street license plates from any state or Connecticut ATV plates. Those plates have fees paid by riders. In Connecticut, annual local vehicle property taxes also are paid by riders. The same applies to the majority of riders who use other motor vehicles to transport their trail bikes. Motorcyclists pay fuel taxes for their bikes and the vehicles transporting them. However, greenway-using hikers and bicyclists pay no similar taxes or fees. Government funding for greenways comes from all taxpayers.
The Corps’ off-road motorcycle riding area at Thomaston Dam is highly popular with dirt-riding hobbyists, racing competitors and other enthusiasts. These are not the lawbreakers who ride illegally on city streets. Public comments to the research report, and a recent petition, show their concerns and opposition to placing the greenway on the dirt riding trails as well as possibly losing access to the riding area.
The Thomaston Dam riding area is unique in Connecticut. Dirt-bike riders have few options. Hikers and bicyclists have many. As one rider wrote to Mr. Mone, “Since you’re proposing sharing of Thomaston Dam’s riding area with hikers, which ones of the 1,743 hiking trails in Connecticut are you going to support opening up to sharing with motorcycles?”
Routing the greenway on the east side of the river, away from the existing motorcycling trails, would show we care by not creating a hazard and not sharing.
Neil Tolhurst is a resident of New Hartford.