When winter finally begins to loosen its grip, people in Springfield, Massachusetts can venture outside for a little recreation along the banks of the Connecticut River.
As the temperatures warm, the snow cover melts, and the days grow longer, the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway beckons.
Jeremy Wilson, who lives in downtown Springfield, says he comes to the river walk often.
The river walk is a continuous 3.7-mile asphalt path that parallels the Connecticut River. It stretches from the densely populated residential North End neighborhood through downtown Riverfront Park and past the Basketball Hall of Fame and commercial developments in the South End.
The entire length of the river walk only recently reopened after being closed for two years while the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission repaired and rehabbed sewer pipes, manholes and outfall structures on the banks of the river.
Members of Walk Bike Springfield, a citizens’ advocacy group, believe the river walk, which is 15 years old, suffers from being under multiple government jurisdictions. In the city’s case, the parks department cuts the grass and the public works department maintains the paved path and a bridge that crosses railroad tracks. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also exerts some control.
Further, there are complaints about limited access points to the river walk and a lack of signage throughout downtown Springfield directing people to it.
As a kind of spring inspection tour, I recently walked the middle section of the river walk with Betsy Johnson of Walk Bike Springfield and her 4-year-old grandson J.J., who hurried off ahead of us on his bicycle with training-wheels.
We got on to the river walk at the Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club on West Street.
As we were walking along, a man rode up on his bicycle and stopped to chat.
More people could be using the river walk and bikeway this summer when Valley Bike, a bicycle-share program is scheduled to begin. One of the locations where bikes will be available for short-term rentals is Union Station, which is just a few blocks from the river walk.
The city plans to put new signage throughout the downtown to direct people to points of interest.
Also, the plan is to maintain access to the river walk and bike path through Riverfront park as a major renovation project takes place this summer.