Hiking in CT goes high tech with new online mapping system

(DEEP photo)

Planning an outdoor adventure in Connecticut just became a little more high tech.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Department of Transportation launched a "CT Rail Explorer" to provide information about the state's network of rail trails.

"It would be nice to take a look and perhaps change our game up a little bit," mused Claudia Magnan of Vernon.

Magnan and her friend, Judy Clarke, said they rarely stray from their closest trail, the Hop River Trail. Now, they said they have good reason to thanks to a virtual treasure trove of information about Connecticut's rails-to-trails.

The new online feature was developed by DEEP's state parks trails & greenways program, along with the DOT's transportation alternatives program.

It was a project three years in the making, according to Laurie Giannotti, the trails and greenway coordinator with DEEP.

"We were trying to find a way, an easy way, for people to use our trial maps really," she told Eyewitness News.

DEEP said users can simply visit its website to get to the interactive map.

From there, they can see how many miles they want to travel from a parking lot or measure distances between lots and other points of interest.

"It will ask you, how many miles do you want to explore," Giannotti said. "Anywhere between 1 and 10 miles."

There's also information included about trail elevations, photographs of sites along the trails and links to state park maps.

Parking locations and directions are also available, along with printable maps and routes.

"It will show you on the screen, the 2 mile or 1 mile distance of where the parking lot is to where you've chosen to start at," Giannotti said.

She said it essentially functions like a smartphone app.

There are four state park rail trails in Connecticut. They include the Air Line, Hop River, Moosup Valley and Larkin.

The Air Line and Hop River State Park rail trails were reconnected this past summer by a restored bridge over the Willimantic River in Windham. The two trails are also connected to sections of the Blue Blazed Hiking Trail System.

DEEP said sections of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail are also part of the state park system.

The trails cover 88 miles and pass through the 23 towns of Andover, Bolton, Chaplin, Colchester, Columbia, Coventry, East Hampton, Hampton, Hebron Lebanon, Manchester, Middlebury, Naugatuck, Oxford, Plainfield, Pomfret, Putnam Southbury Sterling, Thompson, Vernon and Windham.

The project was supported in part by funding from the Federal Highway Administration's National Recreational Trails Program. DEEP said it cost $50,000 to put together.

Right now, it's billed as a pilot project. However, it could be expanded with more trails if it gains enough popularity.

To check out the map, click here.

Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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