Hartford's most significant quality-of-life improvement in the past three decades is its reconnection with the Connecticut River. The city was blocked from the river by the construction of I-91 in the 1960s, and some kids grew up unaware that they lived in a river city. Now youngsters and adults row, fish, bike, jog, cruise, listen to music and otherwise enjoy this great natural asset.
They can do this thanks to a remarkable nonprofit, Riverfront Recapture. It celebrates two anniversaries worth noting this year; the 30th for the organization and the 25th for Executive Director Joe Marfuggi.
Riverfront is an argument for long-term planning and steady, incremental progress.
The organization worked with the state Department of Transportation to lower the highway and build a platform to connect downtown to the river. Riverfront developed a park system on both sides of the river and, to protect this investment, created a regional park maintenance agreement with Hartford, East Hartford and the Metropolitan District Commission that has become a national model for urban park management. Riverfront connected downtown to Riverfront Park in the North Meadows. This once-scary park now hosts conferences and wedding receptions in its lovely new boathouse.
Marfuggi, a genial, intelligent, gently persistent leader, says the next priority is the connection from downtown to Charter Oak Landing in the South Meadows. Over time, pathways will lead north and south to Windsor and Wethersfield, something that is likely to increase bicycle commuting by multiples.
Let's wish Riverfront and Mr. Marfuggi many more years of successful recapturing.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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