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Canton Bike Pump and Skills Park initiative bolstered by $240,000 state grant

By John Fitts 

Staff Writer 


CANTON/HARTFORD – The New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) has received a $240,000 grant for planning, design, construction and maintenance of a Canton Bike Pump and Skills Park on Lawton Road. 


Canton-based Benidorm Bikes, NEMBA, Pinnacle Trail Design and BikeWalkCantonCT, are collaborating to build the park. NEMBA, which is a 501(c)3 organization, will be the recipient of the grant award, and their local chapter, NW CT NEMBA, will manage the distribution of funds.


“I am thrilled to make this announcement for those who have shown their support,” Jan Bolland-Tanner, Canton resident and co-owner of Benidorm Bikes, noted at a June 12 Canton Board of Selectman meeting. “So, while this application was submitted by me, NEMBA is the recognized recipient. They will continue to support our fundraising efforts and manage the funds as a 501(c)3 organization. With a total proposed budget of $300,000 we are in the process now of raising the additional $60,000 through the community and other sources.” 


Specifically, the money is one of 45 projects funded by the Connecticut Recreation Trails Grant Program, administered by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. 


“These projects represent an investment in our communities, connecting our residents and visitors with open spaces, and providing equitable and accessible outdoor recreation opportunities,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes stated earlier this month via a press release on the grants. “Connection to Connecticut’s natural resources benefit everyone physically and mentally and enhance our state’s overall economy. Many of the projects funded by the Connecticut Recreational Trail Grant Program will support regional transportation corridors that can provide safe, enjoyable alternatives to car travel and reduce pollution. Many thanks to Governor Lamont and the State Bond Commission for supporting these important investments in our state-wide trail systems.”


At the meeting, Bolland-Tanner said,” “This award and goals for the bike pump and skills park at 55 Lawton Road aligns with the shared vision and benefits of outdoor recreation within our state of Connecticut. We are looking forward to continued progress."


“The emphasis of our efforts has been focused on offering more opportunities for Canton residents, schools, businesses and visitors to enjoy the natural resources our town has to offer,” Bolland-Tanner added via a press release released Monday, June 17. “The Canton Bike Pump and Skills Park is for everyone who loves the outdoors and is interested in developing cycling skills alongside people of all ages and abilities.” 


There will be question and answer session about the effort at Benidorm Bikes at 6 p.m. on July 8.” Anyone interested can contact Bolland-Tanner at jan@benidormbikes.com.


Donations can be made by going to https://member.nemba.org/Donate, and selecting the designation for “NWCT Canton Skills Park”, and the “Northwest CT NEMBA” chapter.

The park is slated for a portion of the town-owned property at 55 Lawton (A pump track is named for the action of generating one’s body up and down – i.e. pumping – over features such as berms and other varied terrain that can include moved earth, rock gardens, wooden bridges and other infrastructure).


Originally proposed by Bolland-Tanner in 2021, it was last fall that advocates for the park including BikeWalkCanton, Tanner and Mick Ferraro, Simsbury resident and membership and outreach director for the New England Mountain Biking Association – along with Deanna Smith, an owner at Pinnacle Trail Design and Construction in Chatham, NY – successfully received conditional approval from the Board of Selectmen to move the process forward. In February, the Planning and Zoning Commission gave the idea of a positive “8-24” referral, essentially stating the use of the land was appropriate. However, additional approvals are needed. One is approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission. Tanner said the goal is to work with the town to get a site plan application submitted – hopefully for its July 17 meeting. 


Many ideas have surfaced for the town-owned property since the early 1960s. In early 2013 the Board of Selectmen approved a plan that includes a soccer playing field, parking for approximately 90 vehicles, an area for smaller practice field(s) and a 1,200-foot linear portion of the Farmington River Trail. Funding for the plan hasn’t materialized. 


The bike park would sit on the portion of the property conceived for the practice fields, leaving the possibility for other recreation uses on the property.  

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