After more than a decade of planning—and even an exhibition on the project at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles—Balmori Associates has completed the 9-mile New Haven section of the Farmington Canal Greenway, a linear public park in Connecticut. It is part of the larger 84- mile Farmington Canal Trail, a biking, walking, and running path on the abandoned New Haven railroad that closed in 1982. The railroad was built from a 1825 canal bed, running from New Haven, Connecticut to Northampton, Massachusetts.
For the portion from New Haven to Hamden, Balmori Associates incorporated hedgerowed urban trees and local plants to transform the neglected ravine into an outdoor recreational destination and wildlife corridor. “The challenge was getting it to be a reality by getting hold of the railroad land, and our visual presentation of the master plan made it possible,” said Balmori.
Working for the Farmington Canal Rail-to-Trail Association, Balmori Associates adapted plans to the local context, framing a portion of the narrow, 25 to 45-foot wide linear park against an adjacent Norway maple forest. The invasive species of tree emerged after the railway closed, pushing out the local oak, beech, maple, and chestnut trees, but Balmori chose to keep the heartier Norway maples because they survive better at edge areas.
A completed section in New Haven at Yale University brings the park into an urban environment, providing shelter and food for wildlife, improved storm water management, and a gateway for the northbound trail. Guy Nordensen collaborated on the design of the Hillhouse bridge, one of the structural elements along the trail. Balmori envisions the rail-to-trail as a segmented spine to connect park to city—with separate sections reflecting the character of each of the surrounding neighborhoods in Connecticut and Massachusetts.