Thousands of people use the trails on Metropolitan District Commission property for walking, running, biking and watching wildlife. On Tuesday night, hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts, as well as lawmakers, showed up for a meeting to urge MDC not to close those trails.
The MDC has been weighing the option of closing its recreational areas because of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit. In May, a Rocky Hill woman won a $2 million judgment against the MDC for injuries she suffered while riding a mountain bicycle and hitting a yellow gate.
Hundreds were expected for the meeting. By the time it began, the auditorium was at capacity and the crowd spilled out into the foyer at West Hartford Town Hall.
"The unified message is, it’s absolutely critical people keep this thing open. People need a place to recreate," Philip Keyes, of the New England Mountain Bike Association.
Prior to the meeting, MDC officials said the commission cannot afford the liability. Their hope lies in lawmakers closing a loophole in state law that allows MDC to be sued, since it is not a non-profit. The next legislative session is not until 2011 but MDC's insurance is expected to skyrocket in the fall.
“This is truly a treasure that we have here, and we need to keep it that way," Stephanie Blozy, of Save the MDC Trails, said.
"As a mountain biker, I thoroughly enjoyed the MDC trails and it’s a tragedy when one person's greed and selfishness can ruin the experience for hundreds of thousands of people," Ted Goerner said.
The MDC also has 7,000 acres around the Barkhamsted and Nepaug Reservoirs, at Lake McDonough and along the Farmington River in Canton, New Hartford and Barkhamsted.
MDC officials said the message to keep the trails open was loud and clear. They do not expected to make a decision for a few months.
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