Forty-five bicyclists. Fifty-six miles. Eleven towns. On Sunday, representatives from the National Park Service, with some community partners, will pedal from Torrington to Derby to showcase the Naugatuck River Greenway, a proposed 44-mile multi-use trail. It’s called Explore the Naugatuck!
The riders will travel from Torrington to Derby, along existing trails and through towns that have proposed greenways as part of the larger project. This event is meant to highlight the recreational access to the river and promote the idea of what this interconnected greenway could be.
“We believe that once Valley residents, especially families and young people, know about the river and more access is created to walk and enjoy the riverfront, people will flock to use it,” National Park Service Outdoor Recreation Planner John Monroe said.
The bike event will span nine hours, with bicyclists from the Greater Waterbury YMCA taking 20- to 30-minute breaks at key spots along the route to highlight recently completed or potential improvements to the greenway such as trails, river restoration projects and fishing access.
Monroe said the Naugatuck River Greenway is a work in progress. In some towns, such as Derby, it exists almost completely, he said. In others, such as Waterbury, where a firm has been contracted to design the first phase of the greenway, it is little more than a plan. In still other places, like Harwinton, it is a concept.
Monroe said while this ride of more than 50 miles is not a race, the cyclists will be moving fast.
“They will be moving along, these are good riders they like to move,” Monroe said.
The ride begins at 8 a.m. when riders will leave for Coe Park in Torrington, and then the bikers will visit sights along the way — a park and ride lot at Exit 42 off Route 8 on the Litchfield side, the Thomaston Dam, Thomaston Town Hall, Frost Bridge Road in Watertown, the Waterbury Green, Linden Park in Naugatuck, Volunteer Park and a new streetscape in Beacon Falls, Broad Street Park in Seymour, the Riverwalk Park in Ansonia, and the Derby Greenway.
The riders will come through Waterbury to reach Naugatuck and all meet at the entrance to Linden Park at about 1:20 p.m. Mayor Robert Mezzo, among other dignitaries, will talk about the progress being made at the park.
After the speeches have been made, the cyclists will ride down to a sidewalk that travels alongside the Naugatuck River until Maple Street.
Once they are back on the road, they will bike to Route 42 and proceed to Beacon Falls.
“That is the longest segment of riding they will have that day. It’s about 10 miles. They can’t ride along Route 8, so they have to do a dogleg,” Monroe said.
The cyclists are expected to arrive in Beacon Falls at about 2:20 p.m.
When they reach the Beacon Falls town line, the cyclists will be met by police cars and give an escort to the Beacon Falls Senior Center, Elizabeth Falzone, who helped coordinate the Beacon Falls portion of the race, explained.
“At the senior center the Parks and Recreation Department will provide health bars, beverages, and soups. Seniors will be volunteering to help out,” Falzone said.
Falzone felt the event will be good for both the river and for the town of Beacon Falls.
“It will enhance the downtown area and bring attention to the new walkway we have,” Falzone said. “All in all, it will be a good day.”
The cyclists will then peddle down the street to Veteran’s Park, where First Selectman Gerard Smith will speak.
After the speech, there will be a ribbon cutting to officially open the new streetscape that was finished in August.
The cyclists will continue down the walkway towards Seymour. Joining the cyclists on that leg of the route will be Department of Energy and Environment Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty.