BEACON FALLS — A document from the late 1800s may be the key to reopening Cold Spring Road.
The road, which is the only access point to the Naugatuck State Forest in Beacon Falls, was closed by the Department of Transportation last year due to safety concerns. The road runs close to the Metro-North Railroad tracks. A locked gate with ‘No Tresspassing’ signs now blocks the way.
In a letter to First Selectman Gerard Smith at the time it was closed, DOT Rail Administrator Eugene Colonese wrote the primary purpose of the access road is for Metro-North Railroad personnel to maintain railroad infrastructure. The gravel access road was never designed or built for public access and its proximity to an active railroad track poses a major safety concern for pedestrians entering the park at this location, the letter states.
Ever since the road was closed the town has been fighting the DOT’s decision and trying to have the road reopened. The state has recently agreed to open it for the annual kayak race in May. However, DOT has no current plans to keep it open beyond that day.
On Monday Smith said that a deed has come to light which may be the first step towards giving the town the power to reopen the road.
Planning and Zoning Commissioner Raymond Jurzynski came across a deed for Cold Spring Road from 1880 that said it was owned by the town, Smith said during the monthly Board of Selectmen meeting.
“The deed is so old that you can’t just take the deed at its face value. It’s going to require much more research and to do an in-depth title search from that deed, back in the 1800s, forward,” Smith said.
Smith passed the deed off to town’s legal counsel, who recommended hiring attorney Robert Hannon of Waterbury to do the title search.
Hannon told the town that it would cost the town $300 for a review of the history of the road. Once the review was complete, Hannon would be able to tell the town what a full title search would entail and what the total cost would be.
Smith said another possibility for the reopening of Cold Spring Road came in the form of a phone call earlier Monday.
Smith said he received a phone call from Samuel Gold, the assistant director of the council of governments, who said that the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection contacted him.
Smith said he was told the DEEP and the DOT wanted to have an agency-only meeting about the road. This means that the town of Beacon Falls is not invited to take part in this meeting.
Smith said in a previous meeting with DOT the department did not want to budge on the issue, so he was interested to see the outcome of the agency-only meeting.
“Up to this point the DOT has stated it is their road, and it is a liability issue. We sat around here with members of the DOT and we had long meetings, and they pretty much just dug their heels in, saying this is a liability issue. They were pretty adamant,” Smith said.
Smith felt it would be to the town’s advantage to allow the agencies to have their meeting before diving into a costly title search.
“My first reaction to this, especially with the attitude I got from the DOT with all the meetings they’ve had, is this could be thousands of dollars we could be spending to find out they own the road and we can’t open it anyway,” Smith said.
Smith said town should wait to see what comes out of the meeting between DEEP and DOT before they begin to expend town funds towards this project.
Selectman Christopher Bielik said it might be advantageous to spend the $300 to find out how much a full title search will cost.
“I’m almost of the mind that the $300 is kind of short money. At least it gives us an idea, when they’re finished, what the final bill is going to be,” Bielik said.
Smith agreed, saying that the town may have to participate with DEEP to get the road open.
The board voted to hire Hannon to do the review, but decided to wait until the outcome of the meeting between the DOT and DEEP before moving any farther forward.