Walking by the river

Borough celebrates completion of greenway’s first phase

Naugatuck resident Mary Louise Mallane, center, cuts the ‘ribbon’ to officially open the first section of the Naugatuck pedestrian greenway while local and state dignitaries look on Dec. 20. That section of the greenway was dedicated to Mallane’s late husband “Irish” Patrick Mallane, Sr., a lightweight boxer who lived in the Union City section of Naugatuck. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck resident Mary Louise Mallane, center, cuts the ‘ribbon’ to officially open the first section of the Naugatuck pedestrian greenway while local and state dignitaries look on Dec. 20. That section of the greenway was dedicated to Mallane’s late husband “Irish” Patrick Mallane, Sr., a lightweight boxer who lived in the Union City section of Naugatuck. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The first phase of Naugatuck pedestrian greenway is in the books.

The borough formally opened the first section of the greenway with a ceremony and dedication Dec. 20.

“This is obviously not the first time we’ve come together in recent years in celebration of the river, but I do think each and every time it deserves mention of what an amazing come back the Naugatuck River has had. The greenway is an extension of our newfound appreciation of this tremendous lifeblood that runs through our valley,” Mayor Robert Mezzo said.

The first phase of the project runs from the Union City section to the center of town on Maple Street. It connects Linden Park to the Whittemore Bridge on Maple Street and provides connections to many destinations, including the Town Green, the railroad station, the Historical Society Museum and other parks.

Construction on this portion of the greenway, which is just over a mile, started in July 2012. It cost $2.17 million and was funded mostly by federal grants. The borough’s share was $434,948.

Public Works Director James Stewart said prior to the greenway traveling along the river was extremely difficult.

“If you ever walked this section before the construction there was a one-foot path along the flood wall. You’d actually have to hold on to the trees to keep yourself from falling into the river, which one person did years ago,” Stewart said

This is the first of a planned three-phase project that will run 3.3 miles through Naugatuck and is part of a larger plan to connect communities from Torrington to Derby with pedestrian greenways.

The next phase will cross the Gen. Pulaski Bridge and head north to Waterbury. The third phase will head south, through Breen Field and the Naugatuck State Forest, ultimately connecting with Beacon Falls.

“It is a vision that is shared through every Naugatuck River Valley community from Torrington, through Naugatuck, down to Derby, that one day through this amazing river that connects us we will be able to walk, bike, rollerblade to and from these great communities that help build this country,” Mezzo said.

State Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (R-70) said the project took the work of a lot of people to accomplish and hoped that it would ultimately draw people from different areas to Naugatuck.

Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo, left, addresses the crowd at the official opening ceremony for the first section of the Naugatuck pedestrian greenway Dec. 20 on the Gen. Pulaski Bridge as ,from left, state Sen. Joseph Crisco, (D-17), state Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (R-70) and state Sen. Joan Hartley (D-15) look on. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo, left, addresses the crowd at the official opening ceremony for the first section of the Naugatuck pedestrian greenway Dec. 20 on the Gen. Pulaski Bridge as ,from left, state Sen. Joseph Crisco, (D-17), state Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (R-70) and state Sen. Joan Hartley (D-15) look on. –LUKE MARSHALL

“Hopefully, in the future, when this connects with our neighboring towns, it’s going to bring people and businesses and stimulated the economy. So this is so positive for Naugatuck on so many levels. But certainly it could not have been done without everyone’s cooperation,” Rebimbas said.

With the construction of the greenway a small park was created next to the Route 8 onramp in Union City. The park and section of greenway was dedicated to “Irish” Patrick Mallane, Sr., an accomplished boxer and Union City resident who passed away in 2007 at the age of 74.

Mallane’s professional boxing career spanned from 1951 until 1960, with his most memorable bought being when he fought then-light weight champion of the world Paddy DeMarco to a draw in July 1956.

Mallane’s son Pat Mallane Jr. called the dedication a “great honor.”

Mary Louise Mallane, Pat Mallane Sr.’s wife, echoed her son’s sentiments.

“It’s wonderful. It’s an honor. He loved Union City. He really did,” Mallane said.

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