BEACON FALLS — The town is hoping to expand the size of one of its parks through a grant and some forgiveness.
After approximately five years of trying, the town is poised to receive a $100,000 state grant for improvements at Riverbend Park, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Joe Rodorigo told the Board of Selectmen Monday night.
The park, which is located on Nancy Avenue, is approximately three-quarters of an acre. It’s used for fishing as well as a place to launch canoes and kayaks into the Naugatuck River.
Rodorigo said he talked in November with officials from the Housatonic Valley Association, which is overseeing administration of the grant, and was told if Beacon Falls submitted a plan for improvements to the park they’d be among the first in line to receive the money.
A committee was then put together to come up with a plan of how to move forward with the upgrades, he said.
Improvements to the park are expected to include a barrier of large boulders next to the boat launch to create calmer waters for boaters to put their boats in and out of the water. More fishing and canoeing access will also be added.
Riverbend Park is created from three parcels of land that the town owns, according to Rodorigo. The town also owns two other parcels on Nancy Avenue that do not abut the park.
There are two parcels of privately-owned land — 17 Nancy Ave. and 19 Nancy Ave. — that are contiguous with the town land, which officials are eyeing to make the park completely owned by the town.
According to Rodorigo, Daniel and Corrine McCurrey own the land at 17 Nancy Ave., while 19 Nancy Ave. is owned by William Greenberg. There are no houses on either of the lots.
FEMA’s current floodplain map encompasses both properties, which means that no structures can be built on them.
Back taxes are due on both properties.
The McCurreys owe approximately $20,000 in taxes on their property. The land is about a quarter of an acre and has an assessed value of $11,250, according to the assessor’s office.
Greenberg owes approximately $50,000 in taxes on the roughly quarter-acre property at 19 Nancy Ave. According to the assessor’s office, the land is assessed at $11,220.
The town is hoping to obtain the land by forgiving the debt.
Rodorigo said he has had informal talks with the property owners to gauge their interest in giving the town a quick claim deed to the properties in exchange for forgiveness of the back taxes they owe.
“Potentially we would own all these properties [along Nancy Avenue] and we would use the grant to improve this park,” Rodorigo said.
The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to forgive the back taxes for a quick claim deed and allow the committee to enter into formal talks with the property owners.
“The plan, as we move forward is, if neither of these property owners are cooperative, we spend the money fixing up what we already own, and that’s how it works,” Rodorigo said.
Even if the town acquired the two other properties, it would be difficult to spend the entire grant on Riverbend Park, Rodorigo said.
Rodorigo proposed the town use any additional grant money to expand and clean a portion of land stretching from behind the senior center to the Route 8 exit ramp next to Volunteer Park.
This work would most likely be covered under the grant because it is still about giving people access to the river, Rodorigo said.
Rodorigo said the committee is also at long-term improvements to Riverbend Park, including a pedestrian bridge that would connect the park to the Naugatuck River greenway once the project is finished.
“The first thing we did was to look at the greenway. If we are going to expand Riverbend is there a way to utilize it in conjunction with the federal program of the greenway,” Rodorigo said. “We can create a spur off that greenway plan, come down Nancy Avenue, and access Riverbend Park.”