NAUGATUCK — The ongoing Naugatuck River Greenway Trail has been praised by local and state officials for its potential to beautify communities and enhance the quality of life for residents.
However, there is also a potential economic impact and officials want to know just how big it could be.
Will walking or biking along the greenways lead to people stopping at area shops and restaurants? Will the trails encourage people to move to area communities? Will they bring tourists?
The Naugatuck River Greenway Steering Committee is hoping to learn answers to those questions and more through a study it is undertaking on the economic and quality of life impacts that will result from construction a planned multiuse trail along the Naugatuck River. The study is designed to assist 11 municipalities along the Naugatuck River to further their work in completing sections of the trail.
The dream is for the greenway to follow the river for 44 miles and connect paths along Torrington, Litchfield, Harwinton, Thomaston, Watertown, Waterbury, Naugatuck, Beacon Falls, Seymour, Ansonia and Derby.
“It is important that each community have a detailed analysis on how both trail construction and the completed trail sections will impact the local economy,” stated Ingrid Manning, committee co-chair, in a news release.
The goal is to give cities and towns information they need to make stronger cases for construction funding. Currently, each municipality is in a varying stage of the project.
Some, like Derby and Ansonia, have large portions of theirs complete with concrete ribbons surrounded by amenities such as old fashioned lights and park benches. Others simply have dirt trails. Most are somewhere in between.
Naugatuck has one of the nicer greenway projects in the state. Last year, the borough completed a roughly one-mile concrete walkway that runs from the General Pulaski footbridge in the Union City section, across Linden Park, along Route 8 to the Whittemore Memorial Bridge on Maple Street downtown.
The first phase cost $2.17 million; after grants, Naugatuck’s share was $434,948.
Naugatuck is now trying to secure funds for Phase Two, Public Works Director Jim Stewart said. He said that includes connecting the south side of the current walking path in Union City to a section where a boat launch stands in the Platts Mills section of Naugatuck on the Waterbury line.
The study about the economic impact and quality of life impacts of the Naugatuck River Greenway project is being conducted by The Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments in partnership with the Northwest Hills Council of Governments and several University of Connecticut departments. For more information, visit www.NaugatuckRiver.net, www.nvcogct.org or communities.extension.uconn.edu.