Park plan grows

Beacon Falls officials looking to acquire 3 parcels

BEACON FALLS — The future of Riverbend Park is looking bigger than ever before.

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Monday to move forward with trying to acquire three parcels of land to expand the park, which is located off of Nancy Avenue and runs along the Naugatuck River.

“I think it’s a very sensible thing to do. If we can get local control over that, we own that entire section of the river bank and we get to extend the park. To me it makes perfectly logical sense that that would be something we would want to be doing,” First Selectman Christopher Bielik said.

Riverbend Park, which is about 1.9 acres, is used mostly for fishing and to launch canoes and kayaks into the river. Officials have been working on a plan to make improvements to the park, which included acquiring two privately-owned properties on Nancy Avenue earlier this year. The town also received a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Services to improve the park.

Riverbend Park Committee Chairman Rich Minnick told the board Monday night that the committee identified two state-owned parcels officials want to acquire during title searches. The two parcels total about half an acre.

One parcel borders Pines Bridge Road on the far east of the park and is currently owned by the Department of Transportation, according to officials. The other parcel is adjacent to the one owned by the DOT and runs along the river. This parcel is owned by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The committee also wants the town to obtain a 0.45-acre parcel at the corner of Nancy and Hubbell avenues that is privately owned.

“It is used primarily today for dirt bikes, quads, that kind of activity. Hopefully, if it’s opened up to the public, we’ll be better able to police it,” said Minnick about the property parcel at the corner of Nancy and Hubbell avenues.

The property is owned by John and Karin Harmon, who own two other adjacent properties along Hubbell Avenue.

According to Bielik, the Harmons owe roughly $10,400 in back taxes total on all three parcels. He said the town would be willing to forgive all of the back taxes in exchange for the one property officials are interested in acquiring.

The board voted unanimously to authorize the town attorney to do a title search on the property, and to authorize the town to acquire the property in exchange for forgiving the back taxes owed.

This move is not unprecedented by the town, especially along Nancy Avenue.

Earlier this year, the town acquired the property at 19 Nancy Ave. through forgiveness of back taxes. A parcel at 17 Nancy Ave. was brought to auction by the town to recuperate back taxes. However, officials chose to not auction the property and instead added it to town land.

Once the town has all of the properties it wants under its control, it will begin to make upgrades at the park. These improvements include building walking trails and the construction of a J-hook, which is a weir that will help break the flow of water to allow kayakers and canoeists to enter and exit their boats safely.

Minnick said the J-hook will also allow people who don’t know how to swim to wade into the water safely since the river will be shallow and slow at that location.

Minnick said he wants to ensure the town plans to maintain the park before moving forward with any improvements.

“If we’re not going to [maintain] it, let’s turn back the (grant) money. Why waste it? Give it to somebody that’s going to take care of it and put it to good use,” Minnick said.

Selectman Michael Krenesky agreed, saying the town has not maintained certain properties it owns, namely Toby’s Pond.

“It’s (Riverbend Park) another piece of property to which we need to be firmly agreed that we will put money in the budget every year to maintain it. … So I just want to make sure, if we move forward with this, we are going to step up to the plate for all the properties we own and are funding as we need to,” Krenesky said.

Bielik said the Department of Public Works has been short staffed the past couple of years. He added he intends to add more employees to the department, but it will depend on how much money the Board of Finance puts in the budget.

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