NAUGATUCK — State officials have bought into the Naugatuck mayor’s dream of creating a recreational hiking trail system that he believes will be second to none in Connecticut.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has awarded the borough $80,000 to put toward a trail system that will connect borough-owned property off Andrew Mountain Road to the Naugatuck State Forest at High Rock near the Beacon Falls border.
Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said the money will go a long way toward his plan to one day establish several miles of dirt hiking trails from High Rock, around Naugatuck’s 146 acres of open space on Andrew Mountain that includes two ponds, toward borough-owned open space at Gunntown Road near the Naugatuck border, to the Larkin State Bridle Trail in Middlebury, to Hop Brook or possibly to the Platts Mills section of Waterbury and toward downtown Naugatuck.
The borough has already started to create a trails network on open space it bought three years ago on Andrew Mountain. The DEEP grant states Naugatuck must put 20 percent, or $20,000, of its own money toward the project.
Along with trails, the borough plans to put a community garden, a dog park and sports fields in the center of the walking trails on Andrew Mountain.
“The user groups this will serve are young families, seniors, hikers, mountain bikers, cross country skiers, snowshoers, Scouting groups and young education programs,” the borough stated in its grant application.
It states that amenities will include a welcome kiosk, trail signs, way-finder signs, natural diversity signs, benches, a parking lot and portable toilets. There are also a couple of small stream crossings that will require wooden bridges.
The application noted that the state Department of Economic and Community Development named Naugatuck the eighth most distressed city in Connecticut and stated that Naugatuck is “starved for managed, passive open space areas.”
“As a distressed city, the Andrew Mountain Road Project will help the residents of the Borough of Naugatuck earn some environmental justice,” the application states.
Fred Agee, Naugatuck’s Geographic Information Systems coordinator, put the paperwork together and submitted the grant. He said it was a coordinated effort from multiple people, including Hess, former Mayor Robert Mezzo, borough Clerk Nancy DiMeo, former Burgess Alexander Olbrys, the Department of Public Works, the local press for bringing awareness of the project and several others.
The Department of Public Works is expected to complete the crux of the work, while some of it will be completed by volunteers, including local scouts. It is expected to be finished by June 2017.