Blazing a path


Borough working on project to expand hiking trials

A map showing hiking trails Naugatuck officials are planning to expand. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — If the borough builds it, people will hike. At least that is what officials are hoping.

Naugatuck officials are working to expand hiking trails near Nichols Road, the Larkin Bridle Trail and the Middlebury town line.

According to a map provided by Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess, there will be four trails expanded for a total of 1.75 miles in the borough and into Middlebury. The plan calls for building a 1,950-square-foot parking lot off of Nichols Road for people to park and access the trails.

Another trail, which already exists and is just over a quarter mile long, would be improved to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), under the plan. The trail, which starts at the spot for the proposed parking lot, adjoins the bridle trail.

Hess said the plan also includes connecting the bridle trail to the existing trail network in Hop Brook State Park. In addition, the borough will transform old Nichols Road, which is an old, unused dirt road that goes from Naugatuck to Middlebury, into a trail, he said.

“I have been walking these trails forever. So, I am intimately familiar with the area,” said Hess, who lives near the area. “I always said to myself, ‘How hard would it be to connect everything.’ It makes some beautiful, logical connections.”

The project is estimated to cost about $65,000, according to Hess. The borough is applying for a Connecticut Recreational Trails Program grant, which would cover 80 percent of the cost.

Hess said borough public works employees and the Connecticut Water Co., which owned the land before it deeded it to the borough years ago, are doing the work.

Mike Mastropietro, an official with Connecticut Water Co., said the company has been maintaining portions of the proposed trails because there’s a water tower on the property.

“I think it is a hidden gem back there. This area that is unseen, once people see it they will be surprised it is in their town,” Mastropietro said.

Hess said the trails are being worked on and the work will continue even if the borough doesn’t get the grant.

The grant would allow the borough to add amenities, like kiosks with maps at the intersections of the trails, and ensure the ADA trail is built.

Hess said the borough is working in cooperation with Middlebury on the project, since the proposal expands trails into the town. He expects the trails to be opened to the public in 2019.

“Middlebury is not part of our project, but they are endorsing it and approve of it,” Hess said. “If their street department or park department wanted to get involved and help us, we’d be happy. But we are not asking them to.”

A message left with Middlebury First Selectman Ed St. John wasn’t returned.

The trail system is the second phase of Hess’ plan for an expansive trail system throughout the borough. The first phase connected the Naugatuck State Forest to Andrew Mountain Park. The third phase will connect the park to the bridle trail, Hess said.

Hess hopes to one day connect the trail system to the greenway that runs through the borough.

“People need to realize that Naugatuck has many great hiking opportunities, many beautiful spots that are relished by a very small number of people, and the areas are totally unknown to 95 percent of the population,” Hess said. “There are many opportunities for the citizens that they don’t know about.”