DOT leaves road to state forest closed

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A locked gate, with ‘No Trespassing’ signs blocks public access to the Naugatuck State Forest at the end Cold Spring Road in Beacon Falls. The road was closed off in May and was supposed to be reopened in September. However, the state Department of Transportation feels that the road is unsafe and plans to keep it closed indefinitely. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — A large chain-link fence blocks Cold Spring Road just after the last residence, and “No Trespassing” signs are posted on the fence and trees around the area.

Cold Spring Road, which was the town’s entrance to the Naugatuck State Forest, was closed by Connecticut’s Department of Transportation at the end of May to replace a railroad bridge. The road was slated to be reopened for public use in September, but has been closed for the indefinite future as the DOT has deemed the road unsafe for public use.

In a letter to First Selectman Gerard Smith, DOT Rail Administrator Eugene Colonese wrote the primary purpose of the access road is for Metro-North Railroad personnel to maintain railroad infrastructure. The gravel access road was never designed or built for public access and its proximity to an active railroad track poses a major safety concern for pedestrians entering the park at this location, the letter states.

The decision to close the road is one Smith is fighting.

“This road has been open for 100 years and there have been no incidents,” Smith said.

Smith said the DOT has been working to make the decision permanent for some time, and his administration has been working against that decision.

One of the reasons that Smith is against this decision is that Cold Spring Road was to have been part of the town’s greenway project. The town had recently finished the streetscape along South Main Street, and had planned to tie Cold Spring Road into it.

At the time, the DOT did not raise any concerns or inform the town that there was a chance the road could remain closed indefinitely, Smith said.

“If they were opposed to this roadway, I don’t understand why they let us spend the money,” Smith said.

Smith was also concerned about the safety issue that the fence raised. He pointed out that the town’s emergency personnel are still responsible for any incident that occurs in the town’s portion of the forest. This means that emergency officials have to open and close the gate whenever they are headed into the forest.

“If it’s a life threatening situation at the bottom of High Rock, you’ve just added time,” Smith said.

Smith pointed out that a Waterbury man who went missing in the forest in June for nearly a week was found on Cold Spring Road.

Smith said that closing the road also did not take the residents into consideration. Anyone living in Beacon Falls who wants to hike in the forest now can only enter through Black Forest Road in Naugatuck. According to Google Maps, the end of Black Forest Road is approximately a 350 foot walk from the end of Cold Spring Road. However, driving between the same locations is over 8 miles.

“Going into Naugatuck, people have to come over roads that are not in good shape when we can just buzz down the street,” Smith said. “Closing that road did not take into consideration the people who frequent the High Rock Park on the west side of Route 8.”

Representatives from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection had originally met with Smith to see if there was a way to keep the road open. DEEP spokesman Dwayne Gardner said in an email that, while the DEEP wants to see the road open, they are differing to the DOT’s decision.

“DEEP is interested in reopening access but recognizes safety improvements need to be made and defers to DOT to determine what those improvements are,” Gardner wrote.

A message left with the DOT seeking comment was not returned as of this post.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This is a prime example of what happens when government gets involved! Now the small gov’t of Beacon Falls, DEEP, and DOT will watch a group of monkeys kick a football until they get bored, while the park gets overgrown and becomes unused by hikers, fishermen, or birdwatchers. Everyday people who have hobbies that are structured to not get involved in this type of B.S. Thanks Gov’t,

  2. This is really a shame. Many people hike in this park & fish the Naugatuck River and Sherman’s Brook. Most probably are unaware that High Rock Grove as it was once called, was one of the first picnic and amusement areas in CT. Developed by the predecessor to Metro-North, the Naugatuck Railroad circa 1870’s, it provided boating, skating, a carousel, concession stands, and picnic areas that was utilized by tens of thousands of people through the early 1900’s. The railroad transported people from Hartford and New York City to the park during the summer months in the 1890’s.

    Beyond its natural beauty, it is a historic area worthy of state and national recognition. I am in the final stages of preparing the nomination package to place High Rock Grove on the State Register of Historic Places. When ready, I will ask the Beacon Falls Historical Society to publish the nomination package on its website.

    Let’s keep this historic area open to the public and support “taking down the gate”!