Foundation in place to expand park


BEACON FALLS — A committee is busy laying the groundwork for the future expansion of Riverbend Park.

Officials announced plans to expand the park, which is located on Nancy Avenue along the Naugatuck River, in January 2014. The park is used for fishing as well as a place to launch canoes and kayaks into the river.

The town set its sights on acquiring three parcels of land to expand the park. In December, the town acquired a 0.45-acre parcel at the corner of Nancy and Hubbell avenues on the western end of the park, according to Riverbend Park Committee member Richard Minnick, who provided an update on the committee’s progress to the Board of Selectmen this month.

The land belonged to John and Karin Harmon, who own two other adjacent properties along Hubbell Avenue. The town acquired the property by forgiving the back taxes that the Harmons owed, Minnick said. At the time the town acquired the land, the Harmons owed approximately $10,000 in back taxes.

The town is also trying to acquire two properties to the east of the park that are owned by the state. The properties are approximately half an acre combined and abut Pines Bridge Road.

Minnick said the town first started working to acquire the properties through an administrative process with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Department of Transportation.

Minnick said the town may have to bid to buy the properties if officials continue with this option. He said the properties are in a flood plain and no infrastructure can be built there.

“It may have come down to a zero dollar value in some of our opinions. But in the opinion of the state, in hard times, they want money,” Minnick said.

The other option is to have the legislature deed the properties to the town, Minnick said.

With help from state Rep. Theresa Conroy, D-Seymour, Minnick said, the town began the legislative process in January. The legislature is expected to take up the issue, he said.

Minnick said it will cost the town about $600 to acquire the properties this way.

“That’s typically average. They don’t want to say anything lower. It’s not going to be some exorbitant number,” Minnick said.

According to information Minnick handed out at the meeting, the committee is planning to finish upgrades at the park, which include building new trails and installing a weir for kayakers, by the end of 2016. The committee may wait until the spring of 2017 to plant trees to ensure their chance of survival.

“You guys are doing a tremendous job in fleshing out what we’ve got down there already and the vision for this thing when it all comes together is going to be tremendous,” First Selectman Christopher Bielik said.

Minnick said once the project begins in earnest, the committee will be ready to go at full speed.

“It’s been a slow start but we have a very good, solid foundation. We have no rocks unturned that we know of. We re-reached out to see if there were any road blocks for us. We didn’t find anything. Hopefully once we get started we are ready to roll,” Minnick said.