Funding key to extending greenway along river

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Naugatuck River Greenway Routing Study. -CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — Construction of the first phase of the Naugatuck Pedestrian Greenway is beginning, but borough officials say they do not know when, if ever, a trail alongside the Naugatuck River will run through the borough from Waterbury to Beacon Falls.

“At this point, we’re going to continue to apply for any grants that are available, but there’s no funding in the budget for any extensions,” said James Stewart, director of public works. “I think it’s going to take a lot of time, numerous applications.”

Phase One, which will connect the General Pulaski footbridge in Union City to the borough’s downtown, will cost $2.2 million, most of which comes from state grants. The borough’s share is $43,000.

Completing the path throughout the borough was expected to cost $5 million two years ago, an estimate that could be higher now, Stewart said.

The borough applied for a $1.15 million grant last year to complete the connection to Waterbury, but did not receive the money, Stewart said.

The proposed path would be 8 to 12 feet wide and run more than 3 miles along the river in the borough, according to a 2010 study the borough completed with the Council of Governments of the Central Naugatuck Valley.

Linden Park in Union City, on the river’s east side, already contains a riverside path. The trail being blazed this year will run along the river’s east side, but much of the borough’s greenway would parallel the river’s west bank where the east side runs too close to Route 8.

The borough might need to build a footbridge over the river from Breen Field where Route 8 runs close to the river’s east bank, Stewart said. On the other side of the bridge, however, lie 75 acres of brownfields owned by Chemtura, a chemical manufacturing company that grew out of the Uniroyal rubber company once prominent in the borough.

The borough is interested in running the greenway through the company’s property along the river and developing recreational facilities there, Mayor Robert Mezzo said. Chemtura has to decide what it might want to do with that land, and the borough needs more concrete plans for its possible development before an agreement can be forged, Mezzo said.

“We have a very strong relationship with Chemtura,” Mezzo said. “They’ve invested in our community. They’ve brought almost 75 jobs to Naugatuck and the relationship is much better than it was when Uniroyal left.”

The Breen Field bridge and another proposed footbridge connecting to the boat launch near the Waterbury line are challenges themselves, in that they will be expensive to build, Stewart said. Once the path makes its way safely to the west bank heading toward Beacon Falls, however, it can connect to the trail system in the Naugatuck State Forest, Stewart said.

The borough’s next grant application could focus on the southern leg of the path if the plans are there, Stewart said.

“At some point, we’ll have to decide whether you’re going north to Waterbury or south to Beacon Falls,” Stewart said.

Officials hope the borough’s trail will become part of a 44-mile greenway along the Naugatuck River from Torrington to Derby. In past years, Mezzo said the greenway would complement the proposed Renaissance Place development. Although the agreement for that project has expired, Mezzo said he still sees the greenway as an essential component of future downtown revitalization efforts.

Much of the borough’s funding for its part of the greenway will have to come from the federal government, which is not prioritizing greenways the way it prioritized highways such as Route 8 four decades ago, Mezzo said. Unless federal priorities change, “the dreams of a longer connection are going to be just that,” Mezzo said.

1 COMMENT

  1. There are many issues besides money that are impeding the extension of the greenway South to Beacon Falls. Passing through the Naugatuck forest present challenges such as needing multiple footbridges as defined in the plan created by the Central Valley Council of Governments (COG). The plan (http://cogcnv.org/greenway/ ) is a huge endeavor and there are many decisions yet to be made taking the greenway North & South of Naugatuck.

    A new issue has developed that may be outside the COG’s and local leaders influence. Metro North Railroad is currently repairing the bridge at the foot of High Rock State Park. This repair is long overdue, but apparently it will not provide access to the Park from Beacon Falls. There is no fully disclosed plan, but the Railroad has a proposal to close off the access road to High Rock from Cold Spring Road in Beacon Falls with a locked gate. Long range plans are to build a second rail along the Naugatuck River and this clearly will have an effect on the future of the greenway.

    The future of the railway and greenway are closely linked. I certainly hope that our two town administrations are in active contact with Metro North on this issue and will do everything possible to keep access to the Park open to all.

    High Rock State Park (formerly known as High Rock Grove) belongs as an historic area and I hope shortly to see it listed on the CT State Historic Register. It is another compelling reason that the Naugatuck Valley should be named a National Heritage Area.