Greenway would pass through brownfields

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NAUGATUCK — The recently-unveiled route for the Naugatuck River Greenway, a proposed 22-mile regional trail stretching from Thomaston to Beacon Falls and designed to promote local residents’ enjoyment of the outdoors, if built will run through several undeveloped borough-owned parcels.

The Regional Naugatuck River Greenway Specific Routing Study for the Borough of Naugatuck was presented to the Board of Mayor and Burgesses last week. Officials from Alta Panning + Design, the project’s designer, and the Council of Governments of the Central Naugatuck Valley (COGCNV) outlined the route the proposed trail would run as it weaves along the Naugatuck River and through the borough’s core.

Borough officials questioned the design plans, noting that the relatively unattractive downtown sites could deter potential greenway users.

“Greenways sound great,” said Mayor Robert Mezzo. “It’s my concern, though, that you have a nice greenway, but you look to your right or left and you see an undeveloped brownfield.”

The proposal is the product of a year-long effort to study, analyze, and develop routing recommendations for the borough and each town along the trail. The plan is to ultimately extend the greenway 44 miles along the river, from Torrington to Derby.

Developers hope the greenway will enhance non-motorized transportation for walkers and cyclists and provide better public access to the Naugatuck River. The committee’s members said they would also like to see the greenway support the borough’s economic development efforts by routing the trail close to downtown areas.

Mezzo questioned the proposed greenway’s viability as an economic aid to the borough.

“In some communities a greenway is your economic driver,” Mezzo said. “In communities like Naugatuck, a lot of the areas adjacent to the greenway are parcels or properties that need a reuse.”

Samuel Gold, COGCNV’s greenway project manager, said the committee feels having the greenway trail run adjacent to contaminated parcels would improve those parcels’ value and may enhance their chance of being redeveloped and acquiring cleanup money.

Some of the parcels the greenway will run through are Linden Park, Breen Field, the former Uniroyal site, the Naugatuck State Forest and the General Pulaski footbridge.

The trail in Naugatuck would remain within eyeshot of the river for nearly the entire route. There is a planned walking and bicycle path and possible river access with fishing and small boat launches.

A potential issue raised by Burgess Mindy Fragoso was the need for security measures along the railroad tracks and an assurance to users of the greenway that they’d be safe at all times.

Phil Goff, the project planner for Alta, guaranteed protection along the railroad lines, assuring all portions of the trail will be 25 feet away from the railway and separated by an 8-foot fence.

Another concern, this time raised by Burgess Bob Neth, was the width of South Main Street, where the plan is to increase the size of the sidewalk to accommodate the greenway.

Goff said the route could potentially require parking restrictions on the east side of South Main Street against the retaining wall.

All routing decisions were made by the Naugatuck River Greenway Committee, town officials and the COGCNV’s staff.
Borough officials appointed to the greenway committee include Director of Public Works Jim Stewart, Borough Engineer Wayne Zirolli, Borough Planner Keith Rosenfeld and Kevin Zak of the Naugatuck River Revival Group.

The committee requested that a future motion be passed to adopt the greenway proposal as an amendment so the group could begin requesting funding. Members acknowledged the fact that the project is a long way from realization, but stressed their desire to get the ball rolling.

“This is going to be a long project, five or six years, a decade even, until people will get to see most of this,” Gold said. “Now that there is a blueprint, though, if adopted, the borough can go after federal funding that pays for these processes.”

The borough board took no action and Mezzo said officials will have to weigh its options when it comes to funding and where dollars should be directed.

“It’s a balance issue for us,” Mezzo said. “We want to see a greenway, but at the same time, there’s only so many dollars to go around. If the greenway is going by a property that when we passed we’d rather look the other way, it becomes a matter of competing priorities and that’s something in Naugatuck we need to be conscious of.”