Work on greenway in borough to begin

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Work on the first phase of the Naugatuck Pedestrian Greenway, a paved path along the Naugatuck River, will begin soon. The project is part of a larger one to connect greenways from Torrington to Derby.

NAUGATUCK — After years of delays, construction of the Naugatuck Pedestrian Greenway is about to begin.

“Any day now, they’re supposed to be out there cutting trees,” Director of Public Works James Stewart told the Board of Mayor and Burgesses Tuesday night.

The first phase of the greenway, a paved path along the Naugatuck River, will run from the General Pulaski footbridge near the Polish American Club in Union City to the Maple Street bridge downtown, then loop back on the other side of the river. Stewart said he expected that portion to be functionally complete by December, with foliage along the path to sprout come spring.

Benches and bike racks will be placed along the path, and new lights will line the footbridge and a stretch of the path downtown, Stewart said. The footbridge’s handrails will also be repainted, Stewart said. Trees and brush will be cleared in places to make way for the path and provide river views, but trees will be planted in other areas. A handicapped-accessible ramp will provide access to the sandy section of Linden Park, where a platform will overlook the river.

Of the project’s $2.2 million cost, state grants will provide 80 percent, leaving the borough to pay the remaining $43,000, Stewart said. Guerrera Construction of Oxford will complete the project.

The borough’s contribution is already accounted for through the state’s local capital improvement program and a five-year capital allocation that was approved years ago, Stewart said.

The project has been on hold for almost two years while the borough waited for environmental permits and a traffic study. Following the study’s determinations, the entrance ramp to southbound Route 8 on North Main Street will close within a month and will remain closed for about six weeks, Stewart said. Pedestrians will be able to park and access the greenway across from the ramp, Stewart said.

The plan to build the greenway has been in the works for a decade, with the goal of building a path along the entire length of the river in the borough, which would link to greenways from Torrington to Derby.

The borough’s stretch would link Waterbury to Beacon Falls, which have also begun to plan their greenways. The Beacon Falls end of the borough’s greenway, for all its natural beauty, will be more challenging because of its proximity to the train station and Route 8 and the uncertain future of Chemtura’s riverside property, Mayor Robert Mezzo said.

“It’s actually the most exciting side,” Mezzo said. “It’s just harder to do.”