NRVT: Construction moves forward despite polar vortex

(Photos by Christopher Burns)

Historically low temperatures and widespread effects of a polar vortex haven’t stopped Josh Ryan and his Timber & Stone construction team from continuing work on Wilton’s demonstration loop of the Norwalk River Valley Trail this week.

Dressed in five layers (“If you include the safety vest,” team member Ben Cheney said), the Vermont-based company saw the extreme temperature as an exciting challenge.

“We’re pretty much on schedule,” Mr. Ryan said yesterday. “We just came through a polar vortex, and anytime you’re working outside during a polar vortex you’re destined to run into some challenges. But it was pretty enjoyable to solve them in that kind of situation.”

Mr. Ryan is the principal managing member of Timber & Stone LLC and is a member of the Professional Trailbuilders Association.

The Norwalk River Valley Trail is currently planned to run 38 miles, from Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk to Rogers Park in Danbury. The trail will provide recreational enjoyment throughout Fairfield County, including hiking, biking and more.

The Wilton Loop, as a part of the NRVT, will “create an environmentally responsible trail system providing healthy recreational opportunities. It will connect local businesses, schools, public parks, and conservation land, as well as Metro-North stations, into a cohesive trail system,” the Friends of the Norwalk River Valley Trail said in past publications.

In the past few days, one of the most important problems for Mr. Ryan and his team to solve was that of extreme temperature fluctuations. Timber & Stone is used to working in extreme climates, Mr. Ryan said, but this week’s two-day temperature change of 50 degrees was especially challenging.

While installing the foundation system for a boardwalk that will run over a section of wetlands in Wilton, the team called in a subcontractor from Norwalk to help install helical anchors.

“It went from 52 degrees to below zero in 24 hours. That definitely makes it challenging, but we subcontracted a local construction company, Conte Construction, to help us with the installation with the piers. This was pivotal with the success of that effort,” Mr. Ryan said Wednesday. “They worked right alongside us during pretty challenging weather extremes. Monday it was pouring rain and borderline freezing, and then we worked all day yesterday. Things freeze and make it challenging.”

Instead of calling off construction efforts until weather improved, Timber & Stone made the decision to refocus its efforts on parts of the trail that were less affected by temperature than others.

“We had to adjust where we focused our efforts,” the trail builder said. “We put a temporary hold on installing servicing — not because of us, but because of the material itself. It’s not the best temperature to be installing crushed stone because it freezes pretty much on contact, making it difficult to create the trail it will become. We had to switch and put all effort towards construction of the boardwalk.”

Though the weather has forced some changes in plans for the company, they still say they are generally on time for finishing the project by the end of February, weather permitting. The Wilton loop will end as a half-mile trail, connecting Gaylord Drive and Raymond Lane.

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