Norwalk River Valley Trail project takes a step forward
The steering committee behind the Norwalk River Valley Trail Project — a proposed 38-mile pedestrian and biking corridor, which will link Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk to north Danbury — recently celebrated the latest development in its three-year history.
State and town officials gathered on Tuesday night at Wilton Library to discuss the completion of a comprehensive routing study. A projection screen displayed a Google Maps flyover of the suggested 35- to 38-mile scenic corridor, zooming in on familiar lands and roadways that would be involved.
The theme of the night, "Five Towns, One Vision," recognized the collaborative efforts of towns involved in the proposed route, including Norwalk, Wilton, Redding, Ridgefield and Danbury.
The study aimed to define routing solutions for the recreational trail, while being mindful of landowner and environmental concerns.
The trail project initially set off in 2009 with the help of a $180,000 federal grant, which stipulated that steering committee members match it with $45,000 in funding. In less than 18 months, that was reached, with municipal payments and volunteer efforts.
Pat Sesto, director of environmental affairs in Wilton, was regarded by town officials on Wednesday night as the driving force behind the project. She spoke of the initiative as a potential community health benefit and boon to the local economy, and saluted the volunteer efforts and community support.
"I personally cannot begin to adequately convey the level of talent and diversity and expertise that this steering committee comprises," Ms. Sesto said. "It is truly a thing of beauty and joy."
Wilton First Selectman Bill Brennan applauded the five-town steering committee members for working together in a vested interest.
"The trail is another great example of strong, self-motivated municipal cooperation," he said.
Mr. Brennan said he learned of the idea seven years ago, upon stepping into office.
Wilton has already opened one trail section and is expected to open a second in coming months, which will be a three-mile stretch between Wolfpit Road and Allen's Meadow. According to the trail proposal, there is potential for an additional 14 miles of trail in Wilton.
"These are fine first steps, but we have a long way to go," he said.
Redding First Selectman Natalie Ketcham said the trail's multiple access to business districts and seven train stations will help stimulate the local economy.
Although there is limited parking in downtown Redding, Ms. Ketcham earned applause when she announced her plan to install additional bike racks in strategic locations to accommodate travelers.
"The trails provide a recreational opportunity and commuter option that does not exist today," she said. "The opportunity to walk, ride and shop for pleasure on the way to work is a very appealing idea."
Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi discussed how the improvement to the community's well-being in general could raise property values and bring in business.
"This is definitely a quality-of-life issue and it's something we can all get on board with," he said.
State Reps. Gail Lavielle and John Hetherington and State Sen. Toni Boucher agreed the project is lucky to have Ms. Sesto at the helm, particularly for her diplomatic ability to coordinate the resources of several different communities.
"They say it takes a village; in this case it takes five villages," Ms. Boucher said.