Efforts to create a continuous trail from Norwalk up through Danbury gathered steam this week as funding becomes more secure.
The Board of Selectmen recently accepted a contract from the state that will put $300,000 toward the effort to build the “Redding Mile” piece of the Norwalk River Valley Trail. The grant had been awarded in January, but it took a while for the agreement to make it to the town.
“We were very fortunate,” said Stuart Green, who has overseen the Redding part of the project. “We’re really excited.”
Once completed, the 30-mile trail will span from Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk to Rogers Park in Danbury, passing through Wilton, Ridgefield, and Redding. There is also the possibility of it connecting into a larger trail network.
The trail has been discussed for decades but the effort was formalized in 2012 with the study of the route. Since then, eight miles have been completed in Wilton and Norwalk.
Residents and trail advocates have been raising money and were able to complete the design portion of the project. They’ve also raised $62,000, a significant chunk of the $75,000 needed for the local match piece of the state grant.
“We’re right on the edge,” said Charlie Taney, executive director of the Norwalk River Valley Trail.
Another fundraiser is underway.
Mitch Ancona, an avid cyclist and owner of Ancona’s Wines & Liquors in Ridgefield, Georgetown and Wilton, is also raising money for the Redding Mile by competing in a 200-mile bike race in Kansas on June 1. The goal is to raise $3,000 from the effort but Green said there has been a lot of enthusiasm about it and he hopes they’ll exceed that figure. An Ancona customer offered to match the $3,000 raised.
“I have a feeling we’re going to be there really quickly,” Green said. “We might have to raise the goal.”
The hope is to start building this fall. Green said a project like this would take about six weeks to complete.
The trail would be 10 feet wide and made with packed-down stone dust, just like the completed pieces in Wilton. This will allow for anyone to use it, including people with strollers and wheelchairs. The Redding Mile goes from Picketts Ridge Road to Fire Hill Road, where Redding meets Ridgefield.
It is designed by Timber & Stone, the company that is building the other sections.
“Even though Redding has 70 miles of trails, there’s nothing like this,” Green said.
The Ridgefield piece has been designed and fundraising for it is underway. Together, the Redding and Ridgefield sections will be about 3.25 miles.
“The two of them together is just going to be gorgeous,” Green said.
He said the new trail will also allow for alternative transportation because, once completed, people could ride their bikes to a bus stop and then take public transportation to work.
The trail is already being used. About 6,000 users were counted in January 2018. Green said this many people coming out in the dead of winter shows the demand for the trail.
Norwalk is also completing the “missing link” after securing the permits to complete it in March and a grant awarded in April will help complete another piece between Norwalk and Wilton.
“Things are happening up and down the trail,” Green said.