Residents question routing of Norwalk River Valley Trail

Some residents in the Georgetown area of Dumplin Hill Road are raising concerns about the routing of 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.

At the last Board of Selectmen's meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 4, Second Selectman Hal Clark provided a letter from the residents, which said, "Our specific objection and protest lies in one of the optional routings of the trail to make the connection from Thunder Lake Road to the Connecticut Department of Transportation-owned property through Thunder Lake Road that connects to Dumplin Hill Road."

The letter further identifies "policy/security" issues and the specter of decreasing home values.

Dumplin Hill resident Janice Kern, who signed the letter, declined further comment, saying the concerns had been spelled out.

The residents met with Mr. Clark, State Sen. Toni Boucher, State Rep. Gail Lavielle and Pat Sesto, Wilton's director of environmental affairs and the trail's chairwoman.

Ms. Sesto said the main concerns center on the logistics of the routing.

"As stated to me by several residents on and nearby Dumplin Hill, they are not opposed to the trail as a whole, they are opposed to the idea of using the Dumplin Hill right-of-way. And they have no current intentions of giving permission to use this privately owned right-of-way, should they be asked," she said. "We are not actually asking them or any other private landowner for permission at this time."

Further, Ms. Sesto said, "The routing study appropriately identifies a gap in publicly owned land and this gap will someday have to be resolved. When we get that far, we would discuss options with various private property owners about easements or other mechanisms to facilitate the trail."

However, she said eminent domain is a non-issue. "There will be no eminent domain taking of private land," she said. "For this neighborhood, this is a discussion for some day in the future. Wilton's early efforts will focus on the sections that connect to train stations and business districts in the Wilton Center area. We will have our hands full with this for a number of years."

According to Ms. Boucher, the residents "just wanted to be assured that no one would be trespassing on their property and Pat Sesto did state and the plan also states that an owner must give permission or their land would not be included in the greenway plan."

A comprehensive routing study for the project was unveiled at a ceremony at the Wilton Library on Sept. 4. 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.