Trails project puts festive foot forward Tuesday

The latest theme for the long-planned system of trails that would wind through the Norwalk River Valley from Norwalk to Danbury might be "Happy Trails," as a series of celebratory events are underfoot.

The first of three celebrations launching the next phase in the development of the Norwalk River Valley Trail will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 4, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Brubeck Room of the Wilton Library. The public is invited. The first selectmen from Wilton, Ridgefield and Redding are planning to attend, as well as representatives from Alta Design, the firm that conducted the routing study. Alta will give an update on the results of the study to the public.

The trail for hikers, bikers and equestrians is planned to be 38 miles long (including loops and spurs), running from Long Island Sound in Norwalk to the center of Danbury.

"It will connect to seven Metro-North train stations and the business districts of Danbury Center, Ridgefield Center, Branchville, Cannondale, Wilton Center and SoNo in Norwalk, offering opportunities for synergy with small businesses, community Y's, etc. along the way," Lisa Bogan, a NRVT represenative from Wilton, noted in an e-mail this week.

The NRVT expects to receive funding through private and public grant sources, with support (either financial or in-kind) from municipalities as available.

"To date, the project has received a $180,000 grant from the state of Connecticut (used primarily for the routing study), supplemented by $45,000 of in-kind services by volunteers. An award of technical assistance from the National Park Service has provided NRVT with a consultant from the NPS to guide the project through the initial stages," Ms. Bogan noted.

Fund raising is the next phase of NRVT's work.

"And just as importantly [is] implementing sections of the route that are trail-ready and 'for now' footpaths, supplemented by guided hikes and walks along the proposed route," Ms. Bogan noted.

Information on NRVT's activities and progress are available through Facebook and the trail's website:, where there are also links to the Twitter feed and the latest e-newsletter.

State Sen. Toni Boucher, reached at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Fla., said on Monday that this trails project is often referred to as "the greenway" proposal that came about in the spring of 2009. The legislature removed the limited restriction that the state Department of Transportation had been working under, to build a highway (Super 7) within the corridor. The land was opened to other potenial uses such as recreation.

Much of the trail follows property owned by the transporation department, either along the railroad tracks or Route 7. Other portions of the trail go through open space in the various towns.

Some parts of the trail currently exist and are marked, but much of it is only a proposal with no time frame for completion. In addition to the planning, Alta will provide cost elements and potential sources of funding. Actual construction and completion of the trail — which is planned as eight to 10 feet wide, covered in stone dust — will be up to the NRVT steering committee.