Wilton-Norwalk trail project is back on track

Sustainable CT has launched a $7,500 crowdfunding campaign for the benefit of the

Sustainable CT has launched a $7,500 crowdfunding campaign for the benefit of the “WilWalk” section of the Norwalk River Valley Trail.

Pat Tomlinson / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — An impediment preventing construction of a portion of the Norwalk River Valley Trail (NRVT) in Wilton and Norwalk appears to be lifted.

The Wilton Board of Selectmen voted on Feb. 3 to authorize First Selectwoman Lynne Vandeslice to sign a lease with the Department of Transportation (DOT) that will allow continued construction of a two-mile section of the trail connecting Wilton and Norwalk called “WilWalk.” The trail will run from Wolfpit Road to Grist Mill Road.

The WilWalk project was caught up in red tape for about two years when the state required the town of Wilton and city of Norwalk to each enter into a lease for a 30-foot wide “ribbon” of state-owned land on which the trail would be built.

The leases contained language that would require each municipality to assume liability for pre-existing conditions within the ribbon of land within its town. This would include liability for the cleanup of any existing hazardous materials.

Work on the WilWalk trail was suspended while Wilton and Norwalk sought a waiver from the state from the pre-existing conditions clause.

Vanderslice told the board at the Feb. 3 meeting, that Norwalk recently received a lease from the DOT for a small trail she referred to as “the missing link,” which is not part of the WilWalk trail. That lease, she said, contains new language in the indemnification and insurance sections related to environmental claims. “The new language removes the previous obstacle to us in executing the lease,” she said.

Charlie Taney, executive director of the NRVT, reviewed the nonprofit group’s mission with the board.

The overall plan is to build a 30-mile, multi-use, handicap accessible trail connecting Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk to Rogers Park in Danbury, passing through Wilton, Ridgefield and Redding along the way.

The WilWalk section, he said, spans 4.8 miles and runs from Broad Street in Norwalk to Wolfpit Road near Orem’s Diner, connecting Wilton and Norwalk.

There is a memorandum of understanding, he said, between Wilton and Norwalk to do this connection together. NRVT received a $1.3 million grant from the state for this section, and needs to raise $275,000 more for a matching grant. The organization has raised $225,000 so far and needs to do fundraising for the final $50,000, he said.

Other projects

Another NRVT project in Wilton calls for the installation of a crosswalk across Horseshoe Pond Road, Taney said.

He estimated it would cost about $12,000 to $13,000 to build it. Because it is a state highway with a DOT right of way, Taney said permission was needed by DOT to build the crosswalk.

He said DOT asked for a survey of the intersection which cost NRVT $15,000. In addition, DOT also said it needs a four-way pedestrian signal that will cost $75,000. He said that requirement is being reviewed by the Wilton Police Commission. “We were trying to do a simple connection, but costs escalated,” he said.

A third NRVT project involves building a boardwalk stretching between Skunk Lane and Pimpewaug Road, in order to get through wetlands.