Wilton looks to improve parks with ARPA money

A keen focus on the town’s open spaces and trails will be a priority for Wilton when using ARPA monies allocated to the town.

A keen focus on the town’s open spaces and trails will be a priority for Wilton when using ARPA monies allocated to the town.

Jason Rearick / Contributed Photo

WILTON — A number of park enhancements, including repaving and trail work, are being considered for some of the $5 million American Rescue Plan Act money the town received.

The park enhancements total $157,000, said Director of Environmental Affairs Mike Conklin.

“One of the things that is well known throughout the country, I think, is that during the pandemic, our parks have been getting much more use than they ever have,” Conklin recently told the Wilton Conservation Commission. “So there’s an opportunity for some funding to improve our parks.”

Conklin laid out the two largest townwide priorities from the ARPA money. First, the emergency radio system upgrade for police, fire and EMS remains the largest priority. Cost estimates were released by Wilton Police in November, indicating a range from $2.6 million to $3.2 million to acquire and implement the equipment from Motorola. Next, a storm and flood mitigation strategy that is being discussed by the Department of Public Works, Parks and Recreation and Stantec, a third-party consulting firm.

Following those two large undertakings, Conklin told the Conservation Commission that he was excited that “improvements to municipal buildings, open space and trails” was next on the town’s priority list. And first on Conklin’s list was Quarry Head Park.

“The first (enhancement) would be to repave the access to Quarry Head Park,” Conklin told the commission. His department received an estimate of $57,000 for the work, but said the project will likely go out to bid.

“Right now, if you go in Quarry Head Park with my car, which is a sedan, you might not be able to get in or out of there,” Conklin said citing large potholes in the pavement. “We get many complaints from people every year about it and we get vehicles that get there and can’t get out. That’s not uncommon.”

A full repaving and “improved public access to the trail system” is slated for the state-owned park that is managed and upkept by the town.

The second part of the proposal will be to remove fallen trees in the brook at Town Forest.

“A bunch of trees have fallen in there this past year and are actually causing washout to the orange trail” Conklin said. “So this is not just removing some trees because it would be a feel-good project. This is removing trees so we have a sustainable trail continuing on in the future.”

That cleanup would cost only about $6,000, he said.

The next project would be to replace or add boardwalks on walking trails in town parks, as well as parking improvements. With a proposed sum of $44,000, the town could “elevate the level” of town park trails and their sustainability by addressing areas of erosion, he said.

Finally, Conklin suggested removing invasive species and restoring native plants for $50,000.

“I’m anticipating that the work would be phased, probably over a course of two to three years,” Conklin said, adding that the invasive species concern has been an “ongoing issue for the town” and addressing it head-on would benefit the entire town greatly.

Conservation Commission Chairperson Jackie Algon and her fellow commissioners supported Conklin’s proposed endeavors. Algon suggested educational signage along some of the town’s park trails, to which Conklin said the town could address that with its routine budget instead of using ARPA funds.

The proposals will go before the selectmen on Tuesday.