Wilton working with Norwalk to oversee river valley trail construction

WILTON — As the Norwalk River Valley Trail inches closer to completion, the town has agreed to jointly oversee the construction and maintenance of the decadelong trail project with the city of Norwalk and a nonprofit.

The trail has had various additions through its construction phases. The final leg of the planned 30-mile stretch of recreational path beginning in Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk and traversing north through areas of Wilton up to Danbury was agreed upon in a $2.9 million bid late last year.

As the parties involved are hoping to eye an end to this longstanding project, attorney Doug LoMonte, of Bercham Moses PC, presented a three-party agreement between the Norwalk, Friends of the Norwalk River Valley Trail and Wilton for consideration to the Board of Selectmen at its Feb. 16 meeting.

The cooperation agreement, which was approved unanimously, includes the oversight of construction, maintenance and insuring of the trail.

“This has (felt) like pushing a rock uphill for several years,” Selectwoman Deborah McFadden said. “I am so happy and just want to congratulate everybody for their hard work and tenacity to get us to this moment. It is a hallelujah moment.”

The agreement focused on the stretch of trail that straddles the Wilton and Norwalk border.

According to LoMonte, Friends of the NRVT secured a $1.1 million trail improvement grant through the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Wilton will serve as the grant administrator, giving the town the responsibility of providing financial reporting functions and serve as the contracting party in regards to construction on that stretch of the trail.

Town Chief Financial Officer Anne Kelly-Lenz will take the lead in the financial reporting of the project, according to LoMonte.

“Wilton, Norwalk and (Friends of NRVT) are parties to a 26-team funding agreement,” LoMonte said, detailing the scope of this project.

The trail construction of the Wilton-Norwalk stretch will use 80 percent funds from the state grant. The other 20 percent, according to LoMonte, will be picked up by the Friends of NRVT. The nonprofit’s contribution will cover up to $275,125 for the total project.

But Friends of NRVT’s onus does not stop there.

Friends of NRVT will be responsible for construction management during the building of the project and trail management once it is completed. The trio reached a comprehensive management plan mutually agreed upon by all parties, LoMonte said.

Assistant Director of Public Works and Town Engineer Frank Smeriglio will assist in the construction management process along with Friends of NRVT. The Department of Public Works of Norwalk will play a key role as well.

The nonprofit also has an obligation to address any budget overrun, including if a potential bid is accepted over the currently agreed to budget.

Under the cooperation agreement, Norwalk and Wilton would have the ability to observe parts of the trail not in their jurisdiction for oversight during the construction phase, LoMonte said.

The project is slated to break ground this spring.