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'Cool' River Valley Trail Unveiled In Norwalk

NORWALK, Conn. – A 38-mile trail that would connect Danbury, Norwalk and all the towns in between has reached a preliminary design phase.

The completion of the Norwalk River Valley Trail routing study was celebrated Tuesday night with a reception at City Hall. Maps highlighted the proposed route, which would travel from Danbury's Rogers Park to Norwalk's Calf Pasture Beach.

"I think the coolest thing about this is it gives a sincere transportation alternative," said Pat Sesto, chairman of the Norwalk River Valley Trail Committee. "When fully built, you're going to have seven train stations to connect to. It is a sincere connection to seven different business districts. That's not just fluff, that's for real."

Work on the study began in June 2011, with more than 1,000 volunteer hours spent at 35 committee meetings. The result is a mix of long- and short-term recommendations. "This isn't a final plan, none of this is going to get built tomorrow," said Phil Goff, a committee member and a consultant with Alta Planning and Design, which conducted the study. The consultant team included Alta, the lead company that submitted the proposal, as well as Stantec and Fitzgerald & Halliday.

The northernmost part of the trail is soft surface. In Danbury, it would go through Tarrywile Park, then through the woods before connecting to Department of Transportation property at Starrs Plain Road. It would then go through DOT and private property in Ridgefield and Redding to Weir Farm Historic Park and, in Wilton, split into two branches at Allen's Meadows. It would be paved in Wilton Center and head into Norwalk west of Route 7.

Norwalk's portion would include a spur to the historic stone work under the Grist Mill Road overpass and a section of trail along the CL&P substation between New Canaan Avenue and Broad Street. Changes have been designed for the Stroffolino Bridge, with the four travel lanes narrowed to make space for a widened sidewalk on the northern side.

"This will be a cool travel corridor plus a really cool place to recreate," Sesto said. "The diversity of topography, and things that you see up the way is pretty neat."

Goff said some segments could get done in the next year or three, although the hilly areas of Redding and Ridgefield will take longer.

Sesto agreed. "It's going to take at least a decade," she said. "I bet this is probably a two-decade project, if I had to get a professional judgment."

Norwalk and Wilton have "pieces in motion," she said. Funding of the private/public partnership is under way, as organizers look for grants. Norwalk has committed $285,000 to designing a portion from Union Park to New Canaan Avenue, Mayor Richard Moccia said. The city is trying to secure $2 million in grants for construction, he said.