Imagine being able to walk, bike or run from Danbury’s town center to the southern shore of Norwalk on a 27-mile stretch of public trails that would connect neighborhoods, schools, train stations and other areas of interest.
The Norwalk River Valley Trail, a five-town initiative to build a continuous trail through Danbury, Redding, Ridgefield, Wilton and Norwalk was an idea begun decades ago – finally, it’s looking like a reality.
Over the past few weeks, volunteers from the steering committee that is securing funding and planning the trail have organized meetings in each town to gauge interest and raise awareness for the initiative.
“If we can get this done, it’ll be a great resource for the town,” said Rob Gutman, a member of Ridgefield’s part of the steering committee. “The idea of these meetings is to find out what people want from the trail.”
The trail in Ridgefield would cut across the southern corner of town along Rte. 7 from Redding to Wilton, incorporated into green space in the area.
The word “trail” can have a wide range of definitions, according to Pat Sesto, chairman of the NRVT organization, and the proposed plan includes anything from rough hiking trails to paved trails for biking.
To secure the area for the trail near Rte. 7, the organization is working with the Department of Transportation – the DOT needs to see the plan for the trail before officially approving the project, and the NRVT has begun a 12-month routing study, which includes these public meetings in each town.
Parts of the trail are already completed in Wilton and Norwalk – about two miles in all – and the plan is to connect the new path to the Ives Trail in Danbury. Wilton’s plan for their section along Rte. 7 goes back to 1971, while Redding and Ridgefield have had a “Sugar Hollow Greenway” committee for a similar purpose since the 1980s.
So the idea for a contiguous trail is not something new. It took cooperation between the five towns to take some of the first steps, giving rise to the organization’s motto: “Five towns. One vision.”
Michael Autuori, who also sits on Ridgefield Planning and Zoning Commission, has been a part of the greenway committee since about 1990, which was devoted not to a trail but to green space in the area.
“The trail would go through the greenway and around it at times,” Autuori said. “It’s a wonderful idea to get the public using it and appreciating the beautiful open space.”
Funding for the trail, if approved, will come mostly from a federal Recreational Trails Grant, as well as other state and federal grants and private donations.
The people behind the NRVT these days are passionate about making the trail a reality and appreciate the amount of time it takes to do such a thing.
State Senator Toni Boucher stopped by during the Ridgefield meeting with much delight from the NRVT crowd – her championing of a bill in 2009 to allow other uses on transportation land, Sesto said, gave the project renewed vigor.
“The change in legislation gave us opportunity, and it also gave us some vulnerability,” Sesto said. “We needed to stake a claim for public use and really get going on the legwork.”
“We’ve accomplished quite a bit to get to this point,” Sesto said.
For more information regarding the Norwalk River Valley Trail, visit www.nrvt-trail.com.