Designs presented for New Milford River Trail
NEW MILFORD — Residents have long wanted to bike, walk or run on a continuous trail along the Housatonic River.
Preliminary designs for a nearly 10-mile trail — presented last week to the Town Council — bring that vision a step closer to reality. In a report submitted to the council, Milone and MacBroom, a Chesire-based consulting firm, recommended the project be split into five phases.
“It’s amazing,” Councilwoman Katy Francis said of the company’s designs. “I think it’s fantastic.”
Because the trail project is in the early planning stages, costs and a timeline have not been determined.
Milone and MacBroom’s report envisions the first phase of the trail could be a mile long, from Boardman Bridge through the MedInstill property. It would require the medical supply firm to transfer the property to the town, most likely with an easement. The work would include two boardwalk sections and a ramp outside the right of way at the railroad crossing.
Vincent McDermott, senior vice president at Milone and MacBroom, recommended the town start with this piece.
“The route there is pretty clear and we have a cooperative property owner,” he said.
Phase two would be about 2.8 miles long and extend from the MedInstill driveway to Hidden Treasures Park. This section would encompass existing paths and trails, such as the new piece along Young’s Field. Sidewalks would be added, which could be difficult because homes in that area are close to the road.
The third phase would focus on building a bridge at Hidden Treasures Park, creating a 175-foot connection to the little island nearby and then a 285-foot section to John Pettibone Community Center.
“Phase three is a jewel and the biggest challenge, in my opinion,” McDermott said.
The fourth phase would run about 2.5 miles long, extending from Pettibone to Harrybrooke Park, past the Kimberly-Clark building. This phase has three railroad crossings and would connect to Lovers Leap State Park.
The final phase would be a roughly 3.5-mile stretch between Harrybrooke Park and the Brookfield line.
Tom O’Brien, chairman of the New Milford Bike and Trail Committee, recalled reading about the trail idea in 1999 and envisioning his year-old son at the time, using it to bike to school. He said his son graduated from high school last year.
“This has been percolating in this town for decades,” O’Brien said.
Efforts to create the trail gathered steam about a year ago, when the committee began meeting monthly and has accelerated in the past six months as they went over the plans. O’Brien credits this momentum to Mayor David Gronbach’s support.
The Town Council unanimously approved $193,000 for the study in February. With the council’s approval, the town planner applied for a $200,000 grant to cover the work, but town officials don’t expect the grant to be funded due to the state’s budget woes.
Councilman Frank Wargo said the Sega Meadows trail, completed in 2011, was the first portion of the larger river trail. “That’s a big piece of the puzzle,” he said.
The New Milford River Trail fits into plans for an even larger network, called the Western New England Greenway, which is expected to go from Montreal to New York City. Connecticut’s routes would include the Housatonic Bike Trail, the Still River Greenway and the Norwalk River Valley Trail.
Gronbach said he is working with Brookfield First Selectman Steve Dunn to have New Milford’s trail system connect with Brookfield’s Still River Greenway.
“We’re not just an island,” he said, adding this is just the beginning. “The whole point of this is to keep that momentum going."