Thursday, November 19, 2009

Norwalk River Valley System

Norwalk River Valley Trail System

On October 15, 2000, Rudy Marconi, First Selectman of Ridgefield, cut orange surveyor's tape to open the first leg of the Norwalk River Valley Trails System. This portion traversed trails on new and existing open-space lands owned by the towns of Redding and Ridgefield and the State of Connecticut.

Guided by the new trail blaze of white with a vertical blue line down the middle, Lillian Willis, NRWA President, led a large group of hikers along this retrofitted route that features woodlands, mill ponds, streams, old dirt roads, and a remarkable old stone causeway through wetlands.

Midway, participants were met by Eagle Scout Nick Chizzonite of Ridgefield, who explained how he created a section of the trail on open space at the junction of Route 7 and Great Pond Road in Ridgefield. Other sections were created by a Student Conservation Intern, Town of Ridgefield summer workers, and Eagle Scout Spencer Sherman and Girl Scout Silver Awardee Caitlin Helgesen - both of Ridgefield.

Starting at Aldrich Park in Ridgefield, the trail has Redding sections, goes back into Ridgefield along old dirt roads lined with stone walls, and ends presently at the River Study Site at Simpaug Turnpike and Route 7. Plans are afoot to have the trail extend farther south and hook up to other parcels.

Another long section from Route 33, South Main Street in Ridgefield, into Wilton and back into Ridgefield, ending near the Weir Farm National Historic Site, was previewed in two spring 2001 hikes.

In spring 2002 a Ridgefield leg that incorporated three open spaces and the refurbished CL&P railroad path was also previewed. That trail is the subject of another Eagle Scout project.

NRWA is working on extending this interlocking trail system and on creating a map that will clarify locations and parking areas for this system, which includes a connected parks tour in Norwalk. In the meantime, additional guided hikes along this system are listed in our Events Calendar.

Eagle Scout Projects Improve Trail System

Three magnificent structures have been completed in the watershed on land under the jurisdiction of the Ridgefield Conservation Commission, which paid for all supplies. Ian Lipsitz built a 46' x 30" raised walkway that connects Town land with land owned by the National Park Service at the Weir Farm National Historic Site. DJ Wolff built two bridges, 26' x 36" and 29' x 36", to replace lighter structures at Aldrich Park, the top end of the Norwalk River Valley Trail System. Celebratory hikes to inaugurate all three structures took place in January 2003.

Meanwhile, three Scouts have volunteered for new watershed projects. One will construct a bridge at the Georgetown Park NRWA is creating with four other partners (Town of Redding, Redding Garden Club, Georgetown Village Restoration, Inc., and Overbrook Associates) at the junction of routes 107 and 57 in Georgetown under a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Five Star Grant to NRWA. Another Scout will extend an existing trail, install erosion bars, and mark the old rail line and two adjacent Town of Ridgefield open spaces with the NRWA trail blaze. Subject to secure easements, the third Boy Scout will construct the missing off-road link in the trail from Route 33 in Ridgefield through Wilton and back into Ridgefield at Weir Farm.

Mr. Brennan also spoke about efforts being done to improve pedestrian and bicycle traffic in the area.

New Year's revelry to include cheers for finished Route 7?

Written by Justin Reynolds
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 14:49

Ever since the Route 7 widening project began in September 2006, many Wiltonians shared one sentiment: I can’t wait until this is finished.

Thirty-nine months later, the finish line appears to be in near sight.

In a formal statement First Selectman William Brennan issued Tuesday, Wiltonians might have to wait just six more weeks.

“If all continues to go well, Wilton will also have a four-lane Route 7 to celebrate in addition to the new year,” Mr. Brennan said. Department of Transportation “project management initially planned to open the road in the spring, but we prevailed on them to get it open prior to the heart of winter and they are doing their best to do so.”

Mr. Brennan said that he was tempted to write an information piece to the community indicating the forecasted completion date — “for several weeks” — but did not want to jinx the target date.

Residents, including Doug Fechter, whose letter to the editor appeared in the Nov. 5 edition of The Bulletin, might have noticed — and gotten frustrated over — the appearance of four completed lanes on Route 7, with orange barrels blocking the outer lanes of both the northbound and southbound sides of the road.

“Currently, contractors are working diligently to pave driveway entrances, add guardrails, plant trees and finish sidewalks along the road,” Mr. Brennan said. “They need to work safely. Therefore, DOT has been required to keep the two-lane road in place.”

Mr. Brennan said the last phase of the project is the installation and programming of new traffic signals.

“Progress is being made as indicated by blinking light signals, which means new signals are powered,” Mr. Brennan said. “Programming and testing will follow to complete the installation.”

When finished, the $35-million project will have added two lanes for 2.81 miles from Wolfpit Road to Powder Horn Hill Road and from Powder Horn Hill Road 1,000 feet north to Olmstead Hill Road. Other features of the project include a sidewalk installed on the road’s west side, the installation of more “high-tech” traffic signals, work on walls and the bridge on Ridgefield Road and landscaping.

Trains, walkways

Mr. Brennan also commented on what he called “significant transportation progress that has been made in the last year in our area.”

“Construction work has already started on the Norwalk to Danbury line signalization project made possible by a $30-million stimulus plan investment,” Mr. Brennan said. “When this work is completed, service on the branch line will be substantially improved. New rail cars are currently being tested and soon deliveries of the long awaited new passenger cars will start arriving on a monthly basis, first on main line routes, but eventually on the branch lines, too.”

Mr. Brennan also spoke about the upgrades at the Cannondale Train Station, which include the installation of restroom facilities and a newly painted station.

“This historic station looks very atractive and the vendor now has running water in the station,” he said.

The Wilton Train Station — an issue that has irked Wiltonians for many years — is scheduled to get a facelift as well, Mr. Brennan said.

“Two weeks ago, we announced that a definitive argreement has been reached with the Department of Transportation to have the Wilton Train Station completely renovated and reopened,” he said. “The work will be completed by October 2010, and, hopefully, an agreement with a vendor will be concluded to operate a food service facility at the station.”

Mr. Brennan also spoke about efforts being done to improve pedestrian and bicycle traffic in the area.

“Good progress is being made to reinvigorate a bike and pedestrian trail from Norwalk to Danbury that has been discussed for several years,” he said. “This greenway project has been stimulated by the potential availability of lands originally acquired by the DOT for a Super 7 highway, which is virtually a dead, dead project at the DOT due to the strong resistance of citizens and public officials from Wilton to Danbury.”

Mr. Brennan said “the trail — currently dubbed the ‘Norwalk River Valley Trail’ — is in the initial stages of organization and that a “regional planning committee has been formed with strong support from public officials from Norwalk to Danbury.”

“Progress comes slowly,” Mr. Brennan said, “but progress has been made and benefits are coming.”

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dear CT NEMBA Member:

Dear CT NEMBA Member:

Connecticut DEP has contacted us about several complaints received during a recent trail ride on DEP Property. The complaints appear to be centered around unleashed “trail dogs” and discourteous behavior with other users on DEP lands. It should be noted that while on DEP Parks and Forests, Section 23-4-1(f)(1), states that “riding animals and pets must be on a leash that is no longer than seven (7) feet in length, and must be under the control of their owner or keeper at all times”. The penalty occurred would be an infraction for $75.00.

Please be friendly and respectful to other trail users and keep in mind the following 10 Responsible Riding Tips according to the International Mountain Biking Association:

1. Be Prepared
Know your equipment, your ability, the weather, and the area you are riding and prepare accordingly. A well-planned ride will go smoothly for you and your companions.

2. Don't Ride On Closed Trails
Whether it is to protect the environment or for rider safety, a closed trail is off limits for a reason. Riding closed trails is not only illegal; it gives mountain bikers a bad reputation.

3. Say No To Mud
Riding a muddy trail can cause unnecessary trail widening and erosion that may lead to long-lasting damage.

4. Respect the Trail, Wildlife and Environment
Be sensitive to the trail and its surroundings by riding softly and never skidding. Do not litter and never scare animals.

5. Stay On the Trail
Do not intentionally ride off trail. Riding off trail can damage the ecosystem. Never cut switchbacks.

6. Ride Slowly On Crowded Trails
Just like a busy highway, when trails are crowded you must move slowly to ensure safety for all trail users.

7. Pass With Courtesy and Care
Slow down when approaching other trail users and respectfully make others aware you are approaching. Pass with care and be prepared to stop if necessary.

8. Share the Trail With Other Trail Users
Mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians must share multi-use trails. Remember: mountain bikers should yield to hikers and equestrians.

9. Don't Do Unauthorized Trailwork
Unauthorized or illegal trailwork may lead to environmental damage, injury or even potential trail closure.

10. Get Involved
If you want to make a difference in your mountain biking community get involved.

Thank you,

Mark Lurie
New England Mountain Biking Association
Connecticut Chapter