Bike and walk trails planned

Every initiative begins somewhere, transitioning across long and winding roads before achieving what it set out to accomplish.

“Leading Initiatives for New Connections,” or LINC, doesn’t even have a website, yet the new group that brings together the ambitions of the Parks and Recreation Department, Ridgefield Bicycle Company and its Sport  Club, and other town officials has a vision on how to connect the town using multi-purpose biking and walking trails.

LINC’s first objective is revising the Bike Trail Master Plan study created in 2004 by the consulting firm of Fuss and O’Neill.

However, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

“The 2004 study begins with the bike path that exists behind the Rec Center and goes into a plethora of other things,” said Jacqui Dowd, the owner of Ridgfield Bicycle Co. and co-chairman of LINC. “Our goals are to renew this study and work toward constructing multi-purpose trails for biking and walking all around town.

“We want to extend that current Rec Center path right into the center of town, where Ballard Park and the library are located, and that’s our biggest priority. This extension, along with many others, will connect different points of town together.”

Recreation Director Paul Roche noted that LINC is in its early stages, but aims to have the renewed study done by May.

He and Ms. Dowd were connected in their common visions through a third party — First Selectman Rudy Marconi —  in the fall and have been working on getting the committee active.

LINC’s first new bike trails may be at Lake Windwing Park, where Parks and Recreation is improving the paths and making them more accessible to both bikers and walkers. Windwing is in Ridgebury, a part of town that lacks much bicycling space for beginners.

“This is a very healthy town, people want to be outside and not use their car to get from point A to point B,” Ms. Dowd said. “Biking and walking are appropriate means and our goal is to facilitate those means and make town more accessible to all.”

Ms. Dowd says her motivation to start LINC came from her business, where wary customers still come in complaining about the narrow and winding roads of Ridgefield.

“There’s been a lot of requests from bikers to put a plan into action — they feel unsafe on the roads most of the time and they want us to explore options for them,” Ms. Dowd said. “There’s a lot of elements going on and right now we are just trying to bring them together, but our focus, our shared purpose, is always going to be the same and that’s accomplishing this collective vision of a connected Ridgefield.”

As for connecting the bike path at the Rec Center to the town’s rail trail, Mr. Marconi appreciates the work LINC is doing and believes its aims are realistic.

“We are getting closer and closer to achieving this goal, but there’s still a long way to go — it’s an expensive and time-consuming undertaking,” Mr. Marconi said. “I appreciate everyone working on it because I know it’s going to be great for the town.”

Mr. Marconi said there are two main problems facing the project. First, the bypass road, Ligi’s Way, which runs parallel to Danbury Road, is integral to a proposed connection between the Rec Center and the Rail Trail. However, the road is in a flood zone and wetland, which means anything built there — such as a bike path — needs special permits and must be built in special ways — in this case, a boardwalk.

“Getting through that bypass area is our biggest challenge in connecting the Rec Center path to the rail trail,” Mr. Marconi said. “It’s really the only logical, accessible location for these two paths, or trails, to connect to one another.”

Mr. Marconi hopes a boardwalk can be built parallel to the bypass to accommodate both pedestrians and bicyclists. He says to make this project a reality, the town will need to qualify for funding or grant money.

“It’s not impossible,” Mr. Marconi said. “It’s just going to take some time and a lot of effort.”

The second problem the project faces is connecting to the Rec Center. Mr. Marconi hopes to complete a pedestrian bridge over the Ridgefield Brook on the west side of Danbury Road, opposite Fox Hill Condominiums. Sidewalks would lead up to Copps Hill Road.

“Bikers or walkers will take a left onto Farmingville off of Danbury and then a right onto the new boardwalk structure,” Mr. Marconi explained.

Near the Goodwill trailer, a path could be built over town land along the northern side of the Schlumberger property to the end of the rail rail at the end of Sunset Lane and Prospect Ridge.

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  • CMcQuilken

    Interesting idea, to connect the town with a walking trail. I’ve noticed it is possible to walk through the woods from the Rec Center to the top of Pine Mountain by only crossing one road. What a great hike that would be.

    And if the plan in the article works out, you could walk south from the Rec Center to essentially Branchville. That’s the entire town covered. That would be cool.

    A few thoughts though:

    Why run a boardwalk along Ligi’s Way? It’s not a pleasant looking road. Who wants to look at the back of a bank while hiking? What if instead you veered the boardwalk into the Great Swamp. Make it traverse right down the center. Now that would be communing with nature. I could see putting in a few observation decks looking out over the hidden wildlife. From the map it looks like the boardwalk in the swamp could run one entire mile. Talk about a draw for people to come to Ridgefield! And according to sources on the internet, you could build this boardwalk for about $150,000 plus elbow grease.

    How do you come up with $150,000? One thought, we have a yearly grant from the state of $150,000 for sidewalks. There’s the funding right there.

    And consider this….

    The state has offered to build a bridge over the brook next to the Rec Center. They will do it free of charge. But because of some nuance over a guard rail (and I’ll say it, I think we are being silly on this), we want to build it ourselves at a cost for $200,000 from taxpayer money. Maybe reconsider. Let the state build the 50 foot bridge for us. Then use the $150,000 sidewalk grant and we’ll have ourselves this unique new town feature while saving money. We actually come out ahead on the finances. What’s not to like?

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