How Ridgefield could see long-term fix to ‘washouts’ on Rail Trail

As several projects come to fruition along the Ridgefield Rail Trail, a long term solution to address recurring drainage issues may be in the cards for the upcoming budget year.

As several projects come to fruition along the Ridgefield Rail Trail, a long term solution to address recurring drainage issues may be in the cards for the upcoming budget year.

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

RIDGEFIELD — As several projects come to fruition along the Ridgefield Rail Trail, a long term solution to address recurring drainage issues may be in the cards for the upcoming budget year.

The increased frequency and intensity of rainstorms in recent years has had a “negative impact” on the trail, said First Selectman Rudy Marconi, with runoff from nearby roads creating a couple of “washout areas” there.

Eversource is repairing these areas at specific sections of the trail, including along Ivy Hill Road and between Nutmeg Ridge and Florida Hill Road. These portions will be blocked off from recreational use during the work.

Eversource has raised concerns about making repetitive repairs following recurring storms, and wants to work with local officials to find a more permanent solution, Marconi said.

A potential fix could be the creation of several check dams along the trail, similar to what the town implemented along Lake Mamanasco Road. The dams help mitigate runoff and erosion by slowing the flow of water that accumulates during rainstorms.

Addressing runoff near the Rail Trail presents a bit of a challenge because of a change in elevation between the source of the drainage and the trail, Marconi explained.

“The water comes off the road and goes down a channel right into the Rail Trail — we’re talking about an area (with) a change in elevation of approximately 75 feet,” he said. “We need to build some kind of detainage basin and line it with riprap stones … to hold the water and settle it out.”

Such improvements wouldn’t be made until after the town budget vote in May, Marconi said. If residents approve the budget, repair work could start as early as this summer.

“The town’s gonna have to pay some money, (but) this would be happening whether the Rail Trail was there or not,” Marconi added. “The … water is impacting neighbors downstream, and the washout impacts neighbors as well.”

Another improvement being addressed is the replacement of wooden utility poles that support power lines in the area. At the juncture of the Rail Trail and Florida Road, going toward Branchville, the wooden poles have been replaced with “substantial” metal poles, Marconi said.

He explained that since the former had been “negatively impacted by woodpeckers, their structural integrity was questionable.”

“The old poles were maybe a foot in diameter,” Marconi added. “The new ones have substantial footings at the base — you probably can’t get your arms around them.”

To maintain the area’s character, Marconi has contacted Eversource to request a landscaping plan relative to the metal poles, noting the scenic nature of Florida Road and its homes.

“Many residents were upset due to the lack of landscape,” he said, “but they absolutely have to (get a) landscape architect involved.”

The Rail Trail opened in 2000 and runs for 2.3 miles from the intersection of Prospect Street and Sunset Lane to Florida Road. It follows a portion of the abandoned railway that originally ran from Branchville to the center of Ridgefield.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com