Portion of Norwalk River Valley Trail planned for Ridgefield

RIDGEFIELD — The Western Connecticut Council of Governments approved a $3 million grant last Thursday to construct a 1.6-mile trail in the town. The Ridgefield Ramble will connect to the Redding Mile as the Norwalk River Valley Trail progresses north.

The money comes from the Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program, which provides state funds to municipal governments in lieu of federal funds. It is the single largest grant the organization has received in its nine-year history.

The $3 million will cover construction costs, but an additional $180,000 is needed to activate the grant, according to NRVT Executive Director Beth Merrill.

“What we have to do and what we’ve started to do is raise funds to complete the design, engineering and leasing of the project,” she said. “In order for us to build this, we have to have all the plans completed and approved.”

The finished NRVT will span 30 miles from Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk north through Wilton, Ridgefield and Redding and end in Danbury. Roughly 8 miles of trail have already been completed, with segments in Wilton and Norwalk, and construction on the Redding Mile is slated to begin this fall.

The first section of the Ridgefield Ramble will begin at a pond adjacent to the Norwalk River at Route 7 and Simpaug Turnpike. There will also be a dedicated parking lot at the same location. The trail will then wind along the river and “upswing” into the Berkshire foothills, Merrill said, which contain rock outcroppings and “gorgeous old trees.”

The top section of the trail will run in between two stone wall sheepfolds that date back to the early 1900s. Merrill envisions this spot as a dreamy destination for photos and engagements.

“I just find (it) so entrancing,” she said.

More Information

For more information or to donate visit www.nrvt-trail.com. A virtual tour of the trail site is available on YouTube.

The crushed stone trail will be 10-feet wide with another 10 feet of clearings on either side, making it universally accessible to visitors with baby strollers or wheelchairs.

Past NRVT President Patricia Sesto, of Ridgefield, spoke of the benefits of having the trail in town.

“In Wilton, the NRVT ranks as a top, if not the top, amenity and is used by thousands each month,” she said. “(The Ridgefield Ramble) will open up beautiful sections of woodlands next to the Norwalk River and take people to areas on the east side of town few are likely to have been.”

She also noted the NRVT’s “regional significance,” saying that, upon completion, it would be on par with other notable pathways such as the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Massachusetts, the North County Trailway in Westchester and the Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail in Park City, Utah.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi echoed Sesto’s sentiment.

“To be able to have a walking trail from Norwalk to Danbury, that’s a huge asset for our region,” he said. “This, when completed, will be something that (everybody) can really enjoy — a beautiful outdoor nature walk.”

The NRVT has already raised $54,000 of the $180,000 needed to support ancillary aspects of the project. On July 2, it will host a fundraising launch at Nod Hill Brewery in Ridgefield, where guests will be able to sample a new brew called “One For the Trail.”

Made in collaboration with Mitch Ancona, owner of Ancona’s Wines & Liquors in the Branchville neighborhood, the can’s design features the organization’s logo and information about the 30-mile trail. For every beer sold, a portion of the proceeds will go toward bringing the Ridgefield Ramble to fruition.

Merrill anticipates the trail will be completed by December 2022. The final installment of the NRVT, which is planned for Danbury, will begin construction next fall.

“We’re not stopping,” Merrill said.

Katrina Koerting contributed to this story. alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com