Ridgefield earns $3M state grant to connect to Redding's portion of Norwalk River Valley Trail.

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox

RIDGEFIELD —  The state has approved a $3.06 million grant to fund a portion of the Norwalk River Valley Trail through Ridgefield. 

The trail is meant to encourage outdoor activities and would eventually run through four neighboring towns. If approved by the town, construction is expected to begin on this Ridgefield portion in the summer or early fall of 2023.

The state Department of Transportation committed the funding last week for the Ridgefield Ramble, a 1.6-mile section of the 4.3 miles planned for Ridgefield. 

"That's one step in the process. This is agreeing this is a good project and we will go ahead and fund it with this grant money," Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. "Eventually, there will be a walking, biking trail. That is the master plan. Right now, we're doing bits and pieces of it."

When built, the 30-mile trail is expected to span from Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, north through Wilton, Ridgefield, Redding and end at Rogers Park in Danbury.

Ridgefield Ramble

The Ridgefield Ramble will begin at Simpaug Turnpike and Route 7 and run through the woods to the Redding line at Fire Hill Road, said Charlie Taney, president of the Friends of the Norwalk River Valley Trail, a nonprofit organization that raises the money and oversees the construction of the trail. There the trail will connect to the Redding Mile, which opened earlier this year. 

"There'll be a nice long section of the trail that will connect Redding and Ridgefield up there," Taney said. 

The 10-foot-wide, stone dust, soft surface trail will be wheelchair accessible. 

"Everybody can use it," Taney said. "Whether you're a mom with a baby stroller or a little kid riding your bike for the first time or a runner or a hiker or a dog walker, it's a safe place to get out and get exercise and enjoy nature."

The original routing study for the full 30 miles of the eventual trail was completed in 2012. The sections that have been built so far are in Norwalk, Wilton and Redding.

"The Ramble will be our first section in Ridgefield," Taney said. "We just applied for a grant to build our first section of Danbury."

The land the trail will be built on in Ridgefield is all open space. "It's all state or town land that we're going through," Taney said. 

"We're very excited to add Ridgefield to be one of our towns," he said. "Rudy led the effort to put the grant in with state. We worked with our engineering firms to provide all the engineering plans and cost estimates for the trail and then that was put together in the grant application."

Grant funding

The town received a Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program grant to build the Ridgefield Ramble.

"It's a state grant to help build transportation infrastructure. This is considered transportation infrastructure because ultimately this trail will be alternate transportation for people to get up and down Route 7 on their bikes or walking or running or any way they want to go," Taney said. "The state sees this as ultimately an alternate route of transportation."

The grant Ridgefield received for the project is for construction only, while the nonprofit must cover the pre-construction costs. Taney said the organization has raised about $150,000 of the $200,000 it needs for pre-construction costs.

"Before you put a shovel in the ground. you've got to have all your plans done. You've got to have your survey done. You've got to get all your permitting for the town," Taney said. "You've got to get all your legal costs, all your legal documents organized ... all of those costs, and they add up pretty fast." 

The funds were raised by individuals, civic groups, and foundations. To contribute to the trail, visit NRVT-trail.com.

Next steps

While the Friends of the Norwalk River Valley Trail has been involved in preliminary meetings with the town of Ridgefield, it still needs the green light from the Inland Wetlands Board and the  Planing & Zoning Commission. The organization will meet with those boards in the coming months. Residents are welcome to attend all meetings and voice their concerns.

"There's usually some neighbors that are concerned with the trail coming somewhere near their property. We had meetings with the neighbors and we'll have another meeting with them in November and answer their questions and do our best to satisfy their concerns," said Taney, adding the neighbors of the portion of the trail for the Ridgefield Ramble live in the Bobby's Court neighborhood. 

"As we come up out of the woods, that's the neighborhood we're closest to. There's 40 or 50 homes up there," said Taney, adding the town departments have supported the plans so far. 

He added if construction begins next summer or fall, it would continue until the ground freezes, then start again when it thaws.  

"We're building the sections as fast as we can," Taney said. "Over the next year or so, we'll be about halfway done. Of the 30 miles, about 15 miles will be completed sections."

He added the nonprofit hopes to build the remaining trail of Ridgefield, "but this was our first important section we're building."