By KARA O'CONNOR
Villager Staff Writer
WILTON -- A proposed recreational trail that would run through Wilton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield and Danbury has cleared it's first major hurdle, according to Pat Sesto, head of Wilton's Inland Wetland Department.
Last Friday, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection approved an application for a $180,000 grant for the greenway, a nature trail intended for use by pedestrians and bike riders.
"We are not done with this process yet, but I will say that we passed our first very large hurdle," said Sesto. "The state DEP said this project has merit and that is a good sign."
In July 2009, at a General Assembly veto session at the State Capitol, legislators overrode Gov. M. Jodi Rell's transportation bill, which lifted land use restrictions on 890 acres specifically designated for a "Super 7" highway from Norwalk to Danbury. This past August, the greenway idea was proposed for the "Super 7" land when DEP officials and representatives from Wilton, Redding and Ridgefield met to discuss different approaches to use the property, according to Sesto.
The recreational trail would be 17 miles long and run from the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk to the south portion of Danbury. According to state Sen. Toni Boucher, R-26, the project is finally in a place that will get somewhere.
"There had been some work done some time ago with this greenway idea," she said. "Now it finally has been taken off the shelf and has been re-energized with a wonderful array of stake holders that are very enthusiastically behind it."
Boucher said the greenway will be beneficial to any resident who lives in the area.
"This greenway will allow folks to get from point a to point b in a better, healthier way," she said. "It will also give people the opportunity to take advantage of the beautiful environment and scenery that is right in our own backyard."
In the near future, a greenway commission will start a study to gauge what the public wants out of the greenway, Sesto said. The study will also include any land restrictions that the commission might come across while building the greenway, she said.
"We definitely want public participation, to make sure that we are building what the public wants to use," said Sesto. "This study will try to combine the public's wants with the land's needs."
The Federal Highway Administration and the state Historical Commission still need to review the grant application, and a final decision is expected in March, she said.
Sesto is hopeful the grant will be approved.
"I feel responsibly confident," said Sesto. "But the truth is, funding is a tenuous thing and you really don't know if your going to get the money until the check is in your hand."