North Brook Trail Plan To Go to IWA, P&Z

The Rails to Trails Committee is nearing the end of a long journey as it prepares to construct the North Brook Trail along the former Central New England Railroad right-of-way. The trail will stretch from a parking lot off Route 272 North to Ashpohtag Road. 

The committee has labored for more than a decade to bring the project to fruition. In May 2023 it received a $399,725 Recreational Trails Program grant from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The grant represents about 80 percent of the total cost of construction, which has been estimated at $500,000. The balance is to be covered by grants, donations and in-kind services. 

“There’s been a lot of activity,” said First Selectman Matt Riiska, who serves as secretary for the committee. “We got an easement from the Archdiocese of Hartford and an encroachment permit from the DOT for the parking lot. Allied Engineering in Canaan has been working on the plan and that is nearly completed. We still have to go before the Inland Wetlands Agency and the Planning and Zoning Commission before we can start construction.”

North Brook Trail is designed for use by both pedestrian and pedal traffic. “The surface will be firm enough for strollers and even wheelchairs,” he said. “It will be handicap accessible and open for everyone to use.”

A long boardwalk will traverse a wet section created by an active beaver colony. “You used to be able to walk it,” Riiska reported, “but now it is pretty close to being a pond. Instead of getting rid of them, we incorporated the wetlands so people could observe the beavers.”

He predicted the trail will be ready to open next year, but that is not the end to the committee’s aspirations. “We hope to work with the Norfolk Land Trust and eventually connect to its Stoney Lonesome trail. Then on the other end, we want to bring the trail to the town’s center.” He estimated the total distance as about four miles.

Riiska termed the Rails to Trails Committee “an excellent group to work with … As many barriers as are put up, they really work to break them down,” he said.

The committee consists of Robert Gilchrest (chairman), Michelle Childs, Riiska, David Beers, Erick Olsen, Daryl Byrne, Andra Moss, Gary Scheft and alternates Marie Isabelle and West Lowe.

Newsletter Editor

Edited 4/23/24 to reflect the corrected list of names for the Rails to Trails Committee.

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