City on trail of $350,000 grant
DANBURY — A new section of the Ives Trail and a community butterfly garden could be coming to a city preserve on Long Ridge Road under a new state grant, local officials said this week.
Mayor Mark Boughton and Health Director Lisa Morrissey collaborated on the plan this summer after the city acquired 65 acres on the southern end of the city to preserve as open space.
The property is just a few miles south of Tarrywile Park on the east side of Long Ridge Road and includes an old apple orchard, meadows, woods and some bushwhacked trails, but city leaders hoped to find new ways to get residents out to enjoy the property.
That’s when Morrissey discovered a chance to apply for up to $350,000 from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for trails and park improvements.
“We’re always looking for new ways to improve folks’ access to healthy living, to be outdoors, to be more active, so I’m always scanning and looking for grant opportunities that we could try to match,” Morrissey said.
“It’s a great opportunity because what we really want to do is promote healthy lifestyles and (the Mayor’s Office) had a project they were already mulling over, so I was like, ‘I’m in!’ “
The property on Long Ridge Road was acquired by the city for $700,000 from its conservation fund this spring from longtime Danbury resident Monique Wiedel, who has long hoped to conserve her family’s property in perpetuity.
The acreage sits in the middle of a gap in the Ives Trail, so city leaders figured it would make a good connection for the 20-mile hiking and recreation paths that stretch through Ridgefield, Danbury, Bethel and Redding.
When Morrissey approached Boughton about the state’s trails grant, a light bulb went off on how to make the space even more accessible.
“You know she’s a huge part of pulling money available for cities from all sorts of sources back to Danbury, so this was an opportunity,” Boughton said. “There’s a significant number of trails, there’s the orchard, there’s meadows. It’s really beautiful.”
The city had planned to build the new segment of the Ives Trail and factor in maintenance to keep the meadows open, Boughton said.
But with extra funding through the grant, the city could go above and beyond, they said.
Morrissey envisions the addition of butterfly gardens that visitors could walk through and that would become another opportunity for local school children to learn about the environment. The city also could add a new shed there for a tractor donated to the site for maintenance and it could make additional improvements to the already popular Still River Greenway on the other side of town.
Staff submitted the formal grant application last week, but the state has not said when it will announce the winning projects or when the funding will be distributed, Morrissey said. In the mean time, the city will schedule a series of public meetings to gather input from residents about what to include at the Long Ridge Road property and incorporate that feedback into their final plans.
“We want our residents to be outdoors,” Morrissey said. “We want them, the next time they have the opportunity to go out and spend some time with their friends or family, to think about one of our green spaces and our trails; maybe to think about butterfly conservation in their own backyard.
“It could be amazing and I know there are so many health factors we could tie into this, so I was really happy that (the mayor) allowed us to work with them on it,” she continued. “And any time you get all the department heads working together on on a project, it’s really fun.”
The start of the Charles Ives Trail in Danbury as it runs through Tarrywile Park in 2014. According to local officials, a new section of the Ives Trail could be coming to a city preserve on Long Ridge Road under a new state grant.