City on trail of $350,000 grant

The News-Times (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Zach Mur­dock

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.”

Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia file photo

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.

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