NEW MILFORD — The Housatonic River has served as an asset to the town for centuries.
In an effort to capitalize on and promote this resource, the Town Council this week extended by six months the tenure of a committee working on a riverfront revitalization plan.
“It’s just endless what we can do there,” said Liba Furhman, a member of the nine-member committee, which was established in the spring to create an action plan for strengthening the link between the riverfront and the center of town.
By doing that, the committee said the project will enhance residents’ quality of life, attract businesses and new residents, generate property tax revenue, create jobs and increase recreational opportunities.
“There’s a huge urban area 90 miles south looking for things to do,” said Juliane Bailey, a committee member. “This is our chance to reclaim our title as the gateway to Litchfield County.”
Some of the long-term elements being considered are the creation of housing opportunities for young professionals and the addition of a transportation hub near the river so that people can take a bus, taxi or train, if the passenger rail service is extended.
In the meantime, Furhman recommended adding amenities, such as benches, lighting and signs to encourage people to use the existing pathways along the river and generate enthusiasm for the project. She also recommended hosting festivals and other events there.
Having “an institutional anchor,” such as a museum or satellite campus, near the riverfront also helps reinvigorate the area because it attracts users and instills an excitement for it.
Part of the project would include the creation of a riverfront district from Boardman Bridge to Lovers Leap, with the nickname “Bridge to Bridge.” Work on this district would be broken into three phases.
The committee is trying to figure out how to overcome the physical obstacles of Patriots Way, the railroad and a parking lot, which all lie between the riverfront and town center.
Furhman suggested winding sidewalks or steps cutting into the hill on Young’s Field to help get people closer to the river. The final plan will also ensure any work done in the area doesn’t negatively impact the river and surrounding environment. Sections along the river are within flood plains.
“Whatever you do, you have to make sure the river is protected,” Bailey said.
As part of the process, committee members have visited other riverfront projects and created a 12-person advisory committee with professionals and experts on different aspects of riverfront revitalization. They also reviewed the town’s 2010 Plan of Conservation and Development, which included three pages dedicated to the effort.
Bailey said adding the revitalization plan to the 2010 plan creates a good foundation and will help the committee secure state and federal grants.Read Full Article
Community input is also a valuable part of developing the plan.
“We want to make sure people in town have a role in the vision,” Bailey said. “We don’t want to be a small group that makes the decisions.”