Friday, May 22, 2015

West River Attains Official "Greenway" Status

It's official: the West River -- one of New Haven's three major waterways -- is now a "greenway" according to the State of Connecticut. The designation was bestowed last week by the Connecticut Greenways Council, a group of citizens appointed by the governor and General Assembly to oversee the Trails and Greenways program for the State's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The new status isn't just an honorific; it gives participating municipalities and environmental groups a leg up on pursuing state funding for watershed-improvement projects like revamping the Edgewood Park duck pond, installing self-regulating tide gates, removing the Pond Lily dam, and building 'green infrastructure' to mitigate stormwater runoff. In the long run the new status could help to establish a hiking or multi-use trail along the 13.5 mile river. New Haven, Hamden, Woodbridge, Bethany, and West Haven all passed legislative resolutions seeking greenway status, with the overall effort being spearheaded by the West River Watershed Coalition, which works on water quality, recreation and access issues affecting the watershed.

[Members of the West River Watershed Coalition asking the New Haven Board of Alders to pass a resolution seeking greenway status for the West River in November 2014. Resolutions also had to be obtained from the other towns in the watershed: Hamden, Woodbridge, Bethany, and West Haven. Photo credit: New Haven Independent.]

The New Haven Bioregional Group, a founding member of the West River Watershed Coalition, issued a statement calling the designation an "important step forward for our bioregion." A ceremony is planned for June 5th in Torrington to celebrate all of the state's newly designated greenways.

Greenway designation is just one project that the West River Watershed Coalition has been pursuing. Connecticut Fund for the Environment / Save the Sound, another member of the Coalition, is developing a watershed management plan for the West River that will outline long-term strategies for improving water quality, restoring habitat, and enhancing recreational access. The second public input-gathering session will be held on May 27 at the Barnard Nature Center.

Another project is organizing the fifth annual West River Water Festival, planned for July.