'A great success' Milford's Beaver Brook boardwalk nears completion

Beaver Brook Boardwalk in Milford

Beaver Brook Boardwalk in Milford

Steve Johnson

MILFORD — With the finishing touches still being put on the new Beaver Brook boardwalk, residents already are taking to it for evening and weekend walks, according to Milford’s Assistant Director of Public Works Steve Johnson.

“We probably have from one to two to eight to 10 people maximum at any one time,” Johnson said.

As work nears completion, the mayor’s office has been encouraging residents to access the boardwalk for outdoor hiking and walking opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic, he said. Since the 1,100-foot boardwalk is six feet wide, Johnson has been encouraging walkers to go in a counterclockwise direction, with everyone walking the same way to maintain six feet of separation. Walkers also are encouraged to wear masks while on the boardwalk, he said.

The boardwalk, located at 553 West Ave., is open year-round during daylight hours. Pets must be leashed, and there is no bicycling allowed.

Boardwalk history

According to Johnson, the boardwalk has been an important project with the city. It was previously owned by the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority in New Haven, which supplies water to the area. Prior to selling the property to Kingdom Life Christian Church in Milford, the water authority had already constructed a boardwalk on the 57-acre property, which includes a 41-acre freshwater marsh.

In 2012, there was a fire in the marsh that burned 80 percent of the boardwalk. The city went through a design phase to rebuild it.

“It was and a very challenging construction project,” Johnson said.

Previously, the marsh had been overtaken by an invasive common reed plant called phragmites, which, according to Johnson, crowds out some of the native, natural vegetation that might otherwise grow there. During the winter, the above-ground stalks of the plant die off and they become a potential fire hazard.

The project was completed in part with a $500,000 in STEAP (Small Town Economic Assistance Program) grant funds. There was an additional $50,000 in funds from the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) for some engineering design.

The most recent phase of the project was upgrading the public parking area, which included lowering it by two to three feet.

“By lowering the parking lot grade, we were able to achieve a much more connecting trail that is now paved, from the parking lot down to the lower trail,” Johnson said. “So, it is now more accessible for people of all abilities.”

The only portions of the project left to complete are rain garden plantings and plantings between the parking lot and West Avenue. Some trees will also be planted next spring, in the warmer weather, according to Johnson. This last phase was funded through a CDBG grant for $130,000.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to get out and enjoy a brief walk in the woods and observe the wetlands that Milford has so many of,” Johnson said. “I encourage people to get out there and enjoy the new boardwalk. It’s been a wonderful support from all the funding that we’ve got — both at the state level as well as the local level, so it’s been a great success.”