Beaver Brook boardwalk replacement plan approved

A proposed boardwalk replacement at the Beaver Brook marsh walking trails, 553 West Avenue, received unanimous approval from the Inland-Wetlands Agency (IWA) at its July 20 meeting.

Agency vice chairman Brendan Magnan said, “The project will have a net benefit and enhancement to the wetland.”

Steven Johnson, open space and natural resource agent, told the IWA the proposal is to replace the wooden boardwalk along the trails that was damaged and destroyed by a brush fire in April of 2012. The trail has been closed since that fire. The estimated $500,000 project will be funded by a variety of grants.

Johnson said the 57-acre property, which is owned by Kingdom Life Christian Church, has two conservation easements, one on the 41-acre marsh, and the other is a 25-foot wide right of way around the marsh on which the trail and boardwalk are located.

Johnson said the trail has a 1.1-mile circumference, and is included in a new brochure published by the South Central Regional Council of Governments. The boardwalk section is omitted from the brochure with the statement that there are plans to replace it.

Landscape architect Michael Dougherty, who presented the plans, said the boardwalk will be extended 40 feet at its eastern end to cross low-lying ground that is continuously wet, increasing its total length to 1,180 feet.

The desired width is 8 feet, which would allow the city to plow the boardwalk in the winter. This is wider than the current 5.5 feet, but the actual width will depend on available funds, and will likely be six feet, said Dougherty. The boardwalk will be constructed from a wood composite material.

The existing boardwalk and footings will be removed where possible, said Dougherty, with the footings most likely cut at marsh level and left in place.

The new boardwalk footings will be constructed from steel micropiles, which Dougherty said will last much longer and will not have the chemicals present in pressure-treated lumber. He said the piles have a 30-year warranty, but will likely last longer than that.

Dougherty said the organic matter in the marsh varies in depth from two to 18 feet, and the pilings need to extend another 10 feet below this into the sand and gravel underneath.

The parking lot along West Avenue will be increased in size from 16 to 25 parking spaces with 19 of those spaces paved, including one handicap-accessible space, said Dougherty.

The access trail connecting the parking lot to the loop trail will be lengthened, as part of a process to decrease the slope. This connecting trail will be paved for wheelchair access and to prevent erosion, said Dougherty. This parking lot update also includes new fencing, a rain garden for stormwater management, and the planting of native trees and shrubs.

As part of the project, the invasive phragmites reed, which burned in 2012, will be cut and sprayed within the 25-foot boardwalk right of way. Dougherty said the reed has “taken over the marsh.” He said spraying will be planned for spring 2017 and cutting for fall 2017.

The main loop trail will remain in its current state, which varies from crushed stone to compacted dirt.

Dougherty said construction might start in fall of 2016 and completed by spring of 2017.

Five residents spoke in favor of the proposal, saying they support the project. No one spoke against the plan.

Steve Bruno of West Avenue said he favors the trail, but would prefer a surface material other than stone, which he said, “is not good on the feet.” Bruno also said the parking lot should have two handicap-accessible spaces.

Elaine Marczak of 84 Utica Street said she used to walk the trail many times every week and misses it. Marczak said she was excited that the boardwalk will be replaced and the trail will be reopened.

The South Central Regional Council of Governments has updated trail maps for towns in the greater New Haven region, including Milford at  The Beaver Brook trail is among those maps and brochures, which may be downloaded from the website.

The IWA announced at its July 20 meeting that it received plans from Grillo Services LLC for a 342-unit apartment complex for the remaining property at 553 West Avenue, which is owned by Kingdom Life. The proposal includes two parking garages with 512 total spaces. The agency will likely schedule a public hearing on the application.

Grillo has a contract to purchase the West Avenue property from Kingdom Life, an option it could exercise if it receives zoning approval for a project.