Big beach cleanup will remove invasive plants and debris

Walnut Beach and an adjacent beach at the base of Naugatuck Avenue will be improved later this fall with a cleanup, including the removal of invasive plant species, using state grant monies.

Landscape Architect Stephen Wing received unanimous approval from the Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) at its Sept. 16 meeting for two separate improvement projects. The projects needed Coastal Area Management Site Plan approval due to their location.

Wing said the state grants are being administered through the Walnut Beach Enhancement Committee. One project is taking place on city-owned land at the base of Naugatuck Avenue where there is a small pavilion. A private contractor will perform the landscaping work.

“Over the years, the indigenous landscaping began to be impacted by invasive species,” said Wing.

Among the invasive plants species at the location are phragmites, a tall reed, elderberry, a shrub, and Asiatic bittersweet, a choking vine. Invasive plant species are non-native plants that take over an area and displace native plants.

Wing said the area is 0.10 acres and the work will take place on one-fifth of that area. He said the city public works department will do work on the pavilion. The cost for this project is $7,230.

Board member Thomas Nichol said when he inspected the area, he said he saw “a tremendous amount of beer cans, soda cans and debris,” asking, “Who will take care of it?”

Wing indicated the public works department is responsible for this area.

At Walnut Beach, the project, which will cost $16,785, has two phases. The first phase is adjacent to the entry drive and the parking lot near the boardwalk totaling about a half-acre of property.

“It is just chock full with invasive species,” said Wing. “There are a lot of trees broken in storms. There is debris in there—timber and utility poles.”

Invasive plant species in that area includes autumn olive and Russian olive, which are shrubs, and the bittersweet vine. It is illegal to sell or grow Asiatic bittersweet in Connecticut.

In this area, the invasive species will be cut and treated with an herbicide, the damaged trees will be trimmed, and the storm debris will be removed. The area will then be seeded with grass.

The other area for this project is adjacent to the boardwalk and fishing pier where Japanese knotweed grows 10 feet high, blocking any view of the beach and water from the boardwalk, said Wing. The knotweed will be removed, allowing the native beach grass to grow without competition.

“It is the bad boy in that stretch,” said Wing. “Knotweed is just pernicious. It is one of the most invasive species in town. In other areas of town, this stuff is really taking over.”

Knotweed partially resembles bamboo in that they both have ribbed sections, but knotweed differs because it has a large leaf, and, in the fall, delicate white flowers.

Wing said a project to clear out invasive plant species took place two years ago in the section west of the fishing pier, removing autumn olive and bittersweet. As part of this project, the contractor will follow up in that area.

More information on invasive plants may be found at this website,, which is operated by the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group.

In other business, the board unanimously approved a plan from Bella Napoli Pizza, 858-864 Boston Post Road, to construct an outdoor dining patio with a railing in front of the restaurant. Parking spaces in front of the restaurant will be moved toward the Post Road to accommodate the patio.

The board also unanimously approved the construction of a single-family home at 0 Old Field Lane, Lot 4, which is currently vacant land. In addition, the board unanimously approved replacement of a storm-damaged house at 7 Caroline St. with a new 1,144 sq. ft. two-story home.

At the start of the meeting, the board welcomed new board member Anthony Sutton to the fourth district. Sutton filled the seat vacated when Carl S. Moore moved from the fourth district to the fifth district. In turn, Moore replaced Terence Copeland who had previously resigned from the board.

In other business, the board continued to Oct. 7 the public hearing for a resubdivision of a 7-acre parcel at 701 North St., which adjoins the Orchards Golf Course. The property is owned by Stone Preserve LLC, which lists Arnold Peck as manager.

The board had held open a portion of the public hearing from its Aug. 14 meeting, seeking information about environmental conditions on the site, specifically related to the remediation of a possible underground oil tank. There was also a question of whether there were any pesticide residues in the soil from the former orchard.