The Beaver Brook boardwalk that was destroyed by a brush fire in April 2012 has been replaced with a new boardwalk.

Construction was started in April 2019, and the area has been open for walking since December.

The 1,232-foot-long boardwalk is part of a 1.2-mile loop at the 41-acre property, which has an entrance at 553 West Ave., a short distance from Route 1. The 6-foot-wide, pressure-treated boardwalk includes a small extension that acts as viewing platform.

According to Assistant Public Works Director Steve Johnson, the city paid for the $725,000 boardwalk project using a $500,000 Small Town Economic Assistance grant, city open space funds and other city funds. The city previously used a $45,000 Community Development Block Grant to pay for design and permitting.

The Beaver Brook project was delayed because the bid prices came in far higher than the estimated $700,000 replacement cost, with prices from $960,000 to $1.5 million. When the project was scaled back to include just the boardwalk replacement, the bid was $724,800, and was awarded to Millennium Builders, the company that dredged the city duck ponds in 2018.

The city is putting out to bid a contract to improve the parking area at 553 West Ave., which includes constructing an accessible path down to the trail around the property. A mandatory site walk is planned for 9 a.m. March 20, with the bid submission due by 3 p.m. April 9 at the city Purchasing Department.

In the meantime, the parking lot will be closed for about a week (starting March 9) as city crews prepare the area for the contractor, said Assistant Public Works Director Steve Johnson. He said they are lowering the parking lot about 21/2 feet in preparation for the handicap access ramp down to the trail loop. While that is taking place, people can park in the pull-off near the Interstate 95 overpass.

Mayor Benjamin Blake said the improvements to the parking area and trail access that were dropped from the revised bid are funded by a grant. The parking lot will include a kiosk with a sign indicating the work was done in cooperation with the state Depratment of Energy and Environmental Protection , which is a requirement of the grant, said Blake.

The plans prepared by the firm Milone & MacBroom indicate the parking area will have 16 regular parking spaces, plus two handicap accessible spaces. The driveway portion of the parking lot, and the two accessible spaces will be paved, but the rest of the parking lot will be gravel.

On the preserve side of the parking lot will be a rain garden with new native plantings. The parking lot will have timber rail fencing along the front. The existing concrete blocks at the top of the trail access will be removed and replaced with removable bollards or posts designed to block vehicle access.

The winding access path down into the preserve is sloped and the contract calls for constructing an accessible path with an asphalt surface that will not exceed a 7.5 percent grade. Native trees will be planted along both sides of this access path to replace ones removed during boardwalk construction.

From the entrance to the boardwalk, the trail has a stone dust surface. From West Avenue near the I-95 overpass back toward the boardwalk, the Public Works Department recently completed spreading woodchips along the trail. Blake said utility companies provided these chips to the city for free. Other portions of the trail have a dirt surface.

Following the 2012 blaze, officials said that overgrowth of invasive weeds, such as phragmites and purple loosestrife contributed to the fire, combined with an exceptionally warm and dry winter and spring that year. The city plans to keep those invasive plants within its 25-foot right of way around the boardwalk mowed to prevent another fire.

“The goal, once we get the phragmites under control, will be to see what sort of native vegetation comes back,” said Johnson. The city may also have some planting done, such as sweet pepper bush, blueberries, and native grasses.

Johnson said the 57-acre property at 553 West Ave., 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. Because the city owns rights to the boardwalk, which was not insured at the time of the fire, it was up to the city to replace it, Johnson said.

Johnson said he estimates there are 20 to 25 acres of phragmites, most of which is beyond the boardwalk area. He said there are only two state-certified contractors to treat phragmites. He obtained a quote to mow and spray them over a 3-year period, which was $20,000 to $22,000, a cost that would be the responsibility of the property owner, in this case the church, should it wish to undertake the project.

There have been other trail improvements in Milford, said Blake. These include an updated entrance to Solomon Woods on Fresh Meadow Lane with boulders and timber posts to keep vehicles off the trails. Blake said Subway worked with city in fall 2019 to lay down wood chips on the trails at Mondo Ponds.

Those wishing to take a longer walk from Beaver Brook can follow sidewalks along West Avenue about a half-mile over to the parking lot for John F. Kennedy School and enter the 36-acre Mondo Ponds area. The loop around both ponds at Mondo Ponds is about three-quarters of a mile in length. The path out to Grinnell Street is overgrown. Access also is available from the entrance on Naugatuck Avenue.

Trail brochures with maps for Milford’s hiking areas are available on the website for the South Central Regional Council of Governments. The council produced hiking maps in 2016 for the 16 towns and cities in its region, including seven areas in Milford. Website: http://scrcog.org/regional-planning/regional-trails/.

The Beaver Brook map does not show the boardwalk location because the boardwalk was not accessible at the time the map and brochure were created.

The Milford Favorite Walks book, which is a mixture of wooded trails and street walks, is available at http://milfordrecreation.com/forms/5860_milford_favorite_walks_book.pdf

In 2017 Grillo Services received Planning and Zoning Board approval to built 342 apartments on a portion of the property that is not included in the conservation easement where the trail and marsh are located. The company has the project rights for sale to a contractor interested in constructing the apartments and parking garage.