New Beaver Brook boardwalk nearly complete

Reconstruction is nearly complete on a boardwalk on West Avenue that was destroyed by a 2012 brush fire.

The Beaver Brook Trail area is blocked off to visitors, but beyond the barricade and the muddy woodland ground, a new boardwalk is just a couple of weeks away from being opened to the public.

“This is the first critical major phase of this project,” said Open Space and Natural Resource Agent Steve Johnson in a short video released last week by the mayor’s office. “We’re really excited about this.”

The wooden walkway destroyed by fire in 2012 was part of a 1.1-mile walking trail that loops around marshland and trees.

Some of the money to rebuild the walkway was approved in 2014, and the city’s Inland Wetlands Agency in 2016 approved plans to rebuild it.

But when the city sent the project out to bid, prices came in much higher than anticipated, keeping the project on hold.

More recently the project was scaled back to include only the boardwalk replacement and not some other planned upgrades to the area, and it was sent out to bid again. Millennium Builders, the company that dredged the city duck ponds last year, was awarded the contract with a bid of $724,800.

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 the 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.

The city received a $500,000 Small Town Economic Assistance, or STEAP, grant in 2014 for the project. That money, plus city open space funds and other city funds, paid for the reconstruction.

The city previously used a $45,000 Community Development Block Grant to pay for design and permitting.

The new boardwalk measures more than 1,100 feet in length and is made of pressure treated wood. Johnson said it is largely complete, except for the finalization of some rails. He also hopes to do a little trail work prior to the opening to make the entryway less muddy, and trim back some overgrowth at the far end of the trail.

The mayor’s office is expected to have a ribbon cutting ceremony at the site in the next few weeks.

Parking improvements, including handicap accessibility, will be part of the next phase that Johnson hopes to start later this year.

According to a trail description, waterfowl, turtles, frogs and other wildlife can be viewed in the marsh and near forested areas. Ospreys have nested nearby and are seen there, too.

“It’s going to be a great place to hike or to walk or to stroll,” Mayor Ben Blake said in his Minute with the Mayor video. “It’s one more additional amenity that we have in the City of Milford.”