The 4.1-mile Shelton Lakes Recreation Path is no longer a work in progress. After two decades of building the path, one piece at a time, the trail is complete and a grand opening celebration is this Saturday, Oct. 6.
“It was like a big puzzle and every piece was a huge project,” the city’s conservation agent, Teresa Gallagher, said. “The puzzle is complete and it’s really gratifying.”
The path, which starts at Pine Lake and leads to Huntington Center, was completed in August.When Terry Jones, then chairman of the Conservation Commission, first brought the idea for a path linking downtown and Huntington Center forward, Gallagher was on the commission. It was a pipe dream at the time, since Shelton owned almost none of the land that the path now leads through.
“In the early 90s there was a lot more going on with the Shelton versus Huntington rivalry,” Gallagher said.
The proposed path was discussed as a way to literally and symbolically build a connection between the two distinct areas of the city.
Around the same time, the commission knew that a lot of surplus water company land was coming up for sale and that a developer already had plans drawn up for it. Today, the portion of the Rec Path that wends through the woods near Shelton Avenue and Nells Rock was once a planned site for 400 residential units. Since the city had the right of first refusal on the property, the Conservation Commission spent years drumming up support for the purchase, which passed in a 1997 referendum.
But that was just one piece of the puzzle. A few smaller pieces of property were purchased, so the city finally owned most of the land it needed by 2000. Then it was time to move forward with trail construction. The path has cost a total of $620,000, which, according to Gallagher, is very little when compared with paths nearby, which, on average, can cost $1 million a mile.
The city paid $191,000 toward the path and the rest has come from outside funding, including Iroquois Gas Co., the state DEEP Recreation Trails, New Alliance Bank, and others. The list of people in the community who have helped is long, including late state Rep. Dick Belden, current Reps. Jason Perillo and Larry Miller, and groups like the Boys & Girls Club, Eagle Scouts, the Chamber of Commerce, and others.
The work has been completed by countless volunteers.
“We have used so many volunteers it’s too many to name,” Gallagher said. “We also had a lot of local contractors who worked at a low price or at cost.”
Mayor Mark Lauretti, said he has been a supporter of the path and touted the fact that it’s handicapped-accessible. The path also allows dogs on leash.
“It really adds to the community by the use it gets,” Lauretti said. “It’s pretty incredible to have that kind of walking trail through a wooded area that will be conserved forever.”
In the last two years, the community has been discovering the path more and more. The Trails Committee and Conservation Commission are still trying to spread the word.
The Rec Path passes by three scenic reservoirs, the Dog Park, the school campus area, and several hiking trails, including the newly restored “Blue Dot” Paugussett Trail. Unlike most other multi-use trails, the Rec Path does not follow a pre-existing railroad or canal, and instead winds through forest on it’s way to Huntington Center. There are some long but gradual hills, most noticeable when riding a bicycle.
The path was completed in August.
On Oct. 6, festivities will begin at 9:30 a.m., next to the Dog Park at the corner of Shelton Avenue and Nells Rock Road. There is ample parking space across the street at the Shelton Intermediate School. There will be live music and refreshments. The grand opening will be held rain or shine.
At 11:00 a.m. there will be a “Hike & Bike” starting at the Pine Lake trailhead on Shelton Avenue (near Meadow Street). Participants may either walk or bike four miles to Huntington Center, where St. Paul’s 200th Anniversary Chili Cook-Off will be under way. Rides will be offered back to the trailhead parking.
Children, strollers and leashed dogs are welcome. Registration is not required. The rain date for the Hike & Bike only is Sunday at 1.
Additional information about this event and the construction of the Rec Path may be found at sheltonconservation.org.