Officials seek historic designation for Naugatuck River Valley

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal visited the Valley to announce the introduction of the Heritage Area Study Act, which is the first step toward designating the Naugatuck River Valley as a National Heritage Area.

The legislation directs the federal interior secretary to conduct a study to determine if the area is suitable for the designation.

Doing so would help create more coordinated regional preservation and planning efforts, aided by technical and planning assistance from the National Park Service.

“Once known as the arsenal of America for its high concentration of war industries, the Naugatuck River Valley is rich in manufacturing history and natural beauty,” DeLauro said. “The 14 communities that stretch along the Naugatuck River are steeped in agricultural, trade, architectural, and industrial history.

The designation “would boost the local economy through cultural and historic tourism, and help Connecticut to preserve its history for generations to come,” said DeLauro, whose district includes a part of Shelton.

'Rich historical and economic significance'

Blumenthal called the Valley “a priceless region containing rich historical and economic significance and immense physical beauty.”

He said the area has been enjoyed recreationally for more than a century.

“This region of Connecticut is a shining example of American history and well deserving of recognition as a National Heritage Area that will enable towns along the river to attract visitors who are eager to learn about this unique region,” Blumenthal said.

Bill Purcell, Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce president, said the chamber and other local organizations would work with all the state’s federal legislators “in advancing this important initiative.”

River flows 40 miles

The Naugatuck River flows about 40 miles from far northwestern Connecticut to Derby, where it empties into the Housatonic River near downtown Shelton. The Route 8 expressway essentially parallels the Naugatuck River north of Derby.

National Heritage Areas are similar to national parks, but remain privately owned. Connecticut currently has two National Heritage Areas: the Upper Housatonic River National Heritage Area (in northwestern Connecticut) and the Quinebaug-Shetucket National Heritage Area (in northeastern Connecticut).

The bill cosponsored by DeLauro and Blumenthal cites the Valley’s “unique contribution to the cultural, political, and industrial development of the United States,” including the brass, rubber and clock-making industries.

In addition, 88 structures in the Valley are included on the National Register of Historic Places.

DeLauro and Blumenthal previously introduced the legislation in 2011, when the Naugatuck River Greenway was designated one of the 101 projects selected by the interior secretary under the America’s Great Outdoors initiative.