With the change in seasons comes a change in leadership at the Norwalk River Valley Trail (NRVT).

Patricia Sesto, a resident of Ridgefield and Wilton’s former environmental affairs director, will pass the baton as president of the Friends of the NRVT to Charlie Taney, a Redding resident who has served as the organization’s first executive director since 2015.

Sesto, a founding member of the Friends of the NRVT, began her work on the trail in 2008 while working for Wilton. As chairman and president of the five-town committee, Sesto led the development of the routing study that serves as the foundation of the subsequent efforts to build the trail, and has directed the construction of 2.5 miles of trail in Wilton, designation of five miles of trail in Norwalk, one mile in Redding, 1.5 miles in Ridgefield and helped raise over a $2.5 million in private donations and grants. She will stay involved with the NRVT as a board member representing Ridgefield.

With Sesto stepping down as president and Taney looking to change his involvement with the NRVT, Taney will take over from Sesto. “It will be a real challenge to fill Pat’s shoes,” he said. “Her leadership and creativity have established the NRVT as one of the most exciting projects in Fairfield County.”

Sesto and Taney attribute a strong working relationship to their success in seeing a positive conclusion to the NRVT’s impasse with the CT Department of Transportation (DOT) that has halted construction for over 18 months.  “With the resolution of the DOT lease impasse, the NRVT will have a big year of new trail construction in 2020, with over three miles of new trail added in Norwalk, Wilton and Redding,” Sesto said. “I could not be more pleased to hand off the leadership of the trail to Charlie.  The NRVT Board has every confidence Charlie will be a successful president.”

“The residents of Wilton are extremely grateful to Pat Sesto and her leadership in making the NRVT a reality. We look forward to continuing to work with Charlie as president and Pat as a volunteer, as we continue to expand the trail in Wilton,” said Wilton’s First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice. 

New Executive Director

Taking Taney’s spot as the NRVT’s executive director will be Beth J. Merrill, a Norwalk resident. Merrill has considerable consulting experience in the not- for-profit sector in Fairfield County, including work with Catholic Charities, Darien Arts Center, Malta House, and Israel Cancer Research Fund.  In addition, she spent many years in consumer products, including owning a startup company. She is a 12 year resident of Norwalk, with previous homes in Ridgefield and New Canaan. Beth enjoys hiking and biking and plans to share the NRVT with her son, his wife and many friends.

“The Board is excited to have Beth Merrill as our new Executive Director. Her private sector and non-profit skills will be a real benefit to the NRVT,” Helen Rendell Baker, NRVT Board member and Wilton resident.

“Happily, we’ll be very busy now that the DOT lease is resolved and couldn’t be happier to have Beth on board to help make more trail happen in Wilton,” added Cathy Smith, another Wilton resident on the NRVT Board.

Merrill is eager to forge ahead with trail expansion in Wilton. “The NRVT’s showcase trail in Wilton is ready for expansion north of Skunk Lane. I look forward to working with Helen Rendell Baker and the NRVT team in raising the pre-construction funding this year and starting construction in 2021.”