The GOOD News:  People have been very eager to use the Norwalk River Valley Trail in Wilton. The not-so-good news?  Unexpected overflow parking has cropped up at one trail head just off of Sharp Hill Rd., at Autumn Ridge Rd., and it’s creating an unwelcome situation for the neighbors and the town.

The BETTER news?  Last night, the Board of Selectmen approved a plan to help alleviate the situation.

Patricia Sesto, the chair of the NRVT steering committee, appeared at last night’s Board of Selectmen meeting to update the selectmen about the solution that’s been developed. She told them that about one year ago the NRVT petitioned the state Dept. of Transportation for permission to build a “small, 8-car parking lot” on Autumn Ridge Rd..

“If anyone has used the trail, or gone through on a lovely day, through Sharp Hill, you’ll see that Autumn Ridge has really taken the brunt of people’s enthusiasm for using the trail,” Sesto explained, adding that many users of the trail have been using that side street to park because it runs alongside the trail where it crosses Sharp Hill. It was, Sesto says, an ‘unintended result’ of building the trail ‘piecemeal’ and Sharp Hill becoming a spot where the trail is frequently entered.

Building a small parking lot at the location was an option approved by the state, which owns the land. The NRVT already has right-of-way access to the land where the trail is, but the land for the lot has to be leased from the state. However, Sesto explained, the NRVT isn’t a legal entity and therefore cannot be the party entering into agreement with the state to lease the land.

“This is one of those partnership opportunities where we look to the municipality to support the trail moving forward,” Sesto said.

According to Sesto, there is no annual fee as the land would be used by the public; the only fee would be a $500 fee for application processing, which the NRVT will cover. “It’s pretty standard fare, as far as I can see.”

Wilton’s Planning and Zoning department would still have to issue a permit to build the lot. Sesto said that 14 months ago she had a conversation with Tom Thurkettle, Wilton’s director of public works, who told her he would oversee building the lot if his department had time; however, first selectman Lynne Vanderslice told Sesto that she thought it would be unlikely that Thurkettle’s department would do so. “That’s on you. We’re leasing the land, [building it] is your cost.”

Sesto responded that she knew the cost to build the lot would be the responsibility of the NRVT, and agreed that if the opportunity no longer existed to have Wilton’s public works personnel build the lot, she’d find another way.

The selectmen approved the plan and agreed that the town would take on the lease with the CT DOT.

Warning Lights

Selectman Michael Kaelin mentioned that he has heard from residents who have had close calls with cars as they’ve tried to cross Sharp Hill Rd. at the crosswalk while walking the trail.

Sesto said that pedestrian-controlled lighted signs have been ordered after the Wilton Police Department helped appeal to the CT-DOT. The NRVT has already raised the funds to purchase them. The signs would warn drivers about the pedestrian crosswalk and use flashing lights as increased notification.

Sesto told the selectmen that she has been in touch with the neighbors, “and we thank them every chance we get because they have been very patient.”