CORNWALL — A new river access site is opening on the Housatonic River. In the works for over a decade, a ribbon-cutting for the site will be held May 25 at 2 p.m. at “The Bend” of the Housatonic River in West Cornwall, just downstream from the covered bridge on Lower River Road.
All are invited for a cookout with hot dogs and hamburgers, followed by a brief dedication ceremony. Guests will include Housatonic Valley Association Watershed Conservation Director Mike Jastremski, Cornwall First Selectman Gordon Ridgway, representatives from the property owner, Eversource Energy; the Housatonic River Commission, and project designer and contractor Earth Tones Native Landscaping. Experienced boaters are welcome to join a short paddle from The Bend down to Housatonic Meadows State Park, weather permitting.
According to a statement from the HVA, the project was made possible with a grant from the Housatonic River Natural Resources Damages Fund Trustees including the National Fish and Wildlife Service, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The money was initially awarded to HVA in 2007 on behalf of a partnership including the Housatonic Fly Fishermen’s Association, the town of Cornwall, Connecticut Light and Power and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Plans for the property included an all-abilities-accessible fishing platform extending into the Housatonic River — but subsequent engineering analysis revealed that the site was not appropriate for construction in the river channel.
The plan was modified to a more traditional car-top boat launch to minimize impact to the river and adjacent wetlands, and HVA worked with residents, local organizations and state and town leaders to incorporate measures to reduce runoff and erosion from the existing site; remove invasive plants and restore native trees and shrubs; upgrade the access ramp to accommodate the Cornwall Fire Department’s river rescue boat in emergencies; and install an interpretive kiosk and a concrete pad for a portable toilet.
More than 50 Cornwall residents unanimously approved the updated plans at a town meeting in 2018, and construction was completed a few months later in December.
The completed project provides safe access for boating and fishing, addresses runoff issues that had persisted at the site for decades, restores riverside wildlife habitat and provides parking for people visiting West Cornwall, members said.
“The perseverance of everyone involved in seeing this project through from concept to construction is truly amazing” Jastremski said in a statement. “This project is a success because of all the folks who helped improve the plan over the years. We thank everyone involved and especially Cornwall’s staff and officials, our original consulting engineer Kleinshmidt, the folks at HFFA, the NRD Trustees, Eversource Energy, the Housatonic River Commission, Earth Tones, the Housatonic Environmental Action League, Connecticut Department of Historic and Cultural Resources, the Northwest Conservation District, and many, many Cornwall residents, too many to name here.”
HVA is the regional watershed organization and accredited land trust dedicated to protecting the natural character and environmental health of the Housatonic River watershed, which encompasses nearly 2,000 square miles from western Massachusetts and eastern New York through western Connecticut to Long Island Sound. HVA’s offices are in Cornwall; Stockbridge, Mass.; and Wassaic, N.Y.
For more information, visit hvatoday.org.