Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Frugal Yankees Build a Rec Path

So far, the Rec Path has cost just $169,000 per mile to build, with most of that money coming from outside sources like grants. Compare that to some other similar projects in the region, such as the Ansonia River Walk, which is reported to have been built for about $1,000,000, and it's only 2/3 of a mile long. That works out to about $1.5 million per mile, nearly ten times the cost of our Rec Path!

We're cheap. Go ahead and say it. But when your project doesn't qualify for the huge multimillion dollar grants like the regional riverwalks, you have to be. Regional planning allows each town to priorize one path for the big federal bucks, and the Shelton River Walk got the top priority, leaving the Conservation Commission to scrounge around for alternative ways to build the Rec Path. 

How did Shelton build the Path at such a low cost?

First of all, it's not paved. The original plans called for a paved Rec Path, and the first section built was paved (by the schools), but it's a lot more expensive to pave a path, and we received repeated feedback from people who didn't want it paved, so why bother? Asphalt is good for rollerblades, but hard on walkers and joggers, and it has a more urban feel that people didn't want at Shelton Lakes.

Second, volunteers did a huge amount of the work. The route layout, planning, permitting, project management, cutting down trees, bridge building, sign kiosks, edge dressing and more were done by volunteers. If it could be done by a volunteer, it was.

Third, Parks &  Rec staff did some of the machine work, grading, cutting trees, spreading asphalt millings for a base, and dropped off woodchips for the side dressing. This was typically done during their slow time in late fall to early spring.

Fourth, we used asphalt millings as a base for much of the trail. Saved money on construction supplies.

Fifth, some of the work that was contracted out was at an extremely low price by local residents willing to give us a great deal to help out the community. Barry Mucci essentially worked 'at cost' to construct the Lane Street section. Fairview Tree Farm and Pruzinsky & Son bid the work at half the cost of other contractors. Our logo was designed at a cut rate by Pete Stockmal.

Here's a run down of our funding (click to enlarge):

Click to enlarge

3.5 miles done, 0.5 miles to go! I must leave you now to go work on a grant application.


  1. Very informative package. Especially like the photo of Terrance G.!

  2. That photo may or may not be Tom Harbinson.

  3. The financial chart shows the grants that we received. It does not show all the ones we tried for and didn't get. Shelton's Trails & Conservation volunteers have been chipping away at this for a long time & things are really coming together. A number of partners who helped out also include Tracey Lewis, Randy Szkola, Parks & Rec, Jim Swift, The Shelton Land Trust, Perkin Elmer, Jim Tate, the H.S. Cross Country Team, Tom Harbinson, and a number of others. Thank the Mayor and Board of Aldermen for their investment in our city. There has been a lot of positive feedback on the new construction and increased use this year. Your town is what you choose to make of it.

  4. Great article and great team work to get the project done. Shelton volunteers are a very resourceful group!

  5. Eye-opening article. I've always said that regionalization should go beyond emergency service mutual aide and include boards and commissions. In fact, a few years ago they tried to institute a Valley-wide ethics commission to no avail. This is just my opinion but the demographics of cities like Ansonia or Derby today aren't the same of those like Shelton, Seymour, or Oxford (i.e., household income, people with college degrees, etc.) and therefore the same amount of expertise isn't there to tap into. Instead of an all-volunteer planned and constructed venue, it had to go out to bid to a private contractor. There were also other complications like the stringent Army Corp of Engineers requirements because the paths are on the Naugatuck River flood control system dikes. It's not an excuse, but a single, personal observation. Either way, the volunteers should be lauded for what they've done and it's another reason why Shelton truly is the envy of outsiders like myself.

  6. I don't think that photo is TomH. Isn't he too young to wear glasses?

    Seriously: lots of folks that pulled together around an idea, and kept at it.

  7. He, TomH or he, the guy in the photo, is too young to wear glasses?

    Hope everyone voted; if not, don't complain.