Editorial: Riverside walk in Sunderland sounds like a worthwhile investment

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sunderland town officials are asking permission to borrow $295,683 for a Riverfront Park, to build around a proposed half-mile loop trail along the Connecticut River near the town office building. The hope is that about $200,000 of that total would come from grants.

The idea makes lots of sense. The river, so picturesque and serene as it flows between Mount Sugarloaf and the flatlands of Sunderland, is a wonderful natural resource that the town doesn’t fully take advantage of. What a great recreational feature a riverside park and trail would be for all the families in the community, especially those who live with easy walking or biking distance.

The town will learn in December if it will get the money from Parklands Acquisition and Renovations for Communities Program and the Small Communities Grant Program. And if it does, there will be the matter of the local match.

Those grants will require nearly $100,000 in matching money and for the town to borrow the full cost up front, a request that will go before voters at a special town meeting Monday, Oct. 30.

If Sunderland gets the grant, design work would happen January through June, with construction finished by the following June.

Town officials propose to get the town’s share from its Community Preservation Act fund, an accumulation of a portion of local property taxes, matched by the state, for use in recreation, historic preservation or open space projects.

The envisioned Riverfront Park fits into the town’s broader vision for the 9.5 acres near the end of School Street. Immediate plans there include a small boat launch paid for by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, expected to be completed by the end of this year.

The Riverwalk would establish a half-mile pedestrian loop connecting the Veterans Memorial, town offices, library, boat launch, scenic riverbank and playing fields. The pathway would accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, and would lead to an overlook platform offering views of Mount Sugarloaf and the Route 116 bridge.

The project would tie in with, but not alter, the ball fields already on the property.

Sunderland’s plans for a riverside walk and park along the Connecticut near the center of town are exciting and worth the money local taxpayers would have to invest. We wish Sunderland the best of luck getting that grant, because what’s envisioned would be a great addition to the town — for two-thirds off the sticker price.