For nearly 20 years the Port of Ridgefield has been working to secure funding and multi-agency approval to make travel between Downtown Ridgefield and the waterfront – with its trails into the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge – safe, uninterrupted and predictable. With the Pioneer Street Rail Overpass project now funded, and under construction, one might think the Port could pause to take a breath. Not so, says Port CEO Brent Grening.

“The Pioneer Street rail overpass is a critical safety enhancing project for our community,” he said, “but the downside is that the at-grade crossings at Mill Street and Division Street must be closed to vehicles and pedestrians.”

Without a pedestrian crossing at Division Street, people will be forced to walk or drive over a half mile to the Pioneer Street overpass in order to access the waterfront trail or go onto the wildlife refuge. As a remedy, the Port is now working to plan and design a pedestrian overcrossing that would span the railroad at the foot of Division Street.

“A pedestrian overcrossing would create a safe, direct route to the waterfront and wildlife refuge from the northwest end of town,” Grening said. Grening and the Port commissioners believe a pedestrian overcrossing and other enhancements would provide additional community benefits, further cementing Ridgefield’s reputation for walkability and a trails network that connects the entire community. That’s why the proposed improvements include the possibility of new sidewalks connecting the pedestrian overcrossing to the pedestrian routes along the water and Main Street.

“When visitors come to Ridgefield by boat, kayak, bike or car we want them to be able to move easily and safely between downtown, the waterfront and the Refuge,” Grening says. “It’s good for tourism, good for the soul and good for the community.”

To move the project forward, Grening noted the Port is seeking to secure funds for this Division Street pedestrian rail overcrossing to serve pedestrians, bicyclists, and maybe even light electric vehicles.

“We’ll be working with our community partners and citizens to solidify the concepts and to identify funding sources and other means of project assistance.”

WHAT ABOUT OTHER AMENITIES?

Grening and the Port Commission believe improved and safe access to the waterfront and Refuge is just a start. The Port is exploring funding options for additional public amenities such as a pier and dock for paddlers, a multicultural plaza and additional public restrooms.

“The Port has spent over 20 years and many millions of state and Port dollars to take our waterfront from an industrial eyesore and environmental problem to the beautiful place it is today,” Grening said. “With input from citizens, agencies and tribes, it’s time to make the publicly-available area of the waterfront the best it can be.”

While Port commissioners and staff have come up with some amenity ideas of their own for the waterfront, Commission Chair Scott Hughes says it’s just a starting point.

“We want to hear from the community about what they want to see on their waterfront,” he said. “There’s plenty of room for ideas from community, and we look forward to hearing them.”

The Port plans to hold public meetings on the subject but for now the better option is to take public input by email. To be notified of future input opportunities, please contact the Port by emailing info@portridgefield.org and type WEST RIDGEFIELD WATERFRONT PLAN in the subject line.

In addition to the pedestrian overcrossing concept, see Port representative ideas as shown on the bulleted list below.

For more information contact the Port by email info@portridgefield.org.

PROPOSED ENHANCEMENTS

  • ADA-Compliant Pedestrian Overcrossing
  • Multi-Cultural Plaza & Interpretation
  • New Paddling Pier & Day Dock
  • Lake River Overlook
  • Zero Impact ADA Wildlife Viewing (Year-Round)
  • Trail & Sidewalk Improvements

BENEFITS

  • Increases Ridgefield Parks, Trails & Walkability Network
  • Public Multi-Modal Access to Wildlife Refuge
  • Neighborhood Connectivity to Wildlife Refuge & Downtown
  • Links Boat Launches & Downtown
  • Enhanced local, regional, and national tourism & recreational travel
  • Enhanced local economic development through increase in tourists, boaters, paddler and Refuge visitors