Wilton Riverwalk to open

WILTON – Developing a walk along the Souhegan River has been proposed many times over the past 20 years by various organizations. It has now finally happened, but on the other side of the Main Street bridge.

The Riverwalk along Stoney Brook, around the Police Station parking lot, will officially open with a celebration on Friday, Sept. 29, beginning at 6 p.m. The party includes free food supplied by Double D Dogs and Sky Bridge Cafe, a performance by the Temple Band Dance Band, and recognition of the five donors of the granite benches along the water.

The event is sponsored by the Heritage Commission who have updated their kiosk with new pictures and information. Member Nancy Clark will “present some typical activities.”

Donors of the five granite benches are LA Limo in honor of parents; the Wilton Wanderers Snowmobile Club; Jackie Kahle and Michael Dell’Orto, Charlie Leutzinger in honor of Dwayne Goodall Sr., and Jen Beck’s “Welcome to Wild Wilton.”

Chuck Crawford, owner of Wilton Falls Building, has donated “an artifact” from the former mill which will be installed along the path.

The plan, approved at town meeting in March, was created by the Economic Development Committee as “just the beginning” of redoing downtown.

“Phase one is the infrastructure; trenching for the electricity, the ability to add an irrigation system, and a couple of decent sized trees, “Beck said of the new park. Phase two will include installing “low-maintenance landscaping. A concern right now is the retaining wall along the riverbank which has not been well-cared for.

Brush and small trees are growing in the wall and need to be removed.”

According to records, the stones in the wall were once the foundation of the former Whiting Box Shop which occupied the site for well over 100 years and was torn down about 1960. A previous, short-lived park, occupied the site, and the decorative lighting from that park has been restored.

Both Stoney Brook and the Souhegan River, which join just below the bridge, are in the state Protected Rivers Program.

The brook is a popular spot with fishermen. Beck said a great blue heron has been observed as well as a mink and river otters. “The hope is more people will take their time to appreciate these precious rivers and dare to park there and walk onto Main Street where more and more shops and restaurants are creating worthwhile attractions.”

Ideas for the future include a foot bridge connecting the park with the Wilton House of Pizza, which hopes to eventually expand into a full-service restaurant. The original Riverwalk, still very much under consideration, includes extending the path along the Souhegan River behind the Main Street stores, incorporating Main Street Park, and connecting with the artist studios and shops at Riverview Mills.

Both sides of the river are under consideration.

This is all part of the “Greening of Wilton,” Beck said, putting more greenery in the down town area, repairing sidewalks that have cracks and are uneven, and adding “sidewalks that connect things,” like Carnival Hill to the downtown.

We need to clean things up, Beck said. “We need a Green Space Team,” a collection of volunteers to do what is needed. “Like sprucing up Monument Park. So far, we’ve built a town that ignores the rivers. This project is a small step, a place to start.”

Beck can be reached at 654-5526 or at jenniferscottbeck@gmail.com.