Committee seeking ideas for Riverwalk

WILTON – In the near future, the Economic Development Committee plans to solicit bids for the design of the second phase of the downtown Riverwalk, as approved at Town Meeting in March, and is asking residents for their ideas. The committee sponsored two strolls along Main Street last week to let residents take a closer look at the Souhegan River – and at all the places where they couldn’t actually see it. Following the walk, participants met at the fire station for a roundtable discussion.

The committee, in conjunction with the Conservation Commission and the Heritage Commission, will determine what it is people want and ask the landscape designers to come up with a plan. Once a design is accepted, grants will be looked into. They do not expect to return to Town Meeting until 2020, when they will have a better idea of what funds are available and what grants might need matching funds.

On Saturday afternoon, the walk began in the parking lot beside the police station with a discussion of the unsightly cement slab by the bridge and dam what could be put there.

Committee Chairman Jen Beck said the stone embankments along the parking lot across from the library have been neglected in recent years, allowing trees to grow in them and disturbing the stones. Clearing those walls is a priority, she said, and is required by the EPA.

The group paused in the town-owned Proctor Parking Lot where the river view is almost totally obscured by brush. One of the trees is, however, a young catalpa tree in full bloom and should be preserved, they said. If the riverbank were cleared and seating provided, it would provide a view of the confluence of the Souhegan and Stoney Brook and of the railroad bridges, and the occasional wildlife there including the great blue heron which is the mascot and logo of Riverwalk. It was observed on Saturday morning eating fish.

Walking along the river behind the Main Street stores, as pretty as that area is, has been deemed unfeasible, mostly because of the multitude of property owners and state regulations, but the river should be visually accessible. Steps to the river would be nice, participants said, but stairs involve a lot of liability.

Main Street Park also needs its riverbanks cleared. From the back is a broad view of the bridges.

Another area they would like to see cleared and developed “into some kind of park,” is between the elderly housing complex and the parking lot for Riverview Mills. It is currently a weedy area not being used.

There should be better seating along the river behind the elderly housing as well.

Developing a walkway along the river edge of the parking lot is also a hope.

“Right now the cars get the view,” Beck said, “not people.” The idea is connect people with the river, one of downtown’s biggest assets.