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Running alongside both the Housatonic and Naugatuck Rivers, the Derby Greenway demonstrates a seamless integration of Connecticut’s natural river systems and parks with man-made interventions of the past and present. The new addition of a striking sea green bike-pedestrian bridge on the southern end of the trail exemplifies Derby’s ambition to reinvent itself as a modern town while simultaneously providing views of a historical rail line bridge and flood-control dikes that speak to the city’s history.
Derby’s success as a city is largely attributed to its ability to continually evolve its use of the Naugatuck and Housatonic Rivers over time. The rivers initially supported fishing and transportation industries, eventually became a seaport and site for shipbuilding, and at their prime served as the backbone for the town’s industrial sector. Eventually, Derby would become another example of post-industrial decline in America, but as the city strives to recruit residents, the rivers have served as a critical asset to the future of this small Connecticut town.
At the beginning of the trail, by the Main Street parking lot, guests are introduced to the transformative value of the Housatonic and Naugatuck Rivers. Beyond their aesthetic and recreational values, they have also played a role in the restoration of the historical Birmingham National Bank, built in 1893, into a restaurant and weekend live entertainment venue, creating greater activity around the Derby Greenway.
Across from the National Bank, trail visitors begin their route on a 10-foot-wide path atop the dike containing the Housatonic River, which was erected after the great 1955 floods that devastated communities near the Housatonic and Naugatuck Rivers. The path leads to a new bike-pedestrian bridge that provides trail users with a great view of the Housatonic River. The trail exits the dike and descends to the boat launch area under the Commodore Hull Bridge, where parking and restroom facilities are provided.
The trail then meanders across O’Sullivan’s Island, actually a peninsula, where visitors travel on a dirt path within open park space that hosts myriad deciduous trees, many towering over the park. The trail passes through the peninsula and is flanked by a small swampy area to the east with expansive views of the Housatonic to the west. Leaving the peninsula, the route passes under CT 34 alongside a wooden barricade that separates trail users from an active rail line that runs on top of the Naugatuck River dike. The paved trail continues along the river, providing views of wildlife such as geese and hawks diving into the water for fish.
The path ends at Division Street at the Derby Hall of Fame Plaza which also includes the historic National Humane Alliance Fountain. Engraved paving bricks surrounding the fountain featuring the members of the Derby Hall of Fame, together with commemorative bricks purchased by many greenway users. The nicely landscaped area also includes a couple of benches for a peaceful respite. There is parking next to the Plaza and also across the street in a shopping center lot.
Across Division Street is the entrance to the Ansonia section of the Naugatuck River Greenway. The Derby Greenway was the first section of what will become the 44-mile Naugatuck River Greenway stretching from Derby in the south to Torrington in the north. It has been a major success since formally opening in 2006 and recent studies conducted as part of the Connecticut Trail Census show it to be the most heavily used of all the trails measured.
From I-84, take Exit 19 to merge onto CT 8 S. In 17.8 miles, take Exit 15 for CT 34 toward Derby/New Haven. Turn onto CT 34/Main St. going westbound for 0.3 mile and then turn left onto Bridge St.; the parking lot will be on your left immediately after turning.
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