Town Approves Funds for Design of Route 106 Sidewalk Extension, Parking Area for Bristow Bird Sanctuary


Bristow Bird Sanctuary on Jan. 21, 2021. Credit: Michael Dinan

Town officials this week approved a contract designed to make it easier for pedestrians and motorists to access an increasingly popular bird sanctuary that’s undergoing a major restoration ahead of its centennial.

The Board of Selectmen approved a $16,000 contract with Bridgeport-based Cabezas DeAngelis Engineers & Surveyors for an extension of a sidewalk along Route 106 to the entrance of the Bristow Bird Sanctuary and Wildwood Preserve and new parking area.

The firm “has done excellent work for us in the past,” Public Works Director Tiger Mann told the selectmen at their regular meeting, held Tuesday via videoconference. He referred to the design of new sidewalk on Main Street, Park Street and Richmond Hill Road.

“They are aware of that entire area,” he said. “It’s an extension of the survey work they have already performed and an extension of the engineering work that they have already performed through Park Street.” 

The sidewalk extension will run from Park Street at Route 106 along the northern side of the state road to Bristow’s entrance. As it is, pedestrians can enter there by walking on a roadside verge or through Mead Park, behind the Gamble little league baseball field.

The first phase of work at Bristow—a 17-acre town-owned property that’s accessible through Mead Park and Route 106—as well as pond dredging and restoration, has largely been completed. The Board last month approved funds to repair and replace damaged sections of fence.

Bristow, one of the nation’s oldest bird sanctuaries, is on track to be fully restored for its 100th anniversary in 2024. The Friends of Bristow Park and Sanctuary is raising private funds for the work, and the town budgeted about $200,000 for the current fiscal year for work at Bristow. The municipal parks fields budget has earmarks for $112,000 for next fiscal year, with $100,500, $82,500 and $15,000 to follow.

Municipal officials in recent years have created and extended a number of sidewalks connecting downtown New Canaan with local parks and residential neighborhoods—for example, along Weed Street to Irwin Park. Bristow has been described by its advocates as an important piece of the town’s walkable “greenlink” loop that also winds through New Canaan Land Trust and New Canaan Nature Center property.

The selectmen asked during the meeting whether the cost of work would be reimbursed through Connecticut’s Local Capital Improvement Program (no), whether a pull-off for motorists was part of the design (yes), how many parking spaces there would be (four parallel spaces), and whether there would be room for school buses to pull up (yes).

The Bristow Friends group is “looking into putting in educational signage and birdhouses” for visitors to see “what birds to be looking for their and their habitat,” Mann said.

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