The Naugatuck River Greenway:
An America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative

Cyclists Celebrate Naugatuck River Greenway: To read about how John Monroe of the National Park Service Rivers, Trail, and Conservation Assistance Program is helping the Naugatuck River Valley click here.

AGO Background

President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative on April 16, 2010, to foster a 21st-century approach to conservation that is designed by and accomplished in partnership with the American people. He charged the Secretaries of the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality with leading this initiative.

The President directed senior Administration officials to undertake an unprecedented listening tour to learn from communities outside of the Nation’s Capital that have developed innovative and successful conservation initiatives. The result was perhaps the most robust public conversation about conservation in American history: 51 public listening sessions with more than 10,000 participants and more than 105,000 comments submitted.

Building on this conversation, on February 16, 2011, federal agencies submitted to the President “America’s Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations,” a report which defines an action plan for conservation and recreation in the 21st century.

The AGO report identified 10 major goals and 75 action items to advance this initiative, from expanding youth programs to increasing public awareness about conservation to better managing our public lands. Among these were three major place-based goals to focus the collective conservation and recreation efforts of the federal government: create and enhance urban parks and green spaces, renew and restore rivers, and conserve large, rural landscapes.

During the spring and summer of 2011, Secretary Salazar continued the conversation with Americans outside Washington, this time seeking recommendations in each state about opportunities that support the three place-based goals of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Secretary Salazar and his leadership team at the Department of the Interior asked Governors and their senior leadership and stakeholders in all 50 states to identify specific projects in which the federal government could partner with states to advance the AGO goals.

The Naugatuck River Greenway is one of two Connecticut AGO projects. (The other is the Connecticut River Blueway, a four-state effort managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.)

The Naugatuck River Greenway AGO Project

Establishing a Naugatuck River Greenway in Connecticut:
Aligning City, State and Federal Action to Connect to and Restore the Great Outdoors Western Connecticut, from Torrington to Derby, including 11 municipalities

For almost two centuries, water power, industrial innovators and hard-working residents of the Naugatuck Valley helped to drive our national growth as an industrial power. For the last 25 years,  valley residents have reclaimed post-industrial sites and revitalized communities by restoring river connections and recognition of their proud past. On the Naugatuck River Greenway, healthy people will enjoy and protect the river, wildlife and watershed lands. Residents and visitors will experience the great outdoors in urban riverfront parks and boat launches, downtown historical walks, quiet woodland trails and challenging state forest trails.

The AGO Initiative for the Naugatuck River Greenway includes four major activities:

  1. Focus energy on tangible improvements and build momentum by doing, then celebrate with ground-breakings and ribbon-cuttings;
  2. Build public involvement in myriad greenway and river activities;
  3. Build on existing connections and accomplishments to make the project whole so it’s recognized publicly as a key to the future; and
  4. Lay groundwork for future, longer term funding and implementation projects.
Naugatuck Valley residents and leaders have worked quietly, making steady progress to improve quality of life for people and nature. It’s important for two reasons to raise public recognition of these advances at this time.  First, the great outdoors of the Naugatuck River is underutilized today; the valley is a sleeping giant of opportunities for healthy fun!  And secondly, greater awareness will generate momentum to complete planned additions to the greenway. Typically, early successes are low-hanging fruit while later stages are tough nuts to crack. It will take community resolve and momentum to finish the greenway.

Collaboration is key to the Naugatuck River Greenway AGO Initiative.  National Park Service staff presently serve as the lead agency coordinating the Initiative, however numerous other federal and state agencies, municipal entities, and non profit organizations are critical to the initiative's success.  At the federal level, along with the National Park Service, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (Thomaston Unit) and the USDOT (Federal Highway) are engaged in the project.  Key supporters and local partners include:

  • CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (in particular the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation);
  • Regional planning agencies in the watershed including the Council of Governments of the Central Naugatuck Valley (COGCNV), the Litchfield Hills Council of Elected Officials (LHCEO), and the Valley Council of Governments);
  • The river corridor municipalities - the Cities of Ansonia, Derby, Torrington, Waterbury, and the Towns of Beacon Falls, Seymour, Harwinton, Litchfield, Naugatuck, Thomaston and  Watertown; and
  • Various nonprofit groups including the Housatonic Valley Association, the Naugatuck River Watershed Association, Trout Unlimited, Rivers Alliance, the Naugatuck River Revival Group, and the Connecticut Community Foundation.

Want to Learn More?

To learn more about the Naugatuck River Greenway AGO Initiative or to get involved,
contact John Monroe, Director of Rhode Island & Connecticut Projects in the National Park Service Rivers & Trails Program at (617) 223-5049. 

Special thanks to our sponsors:
Naugatuck Savings Bank, Connecticut Community Foundation
Union Savings Bank, Wesson Energy, Inc., The United Illumination Company, Friends of Naugatuck River
The Platt Brothers & Company, Thomaston Savings Bank, Valley Community Foundation