Derby, CT – Whenever I want to go for a quick walk, or maybe I want to go out but refrain from spending money, I head down to the Derby Riverwalk for a stroll with my friends.
The Derby Riverwalk, officially called the “Greenway” by the City of Derby, was opened in 2006 along the banks of the Housatonic and Naugatuck Rivers. The 1.7 miles of paths were built on the tops of flood walls on the sides of the rivers. Derby is situated right where the two rivers meet, which allows for such a great park to exist.
Right where the two rivers connect is a flat portion of the trail that walks over O’Sullivan’s Island…this stretch of land is no longer an island and was the former dumping location of many chemicals as well as a training grounds for local fire departments. Over the past few decades, the state and the city have cleaned it up and done a fantastic job at turning it into its own little park. It is the perfect place to go for a picnic along the river if one doesn’t want to pay any sort of park fee.
This walking path has been extremely popular among Derby residents since it’s conception. In fact, people could not wait to start walking the path and began doing so before the Greenway was officially opened. On any given day one can see people walking along the river in the spirit of the U.S.P.S…through rain or shine, sleet or snow.
Now before I give too much credit to Derby for having this awesome path, I have to acknowledge that across the Housatonic River, Shelton has had a park with a walking path since well before Derby began work on the Riverwalk. According to Shelton Patch, “The Shelton Riverwalk is a brick sidewalk that loops around The Slab, a 14-acre park that borders the Housatonic River. Both The Slab and the Riverwalk are used for recreational purposes. The park is host to various events throughout the year, including the farmers market and Fourth of July fireworks.”
In case you’re wondering, the Slab is what locals commonly refer to the flat green along the Housatonic River in downtown Shelton where the Sponge Rubber Plant exploded in 1975. Once the building was removed, in its place was a large slab of concrete until it was turned into a park, or so my parents tell me.
Following the popularity of the Derby Riverwalk, Ansonia has opened its own stretch that is currently unfinished, but open to the public nonetheless. It begins right where the Derby portion leaves off on Division Street (an appropriate name for the street). Derby’s webpage for the Riverwalk has more info about it.
If you notice at the top of Derby’s webpage, it says, “Linking two rivers, three cities and six bridges!” This is because a person can begin in Shelton, loop around the Slab, and follow canal street to the Derby-Shelton Bridge and walk across it right to where the Derby Riverwalk begins, follow that path along the rivers, and continue over to Ansonia’s portion. Currently Ansonia’s portion ends just before it reaches the train tracks, however I have read about discussions of all the towns in the Lower Naugatuck Valley linking building their own portions of Riverwalks and connecting each one in a continuous stretch along the lower portion of the Naugatuck River. I would be really interested to see this.
The Derby portion of the riverwalk currently has several entrances available. I personally prefer parking just off of Bridge Street (the Derby-Shelton Bridge), but one can also drive through a parking lot off of Main St. and up over a portion of the path itself, over to a parking lot under the Rt. 8 bridge where there is a ramp for unloading boats. That one is another favorite of mine. The next entrance one can use is by parking at the Derby Train Station next to Home Depot, just off of Main St. and walking up the Main St. bridge, it will be on the left, just after crossing the highway on ramp (I know, it sounds dangerous, but there is a crossing signal if you feel traffic is heavy). The final entrance is on Division Street on the Derby side. There is a small parking lot right there, and also a larer BJ’s parking lot right next to it. That is the longest stretch of the Derby portion and seems to be the most popular.
If one is interested in checking out the Riverwalk, it seems to be most popular in the evenings when the sun is less direct and when people are out of work, so the early morning hours or maybe even the afternoon would be the best time to go. Just beware that only a small portion of the trail has shade.
Dogs are not allowed on the Ansonia or Derby portions, however I see them frequently in Shelton. There are lots of people who ride bicycles there, so it is best to stick to the right and leave some room because one never knows when they will be passing you from behind. The Greenway closes at sundown.