The Mill River Trail, a collaborative process and best practice framework

APA Connecticut Chapter


Thursday, October 25, 2018
1:45 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. EDT

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The Mill River Trail project began with a group of volunteers wielding machetes and trash bags to clean up a
neglected urban riverbank. These efforts catalyzed a collaboration by local environmental groups, private
property owners, the City of New Haven and CT DEEP to plan, build and maintain the trail. An important
link in a larger New Haven Greenways plan and coordinated with Mill River Watershed Plan, the Mill River
Trail will provide alternative transportation opportunities and public access to the river, connecting New
Haven Harbor to East Rock Park and beyond. As a design pilot for coastal easement implementation, the
project includes native plantings and riverbank bio-stabilization improve resilience and restore habitat. The
last mile of the Mill River runs through an industrial district and low resource neighborhood district with a
legacy of contamination and quality of life concerns. By bringing public attention and active recreational
access to the Mill River this project will support the health and safety of New Haven residents and our local
Learning Objectives
(1) An integrated design that includes extensive outreach and a participatory approach for a safe and
sustainable outcome.
(2) The tactical collaboration of municipal government and designers to leverage community-led efforts
with needed financial resources and technical assistance.
• The importance of good design. Investing in design and setting standards bears benefits well beyond the
project at hand.
• The community engagement process. The Mill River Trail project utilized multiple strategies for inclusion in
planning, including site walks, community meetings, social media, and opportunities for volunteer involvement in
the creation of an Urban Oasis.
• Collaboration between City departments and stakeholders. The Mill River Trail project involved the
collaboration of engineers, landscape architects, planners, and professionals with various other areas of
expertise. The City convened a committee to steer the project including community members, City employees,
and designers.
• The importance of coastal management ordinances and public access easements. Forward-looking land use
regulations have the potential to embed and institutionalize opportunities for the future even before the means
to carry out projects are available
• As well as further insights on implementation, the bid process, and the construction process, which
should be complete by the time of CT Trails Conference 2018.


Aicha Woods

Aicha Woods is Assistant Director of Comprehensive Planning for the City of New Haven. She has worked on major urban regeneration projects around the world in her prior career at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. She has a BA from UC Berkeley and M Arch from Yale. For the City of ... Read More

Giovanni Zinn

Giovanni Zinn is the City Engineer for the City of New Haven as of 2014. As City Engineer, he has worked on many projects focused on sustainable and livable infrastructure, including complete streets, encouraging alternative transportation options, adopting green infrastructure, designing resilient living shoreline installations, and reducing the City's ... Read More

J.R. Logan

J.R. Logan is the Executive Director of MakeHaven, a community makerspace on in New Haven and a key participant in New Haven’s recent Innovation Place designation and grant award. A native Midwesterner, J.R. came to New Haven after receiving his Masters of Public Affairs from Indiana University ... Read More

Beka Sturges

Beka Sturges is a Principal and leads Reed Hilderbrand’s office in New Haven. Shaping the land to achieve spatial power, she aims to demonstrate the cultural and environmental value of landscape. Since opening the office in New Haven, she has led projects for Yale and Brown Universities. Work with ... Read More

Eliza Shaw Valk

Eliza Shaw Valk is an artist and landscape architect at Reed Hilderbrand’s New Haven office. She serves as project manager for work with the City of New Haven including the Framework Plan for the Mill River Trail, peer review of the Downtown Crossing redevelopment, and Sheila de Bretteville's ... Read More

Contact Info

Aicha Woods,