New London Council committees to weigh $925,000 in improvements for Riverside Park

New London — A resolution that would fund nearly $1 million of improvements to Riverside Park went to two City Council committees Monday for further study.

The council’s Finance Committee and its Education, Parks and Recreation Committee will now take up discussion of the resolution, which would designate $925,000 for Riverside Park improvements from a bond ordinance approved in 2011 for improvements to the city’s infrastructure.

The plan to improve the park is based largely on a proposal developed in 2011 by the Community Research and Design Collaborative at the University of Connecticut. To better link Winthrop Elementary Magnet School, the park and the Thames River, the plan would involve building a set of stairs from the school to the park, a pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks on the riverbank and a pier to stretch out into the river.

The plan also calls for additional picnic and activity spaces within the park.

Council President Wade A. Hyslop, who opposed the sale of Riverside Park to the Coast Guard in 2010, said that the council’s committees would be best suited for determining how the city would pay for the improvements.

“I’m concerned with the fact that we need to be able to refurbish that park,” said Hyslop, who is chairman of the Finance Committee. “I would also like to commend the Riverside Park Conservancy group for the work they’ve done. They’ve done an excellent job up there.”

The plan will be considered at 5:30 p.m. Monday as part of a joint meeting of the two committees.

Councilor Michael Passero, who sits on both the public works and finance committees, said he was appalled in 2010 when the city proposed selling the park and supports the plan to revitalize it.

“There is nobody who would want to invest $1 million in that park more than I would. It’s the dream of mine to have that happen, especially with a connection to the waterfront with a pier there to open up access,” Passero said.

But, Passero said, he is concerned the council continues to make appropriations “willy-nilly” and without a long-range plan for this and similar projects.

“We can’t just put a $1 million proposal on the agenda and decide to spend $1 million like that,” he said. “We can’t do it. It’s completely irresponsible.”

The council needs to make the project part of a comprehensive capital improvement plan that would detail and prioritize which projects the council would appropriate funding for over the next decade, he said.

c.young@theday.com

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