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    Tuesday, April 16, 2024

    OPINION: New London is using Bates Woods Park to dump contractor waste

    Piles of granite and other construction debris trail into the woods on both sides of the access road at Bates Woods Park in New London, Monday, Jan. 16, 2024. (David Collins/The Day)
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    Aerial view of the stone dump at Bates Woods Park in New London on Thursday, January 18, 2024. (Peter Huoppi/The Day)
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    I should say up front that New London Mayor Michael Passero and I have some different viewpoints about a spread of concrete and stone waste that is sprawled out across a large area of Bates Woods Park.

    I was alerted to the issue by a city resident, an employee at Connecticut College, who wrote to me with concern about the growing stockpile of stone and sheets of waste concrete material littering large areas of the park.

    The writer, who has participated in annual cleanups at the park, said he is disgusted by the level of dumping taking place.

    “There is no way we can keep up with the level of industrial dumping taking place in the park these days,” he said. “There are mountains of concrete and asphalt piled sky high, and rivers of old dumped concrete and curb stone that meander through the woods the length of football fields and beyond.”

    Sure enough, after a walk down the main road through the wooded sections of the park, I could share the reader’s alarm.

    In my mind, a large part of the park has clearly been made into a dump, and a heavy truck owned by a contractor doing road projects for the city was in a parking lot last week near the entrance to the road with the dumped material. It wasn’t at the park for recreational purposes.

    Passero, in an email exchange of questions and answers about the material, seems to prefer the term “lay down area” to “dump,” and suggested the material might eventually be sold or crushed. None has apparently been sold.

    He said it has been a processing “cycle” that’s been going on for more than a decade.

    The mayor also referred to complaints he fielded, including some from me, back in 2017, when it was discovered that the contractor rebuilding sidewalks in the city had been selling off the antique granite curbing to a Rhode Island stone dealer.

    “The city did previously obligate the contractor to dispose of the unusable curbing but reversed that policy after criticism that the city was giving away something of value,” the mayor said in an email Tuesday.

    Of course the city did indeed need to stop letting the contractor sell valuable antique granite curbing and pocketing the proceeds. But none of the vast piles of stone piled up in Bates Woods now seems to be antique or valuable.

    Instead, it looks like construction scrap, cut-up misfit pieces of granite left from the installation of new stone, debris which the contractor dumps in the park, because it can.

    It all looks like it’s been there for a long time, much of it becoming submerged in dirt and leaves, with no attempt to salvage or crush it. It looks to me, like the reader complained in an email, an industrial dump.

    It makes me think that no homeowner or business would allow a contractor to leave behind its debris. Imagine if you hired someone to rebuild your kitchen and that person took the old cabinets and shards of wood and sheetrock from the renovation and left them in a corner of your backyard.

    The mayor acknowledged there are no permits for stone and cement dumping that is being done in the park.

    So if you are torn between my description of the stone and concrete waste at the city’s park as a dump and the mayor’s calling it a necessary lay down area, I would suggest a hike ―it is otherwise a beautiful natural space that most cities would envy ― and decide for yourself.

    I would hope city councilors, too, take a look and see if this is their idea of what the wooded area of a city park should look like.

    This is the opinion of David Collins.

    d.collins@theday.com

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