Grant awarded to make Esker Point, Palmer Cove more resilient
Groton — With a backdrop of Esker Point Beach, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., local officials and The Nature Conservancy announced on Friday a $725,000 federal grant to make Esker Point and Palmer Cove more resilient.
Blumenthal said the project to strengthen resilience in an area vulnerable to flooding and storms "can be a model for our state and, in fact, the whole nation."
The federal funding will allow for improvements to Esker Point Waterfront Park, located across the street from the beach, including reducing the risk of flooding and storm surge by removing the asphalt in the lower parking lot. Porous pavers, which slow down and filter water while still retaining parking spaces, will be installed in the lower lot, according to The Nature Conservancy and the town's Parks and Recreation Department, who developed the project together.
The project calls for installing a bioswale, or trench with vegetation, to capture and filter stormwater runoff before it enters Long Island Sound, and enhancing the walkway, restoring native species in an area by the lower parking lot and sprucing up the kayak boat launch.
There is a potential living shoreline component — these protect coasts from erosion using natural materials and plants — along the waterfront park, contingent on permitting and further studies, said Adam Whelchel, director of science for The Nature Conservancy.
"The Town of Groton certainly has a lot to celebrate for Earth Day 2022," town Mayor Juan Melendez Jr. said during the news conference as he stood with town Parks and Recreation Director Mark Berry, Blumenthal, Town Councilor Aundré Bumgardner, Town Manager John Burt and Whelchel.
Whelchel said the "locally important and regionally catalytic" project will help reduce flooding risks, improve the public amenity and enhance the environment.
The grant "was secured through the 2022 Omnibus Appropriations Bill," according to a news release from the senator's office. It did not require a local funding match.
Blumenthal noted that Esker Point "is open to everyone" with no admission fee and support for the grant project was bipartisan. He added that the project will enable Esker Point and Palmer Cove "to have many, many more years of enjoyment for the people of Groton, and they deserve it."
Berry said the project could start as early as this fall and is expected to be completed within two years. He said one of the benefits is to protect the shoreline because "we're going to see greater storms, more rainfall, and that's just going to further deteriorate the edge of the shore." He said officials are being proactive now and taking steps to protect it.
He said the project fits in with the Parks and Recreation Department's four pillars of service to the community: social equity, health and wellness, economic activity and conservation. He noted that the town already has started making investments in Esker Point Beach, the only free community beach in Groton, including planting 3,500 beach grass plants over the past three years, starting a succession plan for replacing trees and working on a sand management plan.
Bumgardner said Groton will be facing 20-inch sea level rise by 2050 and low-impact development strategies, such as the project at Esker Point, will help mitigate intense flooding events.
Melendez noted that coastal resilience is paramount for Groton, which is surrounded by water on three sides. The Town Council created the position of a sustainability and resilience manager, who will look at creating a townwide plan to address the issue.