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Committee to weigh first three phases of Waterford Community Park project

Waterford — The Town Center Ad-hoc Committee got an update Wednesday on the Town Center plan and is preparing to implement the first three phases of the Waterford Community Park project.

"This is critically important to a lot of people," First Selectman Robert Brule told the committee.

The committee of four elected and appointed town officials was formed in August 2021 to develop a plan for creating a town center-style, fully accessible space within the so-called Civic Triangle bordered by Route 1, Route 156 and Avery Lane. The wedge of property encompasses municipal buildings, a softball field, basketball courts, a playground, a pond, Veterans Memorial Park, the town library and Jordan Green, which houses Waterford Historical Society buildings.

Chad Frost of Kent + Frost, a professional landscape architectural firm in Mystic contracted by the town, told the committee during its meeting Wednesday at Town Hall that they were at the stage of starting to make decisions for phases 1 through 3 of the project.

He said it was time to “start working on the details, both from a value engineering cost perspective and then from a longevity perspective, so that we don't have to be fixing and maintaining and putting a lot more money into things.”

Town Planner Abby Piersall, contacted by phone Monday, said the project timeline would be determined “within budget parameters,” and was “designed with phasing in mind.”

The phasing is designed to make the plan a piecemeal project, which will allow the town “to be sensitive to resident and taxpayer needs,” she said, so if funds need to be diverted to support other infrastructure projects, or the budget does not allow for it in a particular year, individual phases can be postponed or the project halted altogether.

According to Frost, the first phase of the project consists of “environmental improvements to the pond.” The pond, renamed the Alfred E. Holm Jr. Memorial Park in 2012 and known colloquially by residents as “the Duck Pond,” will be dredged to remove sediment and debris.

Phases 2 and 3 include installing Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant walkways and overlooks around the pond, as well as streetscaping.

Piersall explained that a total of $200,000 has so far been designated for the planning of the project, with $50,000 coming from fiscal year 2020-21 and $150,000 from fiscal year 2021-22.

The $200,000 will cover the initial plan, design execution and sediment testing for the pond, which is necessary for dredge work.

An additional $246,209 has been approved in the fiscal year 2022-23 budget and will become available July 1, and will cover the cost of dredging. American Rescue Plan Act funds of $975,000, initially slated for a now defunct project, will be transferred to this project.

The next step in this process will be decisions about the details of "hardscape," such as boardwalk width and overlook height, as well as decisions about dredging, which is anticipated to begin this fall. The committee will determine, weighing both cost and feasibility based on sediment testing results, the depth to which dredging will be completed.

The committee’s next meeting will be on June 1 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.

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