About 40 people attended a meeting last Thursday at Trout River Brewing to hear and share ideas for a new community park.
The proposed site of the park, called Comtu Cascade Park, sits on a third of an acre overlooking the Black River.
Some at the meeting wanted to install public art, such as sculptures, at the park, while others wanted to highlight the historical attributes of the site, Town Manager Tom Yennerell said.
“We’re trying to retain that as much as we can,” Yennerell said.
The site was initially developed as a gristmill in the 18th century. A warehouse was added later with a stone and concrete foundation, which still exists and acts as a retaining wall for the river.
The land designated for the park is steep with three different levels. Yennerell said the upper level would be an observation space for people to view the Black River, the middle level would be a multi-purpose area with a deck and small stage for various performances. The lower level would be a green. There would be two access points — one at the northern end and one in the middle.
“We want to capitalize on the riverfront,” said select board member Walter Matrone. “It’s a natural resource we need to capitalize on.”
The town has a contract to produce a design with the landscape architect company Greenman-Pedersen, Inc. in White River Junction. The park is part of the town’s Main Street master plan, which was established last June with Greenman-Pedersen. The plan encompasses about $7 million of infrastructure improvements to make the downtown area more bike and pedestrian friendly, with river walks, a road diet (lane reduction), and a roundabout.
Yennerell hopes to accomplish all the elements in the “ambitious” master plan within the next five years, starting with the Comtu Cascade Park.
“It’s all a matter of money,” Matrone said.
Construction of the park would be completed in phases as funding becomes available. This year a fence is expected to be installed along the perimeter of the property, but the majority of construction will occur next year.
The town has about $200,000 of funds to put toward the estimated $450,000 construction cost of the park. Part of the money will come from this year’s town budget while part of it is coming from a $100,000 grant from the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
The town took ownership of the site in January 2017 when it purchased the former Visiting Nurse Association building, the 5-7-9 Main Street building, and what’s known as the “bakery building” for $190,000.
Last November the town demolished the decrepit Visiting Nurse Association structure, opening the view of the Black River and the possibility of the park.
“It makes a huge difference,” Yennerell said.
The town is currently trying to sell the bakery building for as little as $1, depending on the type of development.
“We’ve solicited some developers to take a look at it,” said Yennerell.
Meanwhile, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce has launched a fundraising campaign to raise the remaining funds.
“We’re hoping that this year we can do something that can make the park accessible,” Matrone said.
-- KATY SAVAGE