CHAIRMAN'S LETTER Fall 2003

RE: Mill Woods Master Plan or Parking Plan? 
       Parking Data from 2002 and 2003 Counts


As I understand it, the current plan under consideration is the revision dated March 28, 2002 with two recent modifications. One involves dual usage of an as yet unnamed soccer field for football. The other modification involves shifting the location of a walking trail in the picnic area away from residential properties. In a letter read at the November 4, 2002 Town Council Meeting, the Advisory Recreation and Parks Board recommended that the Town Council move the Plan with modifications to review by the Planning and Zoning Commission. The March 28th revision of the Plan is available in the reference section at the Wethersfield Library in Town Hall.

The estimated budget for the March 28 Plan is $7,644,048. I do not have cost adjustments for the two modifications. A breakdown of the budget components is provided in the Master Plan in terms of two planned phases for the project. Using the figures in the estimate and the identified percentage rates for contingency, escalation and project costs, GPA provides with this communiqué a budget breakdown (Microsoft Excel), primarily in terms of the project components (Table 1). This breakout of estimated costs was prepared to better understand how expenses are distributed in reference to the multiple uses that the park supports. The differences in escalation between Phases One and Two, 5 and 10 percent, respectively, are maintained in the GPA budget summary. Project costs (15 percent of (estimate + contingency + escalation) are shown for each component. The different presentation includes different “rounding error”, but the bottom line of the GPA summary differs from the March 28 town estimate by one dollar. 

As evident from Table 1, almost half of the budget would be applied to roads and public parking. Section 1 of the Master Plan states: “Parking capacity needs to be expanded at all function areas. Existing pavement conditions throughout the park vary from acceptable to poor and replacement of pavements is proposed to be included in the site work component of each respective area renovation.” The Master Plan (March 28,2002 figure: Proposed Site Master Plan) proposes that 415 parking spaces be available. From my 10 years of observation, including counts during the recent soccer season, the distribution of existing parking is adequate for a very high percentage of the year, if not every single day. Existing parking facilities are distributed as follows. 

Lot No. Spaces Width of Spaces
Center-southwest 17 10’
Center-west 25 10’
Center-northwest 84  10’
East of Mitchell Sr. Housing 37 10’
Moeller Home 14 11’
Tennis Courts 10.5 10’
Roadway (tennis-hockey) 13 not measured
Play area/ basketball 36 9-10’
Stonedust lot  not marked ?
     
 

TOTAL

 236+  

 For comparison, parking spaces at Wal-Mart, Marshall’s, TJ Max, and Town Hall are 9 feet wide. 

Depending on uses of the park, attendance and our individual timing on a given day, we may need to drop off people and things somewhere, then park farther from the area we visit/use. How far do we walk in grocery store or mall parking lots? Would new parking spaces be used if built? During the 2002 fall soccer season, observations (counts) were noted on 11 occasions including after school practices, Saturday and Sunday games (Table 2).  Between May 5 and July 30, 2003 counts were noted on 43 occasions (Table 3).  Some counts at different times on the same day were included.

As evident with reference to the Montanero Field, parking on the grass is more convenient. The defacto Griswold Road parking lot seems to be preferred to the southwest and west parking areas and tends to rival the largest parking area of the park in use. Unless parking is banned on the grass near the entrance to the park and Griswold Road, I expect it will continue.  

At a public presentation on the Master Plan by the consulting architect (September 26, 2002), safety concerns were identified in reference to children crossing the road between the comparatively new, existing concession stand and the bathhouse. Safety was identified as the reason for relocating the road northwest or behind the concession stand. A new 130-space parking lot would be northwest of the new road, almost twice as far from the bathhouse, at its closest point, as the existing 84-space lot. This lot sees its greatest use during the 3 month-long beach season. Those using the beach, the largest single group of people using the park for the longest interval in the year, would cross the new road and cars heading for the southern entrance to the new parking lot. They would contend with another new road (drop-off) directly in front of the bathhouse door. Alternatively, by transplanting one, maybe two apple trees and relocating the road to parking north and west of the concession stand, the road would enter the northwest, rather than the northeast, corner of the existing parking lot. It seems this would address the safety concern. By widening the loop of road in front of the bath house and separating it from the existing parking lot, drop-off traffic would be one-way and better separated from traffic headed toward parking areas. 

If the town is contemplating spending $7.6 million dollars on Mill Woods Park, I would rather they spend it on park uses rather than paving. While some repairs are needed and the stone dust lot would benefit from resurfacing with asphalt, spending almost 2.5 million dollars on roads and parking lots only seems excessive. Another $850,000 proposed for realigning the park entrance with Wolcott Road and $389,000 estimated for a new maintenance facility “with improved parking”. An increase in paved surface would not only diminish the inviting open green character of the park, it would increase runoff to Goff Brook, the principal storm water drain in the south part of town.

I favor improvement of the drainage of all the fields on the west side, leveling the fields that now tip toward the Connecticut River and improved turf. I don’t favor installation of chain-linked fence around individual fields. I think other proposed changes are appropriate, such as the installation of three rest rooms, renovation of the play area and linking of walking trails. Emphasis on organized sports, active sports like basketball, tennis or skateboard, or passive activities, such as walking birding, or picnics should be debated further with quantitative data on current or expected park use to substantiate the apparent preferred expenditures. If you have an opinion let’s hear it.