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Mayor tours proposed repair sites at Forest Park

Mayor tours proposed repair sites at Forest Park park-renovations.jpg
The washouts on Park Road have made the thoroughfare unfit for biking.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
March 29, 2010 By G. Michael Dobbs Managing Editor SPRINGFIELD -- Just last year Mayor Domenic Sarno's two daughters rode their bikes on the roadway through Forest Park that connects Longmeadow with Longhill Street. Thanks to washouts due to erosion, the path is not safe for bikers any more. "This is dramatic," Sarno said looking at Park Road on a tour he took of the park on March 23 with Patrick J. Sullivan, executive director of Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management. "It was not like this at all [last year]." The repair of Park Road was just one of the projects the city would like to tackle in the park. Sullivan took Sarno around the park to three sites requiring infrastructure improvement. The roadway at the park's main entrance is in danger, Sullivan said, because of erosion at the earthen dam that controls the water at the Swan Pond directing it through a pipe to the brook on the other side at Meadowbrook Ravine. Sullivan noted the concrete blocks making up the sidewalk have shifted because of the erosion, which has also affected the pavement of the road. The dam was last modified in the 1940s or '50s, Sullivan said. The project is ready to bid, Sullivan told Sarno and could get started this year. The estimated cost would be $250,000 to $300,000. Sullivan added the main gate would have to be closed for the duration of the repairs. Deryk Roach, assistant director for open space and park management, explained the erosion on Park Road requires the analysis of an engineer to determine the best plan of action. Underneath the road are water and gas mains, which have been determined as sound and unaffected by the erosion.

Potholes are part of the problem on Greenleaf Road in Forest Park.

Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs

Greenleaf Road, which is near the Longhill Street exit of the park, has been closed for almost 20 years as a thoroughfare for cars and has been closed to pedestrians for eight years, although it is still used by walkers. Connecting to Washington Street, it has been heavily used and Sullivan would like to see it restored as well. The road is pocked with holes and washouts. Sullivan estimated the cost of that project would be $225,000. Sarno and Sullivan also stopped by the headquarters for the Environmental Center for Our Schools (ECOS) to present plans for a major renovation of that building. Set on the shore of Porter Lake, the building has been used in the past as a restaurant, a skate house and as a place to rent paddle boats. ECOS teacher Bert Freedman explained the plans would transform the 1930s-era building into the new Clifford Phaneuf Environmental Center, honoring the Springfield educator who co-founded the ECOS program in 1970. Sullivan said the plan would be to make it a "green" building with the installation of photovoltaic panels, a hydroelectric facility on Porter Lake and the use of geothermal technology to heat and cool and the building. Freedman said the goal is to make the building one that could be used all through the year. Sullivan said the proposed renovations would cost $1 million with an additional $1 million to improve the grounds and Freedman expressed the hope that students from the building trades programs at Putman Vocational and Technical High School could be used in the renovation work. Sarno said he is looking to leverage all of the green aspects of the project to try to secure funding for it. He added that while some might look at the project as "pie in the sky," he noted there were skeptics the Barney Carriage House could ever be renovated as well.