Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
New picnic area to be crown jewel of Hockanum park

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
January 17, 2006

VERNON - The Town Council has authorized the Friends of Hockanum River Linear Park to begin construction on a new picnic area near the former Saxony Mill site on West Street.

The Town Council voted 11-0 to authorize the Friends to spend $16,000 to build the trailside park, which will include picnic tables and landscaping.

The park will be located on the former mill site on West Street, across from its intersection with West Main Street.

The project will be funded with a $12,800 state Department of Environmental of Protection grant.

But the Friends will not receive the grant money until the project is complete, officials said.

Under a plan approved by the Town Council last week, the town would pay all invoices relating to the project.

The invoices and cancelled checks would then be submitted to the Friends.

From there, the Friends would send a reimbursement request to the DEP which, in turn, would send a check to the nonprofit organization.

The organization would then reimburse the town in its entirety, officials said.

Under the terms of the grant agreement, the town is expected to provide a match of $3,2000, according to a Dec. 19 memorandum from Finance Officer James M. Luddecke to Town Administrator Laurence R. Shaffer.

That match would be provided through "in-kind" services provided by the Parks and Recreation Department and local volunteers, Luddecke said.

"The scope of the project is to construct a stone dust loop trail around the Saxony Mill Park site, and to construct a trailside picnic area," Luddecke wrote. "The process seems somewhat complex, but it has succeeded without flaw in the past, and it provides another method of improving the community without creating an additional tax obligation."

Among the expenses planned for the project are $3,600 for picnic tables, $1,800 for park benches, and $1,800 for signs.

Parks and Recreation Director Bruce W. Dinnie said today that eight trees already have been planted at the site and that park benches and picnic tables should go in during the spring.

"It's all part of the Hockanum River Linear Park Plan," Dinnie said. "It will be a place where people can fish along the river and come and picnic."

The 3.9 acres once housed a historic 19th-century mill. But a fire destroyed the historic building, which housed Plastifoam Inc., in July 1994 and the site has sat vacant while town officials worked to find another use for the site.

At one point the town had hoped to sell a portion of the site for development.

During last week's Town Council meeting, Republican Councilman Daniel A. Champagne asked whether planned improvements to Regan Street would adversely affect the new picnic area.

Mayor Ellen L. Marmer responded by saying the road improvements were many years off, and any work would be done in conjunction with the state Department of Transportation.