By Wendy Reese
PITTSFIELD — Mary Russ of White River partnership returned to the Pittsfield Selectboard on Aug. 18 to answer questions and address concerns regarding the next steps for the Parmenter Place buyout properties (proposed Parmenter Park).
FEMA provided 75 percent of the funds for the buyout of the properties destroyed in Tropical Storm Irene and the balance of 25 percent was provided by a Community Development Block Grant. The state allowed the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) to decide where easements on the buyout properties are required in order to provide value to the public. In the case of the proposed park, the value VHCB deemed is public access to the water.
The town must provide VHCB a written management plan for the proposed park, which VHCB must use for guidelines of the property. For example, if the town were to choose to do only conservation work and allow the property to return to a natural setting and sets the guidelines in the management plan, VHCB could not come in and require the town to do anything beyond maintain public access to the park. VHCB will check the park annually to make sure the town is following the management plan.
While much of the focus of the public comment phase of the Aug. 4, 2015, selectboard meeting was on the Route 100 side of the proposed park, the costs involved for maintenance, and potential use, little was discussed about the actual conservation of the river side.
Ms. Russ explained that berms created during the clearing phase of the previous homes on the property would need to be removed, allowing the river to naturally flood the park in the event the river were to rise significantly. This would help redirect floodwaters away from the adjacent homeowners’ properties surrounding the park. Additionally, willow stakes would be used along the bank to slow the erosion process, as well as enhance aesthetics.
White River Partnership (WRP) is responsible for purchasing and installing the willow stakes and would need approximately $1,000 for this bio-engineering project. Additionally, WRP will assist homeowners surrounding the proposed park with grants for bio-engineering projects on their private properties.
The planning commission submitted five suggestions for variations on the proposed park:
Do nothing to the property
Conservation of banks and to brush hog the property twice a year, maintaining public access to the water
Conservation of banks and to plant low maintenance plantings and trees so brush hogging is not needed (this is a combination of the 3rd and 4th suggestion)
Conservation of banks, low maintenance plantings, two stands of trees, 2-3 parking spaces with historical sign on flood and dedication to Don Flynn.
The selectboard voted to proceed with Phase II of the plan which would allow DuBuois & King to conduct a public input hearing, provide plans for options, and do all preliminary legal requirements for pre-construction. The Board agreed to present options for public vote at the annual Town Meeting.
The town is looking for ways to mitigate traffic speed on Route 100 through the town. This is an on-going concern that has come to the forefront as the proposed Parmenter Park is discussed. There are two “blind” spots on Route 100, just south of the village, where pedestrians cross Route 100 at the proposed park. Between the two posted 35 mph signs in town are multiple places pedestrians cross the street, including the library, park, a popular walking route, and stores. Failure to obey the speed limit has caused a couple of close calls between traffic and pedestrians. The selectboard urges drivers to use caution and respect when entering and leaving Pittsfield on Route 100.