Athol Daily News – Will the pond under Lord Pond Plaza see the light of day?
ATHOL – About two dozen people attended a public forum to discuss the “greening” of Lord Pond Plaza in downtown Athol. The meeting, held last Wednesday, was facilitated by BSC Group, the Boston-based consulting firm that came up with three proposals to transform the mall into a more pedestrian-friendly area, both from an environmental perspective. than safe, than the existing iteration. of the place.
Alternative One calls only for the creation of more green space, Alternative Two calls for additional green space and partial ‘daylighting’ of a stream that passes under the Lord Pond parking lot, and Alternative Three creates more space green while opening the stream even more to daylight.
The alternatives were developed as part of the municipal vulnerability preparedness plan that Athol is creating in order to respond to environmental emergencies.
“The goal of this program is to increase the resilience of communities to the effects of climate change,” said Jeffery Malloy of BSC. “We have found that Lord Pond Plaza is really a major source of vulnerability within the community.”
Additionally, he says, Lord Pond Plaza serves two of Athol’s most vulnerable populations; the elderly and those aged 16 to 29. It is also a major heat island in the city center.
“More simply,” he explained, “on a 90 degree day it could be 115 degrees (at Lord Pond Plaza). This is because there is a lot of pavement in this area, so there is a need to green the area in order to mitigate, or offset, this urban heat island effect that is occurring.
“So there are really significant opportunities for climate change mitigation through this project, both from a social point of view, from an ecological point of view, from an economic point of view – that is, is just a really important project to do.
In response to an investigation, BSC’s Casey-Lee Bastien said Alternative One would cost just over $ 2 million to complete, with around $ 1.75 million likely coming from the city of Athol. The second solution would cost just under $ 2 million, with the city dropping about half. The cost of the Third Alternative is estimated to be nearly $ 3 million, with the city providing nearly $ 1 million.
He explained that although the overall cost of alternatives two and three is significant, the city part is less because more environmental concerns are addressed than in the first option and therefore more grants are available.
“The more nature-based solutions are applied,” Malloy said, “opens up more funding opportunities for you to offset costs to the city.”
Selection committee chair Rebecca Bialecki and board member Mitch Grosky both expressed support for the larger of the three proposals.
“I think it really brings the environment,” Grosky said, “and I think it has the potential to become a real showcase for this city, and to add really a lot to the experience of living in this city. city.
“I want to listen to my constituents, but I want to say right away that I really like the idea of turning the neighborhood into a combined shopping area and making it a natural park for all kinds of activities.
“I’m leading to two or three,” Bialecki said. “These are both projects where the cost you put in and the benefit you get outweighs the first one, for me, because there are a lot more options for getting funding. And that opens up that flow that’s there. ”
Conservation Commission member Bob Muzzy said, “I’m in favor of number one, not to light up the creek. But I have a question about number two, when you do it in the daytime: you said it was about 12 feet deep. So that means the banks will have to be quite steep or you will have to widen it a bit. What are you going to have as a guardrail to prevent vehicles from entering this ravine? “
“I like to use earthworks whenever I can,” Malloy replied, “as a more subtle way to break (the guardrails). Also, anything to the patio and to the deflector, because whenever we can reduce the slopes by zigzagging downwards, we get much better infiltration. There is also the option of putting a retaining wall on one side and pushing the stream against that.
Mary Holtorf, chair of the downtown vitality committee, said she hoped the creek could be lighted up, but expressed dissatisfaction with the third alternative.
“I really think the plans lack a lot of detail about the potential,” she said. “To me, even with the daylight from the stream, it looks like a glorified parking lot. We do not have a common city center. We don’t have a large open public green space in our downtown area, and I don’t see any of that here. I just see a parking lot with a lot of trees.
Athol’s director of planning and development Eric Smith said comments from the public meeting and emailed to his office would be taken into account when deciding how best to proceed during the next phase of the project. He added that the preferred plan would be refined and presented to the public again this summer.
Greg Vine can be reached at [email protected]