by Sheri Tkacz, Marketing Manager
I remember about a month after I started this job I texted a former coworker bragging about how my job that day was to look at pretty pictures of parks. Now I have a much bigger platform from which to brag about how cool my job is – and an even cooler aspect of my job to brag about. Today my job was literally a walk in the park.
Filley Park in Bloomfield, CT has been a passion project for many departments here since 2010. Our Landscape Architecture Department created the Master Plan for this 17-acre park that features an arboretum, natural playground, educational nature trails, ice skating, and fishing. Our Site/Civil Departmentassessed the stormwater managmend and designed green infrastructure measures including, rain gardens, pervious pavement and restorative riparian buffer plantings. As the pond and Wash Brook are in the FEMA floodplain, the Water and Natural Resources Department performed extensive hydraulic modeling to design stream crossings, a spillway for the new dam, and a new fishway. In addition to a new urban streetscape plaza, our team assessed and rehabilitated the park’s pond, dam, pathways, bridges, and trails.
So, needless to say, this has been (and continues to be) a MASSIVE project. And, today, I got to see it in person.
Andrea Judge, PE, who is the Project Manager for this construction phase, invited me to join her for the Phase II walk-through. Stephanie White, RLA, CNU-A, LEED AP, the project’s lead Landscape Architect, met us at the site. We were joined by the Town Engineer, the Deputy Town Engineer, and the Contractor mid-morning on an overcast day for what is called a “substantial completion walk-through”. For those of us who don’t routinely don hard hats, this means that things have been constructed and are in working order. But we’re not quite ready to officially call it “done” yet. This walk-through is a chance for those involved to inspect the construction and look for little things that still need to be done. These little things go on a “punch list” and responsibilities are assigned so that the phase can be officially completed.
I have been looking at pictures of Filley Park for a couple of years. But seeing something on a screen and seeing it in real life are vastly different experiences. Filley Park is beautiful. It seems simplistic to say that, but I can’t think of a better word. The pictures that I looked at simply don’t do it justice. And I’m making this claim when the project isn’t even completed yet. And I’m not referring to “done” like I used before – this project has several more large phases before it will be complete.
But let’s focus on today and the substantial changes that have occurred so far. If you approach on foot, you are greeted by a gorgeous stone entryway. I learned today that Steph was very selective on those stones and carried that look through to the stream they designed. Oh, yeah – did you know that people can design streams? In this case my environmental friends were concerned about the local fish. A dam was preventing the little guys from being able to go where they needed to go. So not only did our Water Resources Team remove the dam, they created a new one and made a fish channel so our aquatic friends could get from one place to another. I think that line from Jurassic Park is just always in my head: “life will find a way”. Well, with all due respect to Michael Crichton, sometimes life needs a helping hand. And here, it got one.
I mentioned earlier that the site was in a FEMA floodplain. Basically this means that the area floods a lot. Our tour today was even in jeopardy because of all the rain we’ve been having. So this site required a new dam, but it also had to comply with certain regulations. The old dam wasn’t quite up to the conditions, but this new dam – well, it’s ready for Mother Nature! The dam was designed to overtop and an auxiliary spillway was installed if the water does get that high, which will prevent the dam from eroding. Thinking ahead – nice touch team! There is a foot bridge (one of two designed by our structural department) that goes over the dam that even has removable railings in case the water gets REALLY high. While I hope the water never gets that high, it’s nice to know that someone is thinking about it!
So there’s obviously water on site – and now there are fountains! A large pond holds two lit fountains, and I got to witness their debut! While they had a calming effect on me, they seemed to disrupt the geese. And speaking of the geese, the contractor had installed lights throughout the area that were specially designed to keep geese away. Did you know there was such a thing???
I felt a little bad walking in some areas because they had just seeded and the grass was just starting to come in. But even that glimpse of green gives you insight to what this park is going to look like in future phases. There’s a large island in the middle and I’m pretty sure I heard someone mention “mediation garden”. I got to see all of the native plantings that were just starting to bloom – both beautiful and full of purpose (they help with flood control). Several trees were replanted and just starting to show their buds. This was just so much better than my usual view: blue cubicle walls.
One could easily forget as we’re walking around this paradise that we were actually there to do work! There were little things here and there that needed addressing (minor cleanup, additional soil needed, the potential that a beaver had gnawed away at some of the trees…). What was really nice was that, in this peaceful space, these items were addressed peacefully. When an issue arose, everyone threw out their solutions and each was evaluated and respected, and a consensus was reached. It was really nice to watch this team work together. No egos, no finger-pointing, just collaboration and resolution. Those on site today have been involved in this project for many years, and each is emotionally invested in this park. And it shows.
We were there for about two hours and left with an agreed-upon punch list. I think it’s worth noting that the walk-through was planned for an hour. From my perspective, this extended experience was a direct result of everyone’s true passion for this project. When’s the last time you got excited about dirt? We did – today. I’m in the middle of a pretty stressful week (a bunch of deadlines) and I would have happily stayed out there all day talking about rocks and seeding and rodents – not because I was avoiding my deadlines, but in spite of them. I would have gladly worked until midnight tonight getting my desk tasks accomplished for a couple more hours of true relaxation. When I returned to my desk to find that magic elves hadn’t done my work for me, that sense of peace remained and I managed to get everything done. Today truly was a walk in the park.
About the Team
Stephanie’s expertise ranges from sophisticated planting designs, park master planning, housing, education facilities, and, most recently, new urbanism techniques. She is a licensed landscape architect and an accredited professional with the Congress of New Urbanism and U.S. Green Building Council. Stephanie holds a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Andrea brings a strong practical background to the team, providing expertise in construction engineering, constructability reviews, and preparation of technical specifications. Typical projects have included dam removal and improvement design, dam construction administration services, design of building foundations for vertical construction, waterfront, and bridge structures.
Sheri Tkacz has degrees in English and International Pastry and is happy to be employed. She would like to thank both Stephanie and Andrea for taking her to this awesome walk in the park.