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First phase of West River Park project complete

Committee still needs more than $200,000 to finish new town recreation area

BRATTLEBORO—On June 27, 2011, the ceremonial first shovel of earth for West River Park was turned over in a weed-choked former cornfield off Route 30.

Three-hundred and sixty-five days later, the town Recreation & Parks Department and the West River Park Committee celebrated the progress that has been made in building Brattleboro’s newest recreation area, and to make another pitch for the last bit of funding to complete the project.

The town approved a $250,000 bond in 2008 to buy the land for the 10.7 acre West River Park, but the rest of the total $939,500 cost of building the park is being funded by private donors.

At a news conference last Wednesday, Recreation & Parks Department Director Carol Lolatte said the first phase of the construction has been completed, with a softball diamond, a practice field, and a lacrosse/soccer field now in place.

In addition, the access drive and parking area has been completed, as well as general landscaping and a gravel walking path around the park’s perimeter. Also in place are storm water management and erosion control measures, an irrigation system, and electrical service.

More than $700,000 of donations and pledges have been collected to pay for the work done so far, Lolatte said.

Still to be done are about $240,000 worth of other improvements to the field.

“The game is not over yet,” Lolatte said. “The game is just beginning.”

While Lolatte said “the big stuff is in the door,” there still is a need for one final push of fundraising. Part of that push is a $40,000 challenge grant from The Thomas Thompson Trust. Lolatte said about $8,000 has been raised so far to match it.

The next phase of the park project includes putting up the backstop, fencing, and benches for the softball diamond; buying soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey goals; and installing a sewer line.

The final phase includes building a concession stand, rest rooms, a maintenance building, and a picnic area; installing lights and a scoreboard for the softball diamond; and finishing off the landscaping around the park.

“Phase one was the most important, and the most costly part,” said West River Park Committee Chair Paul Freed. “But the footprint is here and the park is set.”

But it’s not yet ready to be used. Even though, to passers-by, the fields look ready, Lolatte said they want to keep people off the playing fields until the grass has had time to take root.

“The gates are locked for a reason,” she said. “We want people to stay out and give the grass a chance to grow.”

If all goes well, Lolatte said the soccer/lacrosse field will be ready to use this fall, and the softball field will be put into service for the 2013 season.

When that happens, it will mark the culmination of a nearly-decade-long effort to find more recreation space for a town whose existing facilities are nearly maxed out.

“This will be a nice complement to Living Memorial Park,” said Lolatte. “It was never meant to be a replacement.”

Those interested in making donations, or assisting with the fundraising effort, should contact Lolatte at 802-254-5808, e-mail westriverpark@brattleboro.org, or visit the West River Park page on Facebook.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #159 (Wednesday, July 4, 2012).

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