By the time school ends next June, most of the Rockwell Park renovation will be done, officials said Wednesday.
The city’s Park Board unanimously backed the hiring of the Schulz Corp. for $2.3 million to carry on the second phase of the park’s overhaul. It got $1.6 million for doing the initial part of the massive project.
By next summer, Park Director Ed Swicklas said, the city should be ready to embark on the last part of the $6.5 million reconstruction of the historic West End park, including restoring a section of the long-drained lagoon.
The City Council is likely to give its blessing to the contractor at a special meeting next week, which would allow the company to plow right into the next round of work.
Among the items included in the second phase are a new playground, a volleyball court, lights for one of the existing ball fields, landscaping of the skatepark and a host of other improvements aimed at making the park safer and busier.
Swicklas said the timing is working out perfectly.
Because the new contract will be in place as the contractor is finishing up the first phase, he said, Schulz can continue to work seamlessly, making it possible to get a substantial amount of the project done before winter.
During the cold months, Swicklas said, the contractor can do some work inside, then finish everything up in the spring.
The skatepark’s construction, which is being done by a California company, is expected to begin at month’s end and take less than 90 days.
At the moment, the new parking lots are largely finished, new sidewalks are taking shape and a new entrance to the park is rising to the east of the old Spanish-American War statue on Park Street.
Swicklas said that a substantial amount of topsoil has been made ready for plantings, too.
He said the first phase of the work “should be substantially complete” by the second week of August.
The renovation of Rockwell Park reached the city’s agenda during the brief administration of former Mayor Gerard Couture, who pushed a far-reaching plan to pump life into most of the city’s parks.
Though plans for Page Park fell by the wayside, the commitment of the city to the Rockwell Park project has never faltered, not even when $4 million in anticipated state aid never materialized.
City officials said the park needed the work anyhow and if the state wouldn’t contribute, it would still get done. But officials are also still lobbying for the cash from Hartford.
Rockwell Park, which is on the National Historic Register, was created almost a century ago to provide a place for working people to get out and enjoy nature in a rustic setting. For decades, it was one of the most thriving spots in town.
But during the past twenty years, it has become increasingly forgotten and neglected. Its much-loved lagoon was drained a decade ago after swimmers came down with a mysterious rash and health officials recommended the end to swimming there.
Here's an earlier blog entry with more details about the project.
Here's a brief history of Rockwell Park by Gail Leach.
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