The final phase of a $7 million overhaul of Rockwell Park – which includes refilling the long-drained lagoon – will get underway this summer and ought to be nearly finished by winter.
Park Director Ed Swicklas said the final part of the three-year project to renovate the historic West End park calls for fixing the lagoon area as well as repairing stone towers and the columns on the bridge across the Pequabuck River.
A Bristol company, Mastrobattisto Construction, won the $2.33 million contract to carry out the final phase of the project by submitting the lowest of five bids for the work.
“This economy almost did us a favor” by holding down the expense, Swicklas said, allowing officials to get more work done for a better price than expected.
The second phase of the renovation, which focused mostly on Mrs. Rockwell’s Playground and some recreational facilities nearby, is nearly done.
Swicklas said they should be complete by the end of June.
“We’re right on track, hopefully, to bring that park back to life,” Swicklas said.
The $500,000 skatepark that opened last fall has already served to bring people back into the park. Swicklas said it’s attracting as many as 500 young people daily.
The toughest part of the remaining project is to get the planned wetlands that will take up the eastern half of the lagoon done correctly, officials said. It will be hard to have it exactly right, they said.
The plan for the final phase calls for extending the stone wall around the entire lagoon area and filling about half of it with more than 9 feet of water. The other half would be turned into a wetlands area that would allow visitors to view a swampy habitat and the creatures that live in one, including birds.
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 became increasingly forgotten and neglected. Its much-loved lagoon, which older residents remember as a summertime staple, was drained a decade ago after swimmers came down with a mysterious rash and health officials recommended the end to swimming there.
The project’s goal is to pump life back into a dying park, to bring people back into one of the city's crown jewels, an 87-acre park that industrialist Albert Rockwell donated during the Progressive Era.
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