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Emery Park Subcommittee sets priorities

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KENT—The Park and Recreation Commission’s Emery Park Subcommittee made a gimlet-eyed assessment of the park Friday, May 10, and established four priorities: a refurbished natural pool, parking that would make ADA access easier, upgraded hiking trails and signage, and a resolution of drainage problems off Route 341.

The Emery Park pool, closed since before Covid, will need restoration before it can again be used by the town. Photo by Kathryn Boughton

In a walk-about subcommittee members discussed the assets and deficits of the park, which is located on Route 341 east of the Kent Village Center. The recreation area has gained an advocate in new Park and Recreation Director Matt Busse.

“It is so beautiful, tucked away up there. It looks so stunning. Every time I am there, I think, ‘This is wonderful.’”

Busse has already determined that drainage problems in the park emanate from state property along Route 341. He told subcommittee members Friday that he will discuss solutions to the problem with the Department of Transportation. “I will discuss the next steps with them and, if it doesn’t go anywhere, I will contact our legislators,” he said. 

Subcommittee Chairman John Grant said the area is always wet, even when the weather is dry. He said he would contact Aquarion Water Company to see where its water line goes. “A pipe may be broken,” he said, adding that it would have been going on for many years.

Moving down into the park, subcommittee members looked at the playground and the former swimming pool, which has been closed since before Covid. There is currently $150,000 in the capital plan to refurbish the pool, but committee members concurred that a pool professional is needed to determine what it will cost to restore the pool.

To assess the pool, it must be completely drained. Busse said he has conferred with Department of Public Works foreman Rick Osborne about releasing the water slowly, so it does not surge into waterways downstream.

Grant reported that the last time the pool was worked on was in 2014-15. “I pushed the sand off and it doesn’t look horrible,” he said. He conceded that townspeople have not been enthusiastic about the pool in the past. “Twenty-five years ago, we had a plan to do this, and the town voted it down,” he said. “They wanted a full Gunnite pool.”

But Busse argued that natural pools are gaining popularity and can be attractive. “It brings in a more natural feeling rather than a square, sterilized pool,” he said. 

He said bio-filters can be used to ensure water purity, or the water can be chlorinated as it enters the pool. In addition, plantings around the edges can offer natural filtration as well as physically enhancing the beauty of the pool. 

Subcommittee members said the moving water in the spring-fed pool has helped to keep it open even when other towns have had to close theirs because of high bacterial counts. An aerator used overnight also reduces bacterial growth. Busse said a new aerator is already in his office. 

“People are going to say the pool is only used three months out of the year and why are we spending this money,” said Grant. He said there was sentiment for an inground pool at Kent Commons Park, which would also serve residents of South Commons affordable housing.

The main parking lot for the park is currently located at road level, but members envision another parking lot down the slope near the playground. This, they say, would make access to the pool and picnic area more accessible for persons with handicaps.

Busse said a pavilion located near the pool with nearby bathroom facilities and picnic tables would be “fantastic.” “If we are making this a really great place, we need bathroom facilities,” he said.

Attention turned to the two trails at the park. Busse said that he and Park and Recreation Commission Chairman Rufus P. de Rahm have been working on the Blue Trail “and did a good bit of trimming of downed trees.” They also cleared away low-hanging foliage on the “last little slope so you don’t have to duck under the trees.” 

He added that some trees are choked by invasive vines and will probably have to come down.

Busse has also secured metallic trail markers. It was suggested that it would be good to get youth volunteers to put up the markers.

It was also suggested that local Boy Scouts could maintain the second, more accessible trail.

Grant said he would submit applications for trail grants this winter. “There is good money out there,” he reported. 

Kathryn Boughton
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