ROCKINGHAM -- Two of the villages of Rockingham will receive nearly a combined half-million dollars to reimburse them for clean-up of the sites for local parks projects.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced Saxtons River has been named the recipient of a $275,500 grant to clean up the Sandri property and River Mill Park sites, while the Bellows Falls Historical Society, Inc. will be awarded $200,000 for the Historic Riverfront Park and Trail System project. The money is a fraction of the $17.48 million in Brownfields grants the EPA is bestowing upon municipalities and organizations working to protect people's health by assessing and cleaning contaminated parcels throughout New England. The grants -- funded by EPA's brownfields assessment, revolving loan fund, and cleanup grant program -- are aimed at boosting local economies and increasing jobs while maintaining public health and the environment, according to the EPA.
The EPA is awarding 48 grants to 46 different organizations.
Louise Luring, the chairwoman of the Saxtons River Village Board of Trustees, said her village will spend the money on cleanup and then get reimbursed by the grant. Saxtons River hired Scott Wunderle, a landscape architect who owns Terrigenous in Chester, and Paula Green of b.green Landscape Architects to design a park for the former Sandri building site and adjacent village-owned property.
"We have to find someone who will oversee the work. It's called a qualified environmental professional and that person has a team that does the work," Luring said Thursday. "There is still tweaking that has to happen. That is inevitable. But, basically, the design is set."
Luring said she hopes to have shovels in the ground on the site by next spring.
She said she wrote the grant and was required to attend a one-day training session at the EPA office in Chelmsford, Mass.
The session was also attended by Bellows Falls Historical Society President Dennis Ladd and executive board members Stuart Reed. Executive board member Cathy Bergmann told the Reformer the Historic Riverfront Park and Trail System project by the Adams grist mill has taken a while to get to the delicate cleanup stage because of the brownfields involved. She said work was needed to prevent the spread of any sort of contamination. Bergmann said the historical society recently completed another stage of the Riverfront Park project as part of a previous grant. She told the Reformer a deck and bird-watching overview has been developed at Cold Pond, though the area is still under construction.
According to Bergmann, the overview will eventually be dedicated to Alice Hawkes, one of the founders of Bellows Falls High School, which is now Bellows Falls Union High School. Bergmann said the dedication will take place as soon as all necessary research has been conducted and Hawkes' family has been notified. A ribbon-cutting will offer the official opening of the park's bicycle and walking paths.
Bergmann said the deck is open to any members of the public. However, planting of willows and sedges must be done on one side of the pond, she mentioned. She said it is important to reduce disturbance to the pond as much as possible because it is a crucial part of the ecosystem of the surrounding animal and plant life.
Bergmann told the Reformer there are two remaining stages to the Historic Riverfront Park and Trail System project, which she said will probably take another couple of two years to complete. She said one the final stages is landscaping.
Barre, the Green Mountain Economic Development Corp. in Bradford, and the Rutland Regional Planning Commission are the other entities that will benefit from EPA grants. Vermont towns and organizations will receive $1,475,500 in total.
"Funding provided by EPA's Brownfields program is an important asset for local communities working to get abandoned or derelict properties assessed, cleaned up and back into productive use," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "EPA's investments in our communities through Brownfields grants leverage an average of approximately $17 for every dollar we spend. This is a wise investment in cleaning and revitalizing contaminated sites, creating jobs and new economic opportunities, and overall making our communities stronger and our environment cleaner."
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.