Celeron Trail, Wetlands Get A Spruce Up
Published: Thursday, April 6, 2006
Updated: Monday, January 18, 2010 16:01
On a mild day, it's typical to see half a dozen students or so jogging over the Celeron trail through what appears to be a substantial taste of nature, minus the growing litter of broken glass, empty cans and trash lining the sides. Yet a group of UConn students, faculty and staff have combined heads to collaborate and create a dynamic plan for a larger outdoor recreation site for the public to enjoy.
A series of connecting trails is planned to undergo construction this summer, according to Richard Miller, director of Environmental Policy. The project, which is planned for completion in approximately one year, calls for a trail system that connects to existing trail systems on and off campus for the public's enjoyment.
According to Miller, the first process leading toward the construction of the proposed trail plan will begin early this summer with two preliminary projects. One of them is the reconstruction of an 18-inch water main running from depot campus to the main campus where a major portion of the university's water supply derives from. Miller said there are four key wells in the Willimantic Well Field by depot campus that, in addition to the Fenton River, supply all of campus.
This iron water main, Miller said, has to be replaced due to corrosion and rusting. This initiation of the project can be seen via the construction vehicles and cleared dirt road just past Holinko Estates off Hunting Lodge Road on the right.
Along with this onset is a major environmental precaution with the landfill currently located directly off the Celeron trail.
"The first thing we have to do is excavate some of the wetlands by the landfill," Miller said, as the first step to establish leachate collection trenches.
These trenches will serve the purpose of preventing and trapping any present contamination in the fractured bedrock beneath the landfill as well as avert rainfall from traveling through the landfill to adjacent surfaces underneath the ground. The collected water will then be pumped to the sewer treatment plant. Yet, the landfill's future holds a silver lining in the end.
"After we put an impervious cap over that to prevent contamination we're going to top it off with pavement for a future parking lot that will hold 700 spaces," Miller said.
According to Miller, the costs of ensuring the environmental safety of the landfill has amounted to a $25 million clean-up. Of that amount, $12 million has already been spent in the investigation process to see what is contaminated in the area and to what extent the contamination has spread to. The trail project, on the other hand, will only cost $150,000 to replant the wetlands.
Miller saw the potential of getting the university involved instead of just relying on contractors and subcontractors and tried to find ways to get students and faculty of the landscape architecture program involved in the process.
"We wanted the trails to be more than just trails," Miller said. "We wanted it to be more aesthetically pleasing with inviting entrances and landscapes. I saw this project as something of an opportunity for our own students studying landscape architecture."
It was from here that his intern, Andrea Vassallo, a 6th-semester landscape architecture student, stepped in. According to Miller, Vassallo presented the project to Kristin Schwab, a plant science professor, who then split her students into groups to create the plan, which can be seen in the mezzanine of the Homer Babbidge Library.
The students, Miller said, contrived different plans consisting of inviting landscapes, welcoming entrances, lamp posts, parking and planters to enhance the features for the public. On top of the existing vernal pools, an additional vernal pool will be created generally behind the Clubhouse apartment complex.
The paths themselves, according to Miller, will be more of an unpaved footpath with a stone dust surface consisting of a very fine grey gravel. They will connect with existing trails and wind around the 61-acre parcel of land that has been set aside for preservation. This piece of land, Miller said, holds a special interest for faculty, students and community members alike because of its unique inhabitant.
"The preserved parcel is half wetlands, half upland," Miller said. "But what's special about this land is the presence of the Great Blue Heron. It can be seen with its long neck fishing in the small streams. There are about a dozen nesting pairs that they've constructed in the high trees."
The trails, according to Miller, will give the public access to wooden observation platforms that will be placed over certain wetland areas in points of interest in order to study not only the Great Blue Heron, but to take in the natural vernal pools and natural characteristics hidden away in the woods. One of the major footpaths will fall perpendicular to the present Celeron trail, traveling east of the landfill towards the major section of wetlands. One path will lead out toward an entrance adjacent to Holinko Estates, while another trail leads further north to Hunting Lodge Road in order to connect this trail system to that of Shelter Falls, a small-scale park with a nine-foot waterfall just off the left trail.
Seven-thousand cubic yards of organic peat-like soil excavated from the Burton Family Football Complex and the Mark R. Schenkmen Training Center will be recycled and used to restore the present wetlands. According to an article in the UConn Advance, much of the wetlands had been dug up in that area due to contamination, so the excavated soil from the new football construction sites is needed to compensate for this loss. After this process is done, the planting process will begin roughly around September or October, Miller said.
Also on Miller's list of things to do is the future plan for North Hillside Road to take off where it ends.