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Earth Moving Equipment Enters City Meadow

An excavator was pawing at the ground on the morning of Wednesday, August 16, in the hollow below Station Place, and a line of erosion barriers stretched along the surrounding slopes—construction on the City Meadow park in downtown Norfolk has finally begun.

Over the next 65 days, construction crews will dig a small pond near the fire station and a looping circular boardwalk around it, with an access point at Shepard Road and another at the lawn behind the Haystack Pizza building on Route 44. The thicket of phragmites reeds that fills the sunken wetland will be replaced with native plantings.

The park is projected to cost $735,000, most of which will be paid from a state grant while the remainder is being privately raised. A fund drive is currently in progress to secure the last $55,000.

The town bought the City Meadow plot in the 1970s, and its restoration was conceived as a way to turn the vacant land in the downtown center into a focal point and link the neighborhoods around it.

The initial plan included a path sloping down to the meadow from Robertson Plaza, but the retaining wall was judged too unstable to support a walkway. Other solutions for an access point at Station Place proved too costly and were abandoned, at least for the current phase of the project.

First Selectman Sue Dyer, who wrote the initial grant and oversees the project from Town Hall, announced at a meeting of the City Meadow Committee on August 14 that she had successfully negotiated a $65,000 reduction in price with the contractor, largely by agreeing to the selective use cheaper materials.

The work is expected to take 65 days to complete, allowing sufficient time to build the boardwalk and install the plantings before the first hard frosts in November.

At the meeting, Dyer said she does not expect the state’s budget woes to prevent payment of the promised $500,000 grant. “I’ve been told that the grant money has nothing to do with the budget fight that’s going on now.”

—Wiley Wood

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