Middlebury riverfront project taking shape

MIDDLEBURY — It was way too frigid to pause for a view of the Otter Creek Falls in Middlebury last week, but a work crew braved the elements to rough out the contours of a new park area in the Marble Works that will really start to take shape next spring.
Middlebury’s Riverfront Committee, with the aid of LandWorks and Acker Excavating, took the first steps in what will eventually lead to the construction of terraces on the banks of the creek next to the Marble Works side of the footbridge. The ultimate project — to be funded through a $240,000 state grant and a $63,892 local match — will also include a sidewalk connecting the footbridge with Printer’s Alley.
Last week saw workers remove some of the invasive species — such as box elders — along the Marble Works side of the creek. The heavy equipment also moved the marble waste and fine sand to fashion what will be the terraced park area, which will be developed further for a path and sitting area to enjoy views of the falls and river. The improved “park” area has been in the planning stages for the past two years.
Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington and Riverfront Committee member Nancy Malcolm explained that invasive species on the creek’s Marble Works shoreline will be replaced with native species.
Two separate grants of $5,000 and $15,000, respectively, are helping to make this site prep-work possible. That work will also eventually include putting in a path from the pedestrian bridge to the eddy area at the base of the falls to improve public access to the river and ledges. This path would be grass, but made so that an emergency vehicle could go on it if necessary, according to Malcolm. It would also function as a stormwater sand filter between the Marble Works and the Otter Creek. Some of the grant money will pay for plantings and to build the stormwater sand filter and rain gardens, one by the Stone Mill Building and others along the wetlands between the footbridge and the eddy.
“We are doing as much work as we can right now,” Dunnington said.
The project could soon benefit from some stone used at the nearby Cross Street Bridge project. This white stone was temporarily placed in the center of the Otter Creek to form an island from which workers erected some temporary steel piers to aid in construction of the bridge. Once the bridge girders are firmly in place, the steel piers will be removed later this winter. Some of the white stone on which the piers are sitting will be removed from the creek and transferred to the Marble Works where it will form a base for the riverfront project.
“(The Marble Works) is the shortest place to truck it and we won’t be paying for it,” Malcolm said.
The availability of the free stone, she noted, precipitated this preparatory work on the project.
Riverfront Committee members are not sure when the entire project will be completed, though they are hoping to make significant headway next spring. The main grant for the terracing project will not be available until 2011. Malcolm noted the property might look a little disheveled for a while, but only temporarily.
“Please note that the river bank will look somewhat rough with areas of white stones until we are able to finish grading the terraces and walls, put soil over this base rock and seed it to grass,” Malcolm stated in a letter updating the project.
“The end result will not be a white rock park. The white rock will be an interim stage.”

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