Friday, June 22, 2001
State funds major Great Brook Farm renovation
The Great Brook Farm State Park staff are celebrating approval of close to a million dollars from the state for a major upgrade of facilities. The project contains items long sought by park superintendent Ray Faucher and is guaranteed to please the more than 200,000 people who take advantage of the park's educational and recreational offerings each year.
A look at the architect's plans followed by a guided tour with Faucher, whose enthusiasm is unconditional, conjured up an impressive mental image of what's to come. Equally reassuring to the many hikers, skiers, fishermen and paddlers is the knowledge that the woodland paths, pools and off-trail haunts beyond what Faucher calls "The Hub" will not be affected.
The heart of the plan is to provide universal access and enjoyment of the family-oriented facilities while substantially enhancing the beauty and sustainability of the landscape surrounding the entrance pond. The work has been divided into two major construction projects. The first calls for adding an open-air pavilion on a knoll across from the barn. This rustic structure will contain an interpreters' (naturalists') office, a kiosk, display areas and, at the rear, full bathroom facilities that can be heated year-round. The building will serve as a universal entrance to farm facilities and the extensive trail network beyond.
Contoured bowl surrounds pond
The second project is an ambitious overhaul of the site itself, designed to expand visitor options and sustain threatened landscape features, particularly the pond. The concept, developed by the architects from EMG Landscaping, looks at the pond as the low point and focus of a contoured bowl. The parking lot will be moved to a higher location away from the water and closer to Lowell Street. The land around the pond, including the present parking area, will be converted to a grassy sward that will extend up the hill toward the barn and ice cream stand, offering a green vista in the summer and a sledding slope for small-fry in the winter.
From the pavilion atop the knoll, universal-access pathways, five or six feet wide and with no more than a five percent slope at any point, will provide an outlook above the pond on one side and over the neighboring wetland on the other. Similar pathways will lead to terraces above the pond at two levels, featuring stone "sitting walls" that double as terrain retainers. Another path will lead the walker or wheeler to a picnic spot surrounded by a butterfly garden.
No unnatural materials
To carry out the architect's interest in preserving the natural features of the landscape, the pathways will have no railings and will follow the existing contours of the "bowl." Faucher notes that the primary site designer Andrew Leonard is so determined to avoid any unnatural materials or constructs that he has even checked out the color of the indigenous rocks to make certain that any imported pieces will blend in properly.
A ten-year effort
Faucher is more than happy to relate the ups and downs of the project and how it finally got the go-ahead in a period of tight state budgets. It all started in the early nineties when the superintendent reported the obvious need for bathroom facilities to replace the uninviting Clivus toilets and got a positive reply. However, because the parking lot was clearly inadequate and located too close to the pond, Faucher recommended a coordinated capital plan to include both.
Not much progress was made until, in 1996, the park got a serendipitous assist when the state proclaimed a "Clean State Initiative" that mandated state parks to come into compliance with their own Department of Environmental Management regulations. Faucher was able to show the inspectors a number of gross violations. The parking lot was too close to the pond. There was serious erosion of its banks caused by water flow from three separate watersheds, resulting in what park employees dubbed the "Carlisle Canyons." Both of these factors brought heavy silting-in of the popular duck habitat. The result of these "matters," as they were called in the officialese of a Stone and Webster report, was an environmental deadline for compliance. As Faucher put it, "The bathroom was not a 'matter,' but the water runoff definitely was." Correcting that problem led to acceptance of the site plan, which then logically suggested simultaneous construction of the pavilion.
Pavilion funding promised
The superintendent's capital plan was reviewed by the regional supervisor, the director of forests and parks, the chief planner and finally the project review committee. The $400,000 to $500,000 cost of the site work has already been made available, with a firm promise that $450,000 for the pavilion will follow in the near future. Faucher is urging a decision to fund and build the pavilion first, in order to avoid damage to the new access road and parking lot from the heavy equipment that would have to be brought in.
Faucher said that the final timetable is in the hands of the commissioner of the department of environmental management Peter Webber, in case anyone wishes to comment on the matter. Whatever the decision on priorities, the project will go out to bid in July, and Faucher will be meeting with applicable Carlisle town boards over the summer, anticipating a September start date.
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