In a Year, a New Rockwell Park
By STEVE COLLINS, Bristol Press

Rockwell Park In less than a year, much of Rockwell Park will be transformed.

There will be more parking, more lighting, a water-spray park, a new playground, a new skate park, a new entranceway and new courts for bocce, sand volleyball and basketball.

The first phase of construction, which is under way, should be done by July, when the next phase is slated to get started.

David Dixon, a consultant from the Cheshire-based Milone & MacBroom, said that most of the work in both phases will be done before winter returns late in 2008.

“They could be just about done” by the end of the year, Dixon said.

The overall plan, costing about $6.5 million, aims to draw people back to the park by improving its appearance, safety and recreational offerings.

In the first phase, most of the focus is on the parking lots and “trying to get the roads redone,” Dixon said.

When it’s done, the two main parking lots will connect to each other via a roundabout.

“This will pay dividends at the end of a game at Muzzy Field,” Dixon said, because cars will be able to depart from the lots in more directions. It should serve “to take the edge off” the post-game congestion, he said.

A new sign at the Park Street entrance will be made of river cobblestone of the type used extensively for buildings, columns, towers and more within the historic West End park.

A new basketball court is going in behind Muzzy Field’s centerfield fence. The former court site is slated to become a skate park.

The second phase of construction, which will cost about $2 million, will put in a new playground, divided into a section for toddler and another for older children.

The new playground will be fully accessible with a safety surface, Dixon said. But he’s not sure what material will be used. That will depend on how much money there is, officials said.

More lighting, accessible walkways, a new restroom and a spray park are going in as well, located between the skate park and the Little League fields to the west.

The old stone tower there will be renovated and may be used to hold the mechanicals for the spray park, Dixon said.

There will be horseshoe and bocce courts, plus two sand volleyball courts. Two new picnic pavilions are also planned, Dixon said.

The old maintenance road on the south side of the playground will be paved and about 49 parking spaces added there, with a turnaround near the lower of the two Little League fields.

Officials said one idea is to renovate and light that field and perhaps add irrigation as well.

A small parking lot outside the fence in left field will be improved somewhat and organized better, Dixon said. It will be gravel, not paved, to help the environment.

The final phase of Rockwell Park’s renovation will likely begin in 2009 and will focus on the lagoon area. Details of the final phase are not complete, but they include filling in about half the lagoon and creating a wetlands environment on the eastern portion of it.

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