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Parks With View Seen For Quechee

Hartford Unveils Viewing Site  On Ottauquechee

Quechee — Hartford officials are asking for public input on how to convert two small parcels on the north side of the Quechee Covered Bridge into viewing spots for the falls below on the Ottauquechee River.

Hartford Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg said the parks would serve tourists and beautify an area heavily damaged more than two years ago during floods brought on by Tropical Storm Irene. One of the parcels is a parking lot, and the other was the site of the Quechee Associates real estate building, which was razed two months ago.

“It will be an asset to the neighborhood that will be enjoyed by thousands of people each year,” Rieseberg said. “It really will be a beautiful area.”

More than a dozen Hartford leaders and residents met in Quechee earlier this month to discuss plans for the parks, which would include sitting areas, trees and shrubbery, walkways and a viewing platform. Presently, the end of the parking lot nearest the river is lined with concrete barriers; the parcel formerly occupied by the building is barricaded by a chain-linked fence.

Hartford Selectman F.X. Flinn said the parks are estimated to cost $300,000.

The building lot was acquired by the town through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The program — for buildings damaged in natural disasters that pose an ongoing safety risk — stipulates that no building can be rebuilt on the land.

Hartford officials said the parks would be an asset to the community and carry little risk of property damage in the event of a severe storm.

Another meeting on the park project will be held on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Quechee Club. A design selected by residents at the meeting earlier this month is being redrafted by Bob White, of White River Junction-based ORW Landscape Architects and Planners, and will be presented Wednesday, Rieseberg said.

The project could be put before the Selectboard for a vote as early as December, with an eye to be included in the 2014-2015 budget.

Flinn said the covered bridge that connects Route 4 with Quechee Main Street was the “very first piece of infrastructure built in the town” in the 1700s, making it a popular tourist attraction. The latest $2.2-million bridge reopened last winter after being rebuilt following Irene.

“It has always been a key location for the economic health of the town,” Flinn said. “We have this piece of property, we can’t just let it sit there and be a hole in the ground.

“A nice little park is just going to add to the enjoyment of everyone who lives here and everyone who visits here. Whatever it costs, it will wind up paying for itself over and over again,” he added.

Joanne Roth, treasurer of the Hartford Tree Board, who attended the meeting, said creating a “more attractive” area and providing residents and visitors with a safe place to view the falls on the Ottauquechee River are among the project’s selling points.

“When it rains and the river is flowing, there is a lot of spray. It’s kind of fun,” Roth said.

Another feature Roth would like to see incorporated into the project is a clearly marked trailhead for the Ottauquechee Trail. The existing trailhead is beside a pump station on the edge of the parking lot. Rieseberg said the design might connect the trail with the sidewalk system.

Not everyone, however, sees a need for the project.

Bonnie Kordylewski, who was visiting from France, said she likes the area just as it is, explaining the unaltered setting is a reason why Vermont is unique.

“I like to keep things as natural as possible,” Kordylewski said, as she peered over a concrete barrier and took snap shots of the river with her camera. “I wouldn’t like it to be transformed into a public place.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.