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Selectmen To Take Closer Look At Veterans Park Drainage Issues

May 20, 2019 03:09PM ● By Lisa Redmond

DRACUT – With $1.5 million at stake to renovate and resolve drainage issues at Veterans Memorial Park, a Blackberry Fields Road resident told the Board of Selectmen this week that any changes to the park’s drainage system needs to accommodate the runoff from nearby neighborhoods.

At the upcoming June 3 annual Town Meeting, voters will be asked to approve Article 40 which requests spending a total of $5.4 million to create an athletic complex at Dracut High School, complete with new turf fields.

A projected $1.5 million of that total is earmarked for Veterans Memorial Park at 80 Broadway Road to replace the Splash N Play splash pad and correct long-standing issues at the park that Town Manager Jim Duggan said have caused “horrific’’ drainage issues turning the area into a seasonal mud pit.

Susan Koufogazos, of 22 Blackberry Fields Road, told the Selectmen on Tuesday that when her subdivision was built more than 20 years ago the drainage was designed to flow from her neighborhood merge with drainage from another subdivision and stormwater that would flow across the park and into a large swale.

When the park was created, providing playing fields, playgrounds, walking trails and wetlands to enjoy nature, “some wonderful things were added’’ but the swale was largely eliminated and replaced by catch basins.

“During the course of 20 plus years of living before, during and after that, I can tell you those catch basins didn’t work,’’ she told the board. A significant amount of water flows out onto the soccer fields soaking the area.

Her concern is that the project engineers consider all the water sources that flow to the park, devise a plan to accommodate that water flow and not have the water back up into the neighborhoods, she said.

“It would not do if we took $1.5 million, did a repair on the fields and created a problem upstream into my neighborhood,’’ she said.

Koufogazos said she recently met with Dracut’s Chief Engineer Mark Hamel to walk the site and detail her concerns. “Some points we agree on and other points we agree to disagree on,’’ she said.

In discussing Article 40, Selectman Chairman Jesse Forcier suggested the board do a site visit with the town engineer and the project engineer to get “more clarification’’ about the drainage plans. Board members who are available will meet at the park on May 21.

Koufogazos also has aired her concerns about the drainage issues at the park at a May 1 Conservation Commission meeting. At that meeting, Hamel explained that the park has endured 20 years of hard use which has pounded the soil and grass into hardpacked dirt that no longer drains water, creating pools of water on the playing fields.

The plans call for placing the old soil with nutrient-rich soil and planting grass. The combination of soil that will drain the water and grass that will absorb the water should help solve the drainage. About a

foot of soil will need to be replaced on the football and soccer fields and the infield on the baseball field are will be reworked.

As for Koufogazos’ concerns, Hamel said he anticipates a “net reduction’’ of water runoff because there will be better drainage with new soil and grass that will absorb water.

The park will be closed for two years with the first year being used to do the work and the second year to allow the grass to take root, Hamel said.

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