Civil Engineer Jeffrey T. Read, left, of Sevee Maher Engineers and Landscape Designer Jessica Wagner Kimball of Terrence J. DeWan & Associates Landscape Architects and Planners presented options for developing the Wilson Lake shoreline into a comprehensive park at Wilton’s public meeting on September 23. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

WILTON— The town of Wilton held a hybrid public meeting Wednesday, September 23, so that residents could provide feedback on the 3 concept plans for replacing the Wilson Lake retaining wall, presented by Sevee & Maher Engineers (SME) and Terrence J. DeWan & Associates Landscape Architects and Planners (tjd&a).

The meeting was held at the Public Safety Building on Main Street and was also live streamed over Zoom to 11 remote attendees.

SME and tjd&a have partnered together on the project to create a comprehensive plan that will not only replace the 20-year-old retaining wall, but also incorporate a landscaped, pedestrian path that would link Bass Park and the lake’s shoreline to the downtown village.

To pay for the project, the town is applying for a federal grant offered by the Land and Water Conservation Fund which matches 50% of development project costs for public outdoor recreation. Town Manager Rhonda Irish is looking into additional grant funding to expand the project to include improvements to the boat launch area.

The 20-year-old retaining wall along Wilson Lake’s shoreline needs replacement. Wilton residents were presented with 3 concept plans to incorporate a new wall into a pedestrian friendly park along the shoreline. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

The three options for replacing the retaining wall include a rip rap wall, a living shoreline or a concrete wall. The rip rap option protects the shoreline with a layer of sloped stones with an underlining that prevents sediment from permeating the wall. The living shoreline uses a mix of stones and plants to soften waves.

The three concept plans would integrate one of these retaining wall options with a landscape design to create a linear-shaped, lakeside park.

“What we realized as we looked into this project is that there’s a tremendous opportunity to develop this part of town as a resource for the community,” SME Civil Engineer Jeffrey T. Read said.

Concept 1, deemed the most simplistic approach by tjd&a Landscape Designer Jessica Wagner Kimball, connects a crosswalk from downtown to a pedestrian pathway that follows the shoreline. The plan maintains the sidewalk to Bass Park as well as the water access point on the western side of the shoreline, and includes angled parking facing the lake.

Concept 2 proposes a cantilevered boardwalk instead of the first concept’s pedestrian walkway, and includes more trees between the road front and the boardwalk. The plan also includes an amphitheater built into the grade of  the eastern shoreline.

Concept 3 incorporates a soft water edge with a vegetated shoreline by using the living shoreline retaining wall option. The plan follows the same design as concept 2 for the western side of the shoreline, but offers an elevated overlook on the eastern side.

So in this proposal we have an extended overlook, it’s sort of a hardscape or paved overlook that could be populated with bench seating to allow for the view of the water over the elevated point,” Kimball said.

Selectperson Tom Saviello asked which concept and retaining wall option would be the easiest and most economical for the town to maintain.

“Each design has its own considerations,” Read said, who explained that a living shoreline typically requires the least amount of maintenance.

“Those are designed so that they’re not mowed, you get vegetation in there, actual vegetation that stabilizes the soil, mixed in with some rock and some other items that really shouldn’t require much,” Read said.

He also added that from a permitting standpoint, the boardwalk in concept 3 would pose the most potential roadblocks.

That was part of the reason why we’re looking at a cantilevered option,” Read said. “If we were to build out into the lake, then that’s a whole other level of permitting not only with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), but also with Army Corp of Engineers because you’re dealing with waterways.” 

Community members via Zoom commented that the cantilevered walkway option would obstruct the view for those who enjoy sitting in their cars to admire the lake. The raised walkway would also provide a hidden portion of the shoreline to swim under which residents voiced as a particular concern for supervising children.

Other requests included an alternative to a guardrail along the pedestrian walkway and to opt for low-lying trees or shrubs to prevent obstructing the view of the lake. A resident also suggested burying power lines along the shoreline and painting benches more natural colors as opposed to the current red color.

At Wilton’s public meeting on September 23, a resident requested that new benches be painted a more natural color. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

A resident suggested researching ways to make the linear park more handicapped-accessible which Read pointed out would increase the level of permitting because that would involve ramps.

SME and tjd&a will be reviewing the feedback they received and developing a concept that reflects the concerns and desires expressed at the meeting. The town must first secure funding before construction could begin on the Wilson Lake shoreline in 2022.



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