WILTON — Concept designs to replace the Wilson Lake retaining wall were reviewed on Tuesday, Dec. 29, during a public Zoom meeting hosted by the town of Wilton. Jeff Read from Sevee & Maher Engineers (SME) and Jessica Kimball from Terrence J. DeWan & Associates Landscape Architects and Planners (tjd&a) presented two designs, Concept A and Concept B.

Both concepts include a paved parking area and pedestrian access connecting downtown Wilton to the lake and Bass Park with a 6 foot wide waterfront pathway and crosswalks. The current, 20-year-old cement retaining wall would be replaced by a rip rap wall which utilizes layers of stone to break waves and prevent erosion.

Parks and Recreation Director Frank Donald expressed concerns about vegetation sprouting out of the rip rap wall and causing maintenance issues.

“There will be some vegetation that will grow on there over time and that’s kind of what you plan for,” Read said. “There will be a geotextile separation fabric so we’ll take that in, lay that bank back, put down some fabric that will help with erosion. It’s basically there to prevent the soil from leaching out through the stone, but it will have the added benefit of prohibiting weed growth.” 

Compared to the other retaining wall structures presented to residents in September, Read said that the rip rap wall is the most middle of the road option as it provides a somewhat natural aesthetic, is structurally effective and economical.

Wilton resident Peter Campion who lives directly across the street from the Wilson Lake waterfront suggested using larger rocks for the rip rap wall to prevent vandalism.

From what we’ve seen in the 25 years we’ve been daily looking at that rock wall, most of the repairs have probably originated in vandalism with people removing stones from it,” Campion said. “So if you’re going to use rip rap, it’s going to have to be sufficiently large that people can’t get their feet under it and push it into the lake or pick it up.”

Read said that rip rap typically uses very sharp, angular, crushed material but based on the feedback that he was receiving, would create a design that opts for larger, smooth and rounded stones. 

Both concepts incorporate an additional access point for swimmers by recessing steps into the existing cement wall that would descend into the water. Donald also requested that space would be reserved for the seasonal ladder that residents use for water access in the summer.

Concept A maintains the current parking configuration which requires the waterfront pathway to closely hug the shoreline.

Concept A maintains the current parking configuration along Wilson Lake in Wilton. The plan includes a pathway that closely hugs the shoreline which may require a railing installation. Photo courtesy of tjd&a

“In this situation where we have an improved walkway immediately adjacent to the water, we imagine that some sort of handrail is going to be required for permitting,” Kimball said. “When we make an improvement, we need to bring it up to code and so this walkway along the waterfront may require that handrail.” 

Residents present for the Zoom meeting voiced concern about a handrail component as it may impair the view for motorists who enjoy the waterfront from their vehicles in the parking area.

Concept B eliminates the handrail requirement by integrating parallel parking into the design which leaves more space to bring the pathway further from the shoreline.

Concept B introduces parallel parking on Lake Road in Wilton, allowing for more greenspace along the Wilson Lake shoreline. Photo courtesy of tjd&a

“What this does is open up 12 feet of grass between the edge of the waterfront and where that 6 foot walkway is going to be,” Kimball said. “So you’ll have your 12 foot of grass, 6 feet of walkway and then you’ll have about ten feet of parking in the parallel parking space.”

Read said that he was a proponent of Concept B since it adds more green space and the parallel parking would act as a traffic calmer and allow the fire department to easily access the waterfront.

“The fire department wanted space down here so that they could come in, drop a hose and test pumping equipment,” Read said. “This option here [Concept B] is going to provide that, it’s just a better situation for vehicle traffic and a better situation for pedestrians. Overall, it’s safer and it will be, I think, more functional and a little easier to maintain.

Summer resident Holly Windle favored Concept B as it did not include a handrail but feared that the parallel parking would rile some residents.   

“Parallel parking is going to be a big change…because the drivers will not be able to just pull in and be there for 5 minutes while they’re drinking their coffee quite so easily,” Windle said. “But I see that that’s a trade off, so I guess that is the version that I would go for.”

Residents proposed a hybrid option that would include both parallel and linear parking spaces. Both Donald and Selectperson Tom Saviello met this idea with skepticism for its potential to further congest and confuse traffic.

I think you need to go back to plan A and just look at that. The choices are this [Concept A] or B,” Saviello said. “I don’t think you can make a hybrid model that really works out there. In my personal opinion, its got to be one or the other, not the hybrid.”

The recording of the Zoom meeting can be accessed from Wilton’s Facebook page, and Town Manager Rhonda Irish will be sending out a survey for residents to choose a concept design. Residents can email Irish at [email protected] with feedback and suggestions.

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