CT Progressive Democrat

News and Views from CT State Representative David McCluskey / Democrat - West Hartford

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

North Branch of the Park River Renewal

www.northparkplan.net is a website detailing efforts to improve the quality & public access to the North Branch of the Park River.

The North Branch Park River Watershed Management Plan is currently gathering community ideas and concerns, through July 21st. The planning process will formally conclude on July 30th.

The project team has summarized the North Branch Park River Watershed Management Plan process to citizen and professional stakeholders in Bloomfield, Hartford and West Hartford. Persons interested in planning and development issues that impact the North Branch watershed are encouraged to visit the website to review the Plan Proposal drafts and to post your thoughts/concerns in the comment section of the website to encourage an online exchange of ideas.

The majority of the watershed - over 68% - is within Bloomfield, 14% of the watershed overlaps into northern West Hartford. The northwestern neighborhoods of Hartford, Blue Hills, Asylum Hill and the West End are within 11% of the North Branch Park River watershed. The remaining 3% of the watershed land area is within Windsor, Avon and Simsbury.

Many institutions currently front the aboveground portion of the North Branch Park River in Hartford including the University of Hartford, the UConn Law School, the Village of Family & Children Services and the Watkinson School.

Despite the significant development within the watershed and its impaired water quality, the North Branch Park River is still considered an asset to these institutions due to its landscape function on their campuses. Other groups have also recognized its value in terms of landscape presence and have modified the land adjacent to the river to enhance its visibility and its aesthetic appeal, an example being the recently redeveloped Goodwin Estates residences.

The potential exists for a regional vision to be developed where the upper watershed communities can offer substantial water quality and habitat protection benefits while the urban areas can provide the urban river experience with the river forming a physical and emotional connection to the community.

The planning process will address the unique challenges of managing urban waterways as a valuable natural resource within the context of private and public building development, preservation and property uses. The watershed management plan shall characterize the watershed conditions, identify, investigate, and address current and emerging issues facing the watershed, so as to recommend potential changes that can improve water quality.

The primary objectives of the watershed management plan are to:
• Characterize existing river, riparian corridor and watershed conditions;
• Identify and assess watershed problems and issues;
• Foster regional land and water solutions and protecting the urban riverway and surrounding forest lands;
• Integrate water quality, stream flow, aquatic and riparian habitat, and land use and preservation needs;
• Identify land or land rights acquisition to further protect and allow responsible public access to the river,
• Examine traditional and non-traditional innovative approaches to pollution control and prevention; and
• Provides guidance for local land use decision- makers to address stormwater and non-point sources of pollution with a focus on sustainable development practices.

When complete, the watershed management plan will serve as a comprehensive, scientifically-sound, and practical planning document for the protection and restoration of water resources and habitat in the North Branch Park River watershed. Measurable water quality improvements are an anticipated outcome of the North Branch Park River Watershed Management Plan process.