ConCom gives backing to Lord Pond Plaza project


For the Athol Daily News

Published: 03-06-2023 9:37 AM

ATHOL – The Conservation Commission has approved, with conditions, a Notice of Intent filed by the Department of Public Works (DPW) to ‘daylight’ Mill Brook where it currently runs under the parking lot at Lord Pond Plaza.

Creation of green space and an area for community gatherings are also included in the plans.

Speaking on behalf of the DPW at the commission’s meeting on Feb. 28 were representatives of BSC Group, the engineering firm that developed the project. On hand were Senior Project Manger and Senior Ecologist Paul Martin, Landscape Architect Casey Lee Bastien and Manager of Civil Engineering Dominic Rinaldi. Martin informed the commission that the proposal has been filed as an ecological restoration project.

Martin explained that the stream comes under South Street, after which it goes into a culvert. It then traverses under the parking lot — there’s a 24-inch culvert for an intermittent stream that comes in — and then into a larger culvert that goes across the parking lot.

“What we’re proposing is removing a good percentage of the culvert (under the parking lot), but we do have to leave a couple of locations where there can still be vehicle access into the different buildings,” said Martin.

The plan also calls for creation of bordering vegetative wetlands and space for increased flood storage.

“We will be creating a riverfront area in the parking lot once it’s daylighted,” Martin added.

Another aspect of the plan is stormwater quality and quantity management. This includes infiltration swails, retention basins, permeable parking area so that water will be able to infiltrate into the ground and tree plantings to alleviate the heat island effect resulting from acres of blacktop. The stream bed will be elevated to facilitate movement of fish and other aquatic species.

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Asked about the amount of parking space that will remain, Bastien said, “You’ve got a little bit more parking than you’re using. The original lay of the plaza, even if we had that full parking, there would be more pavement than you could actually put parking in with standard (parking space) sizes.”

Commission member J.R. Green noted that the plan would create green space in the area behind Domino’s Pizza being used by truck drivers for parking.

Town Manager Shaun Suhoski interjected that the trucks there are not allowed under zoning and the planner and others are trying to see if those drivers can find an alternate location.

The flow of traffic will also change under the plan. There will be one entrance accommodating two-way traffic into and out of the plaza located just to the west of the Cumberland Farms store on Main Street, with a smaller entrance and exit at Freedom Street. A new two-way thoroughfare, Lord Pond Way, will run from Main Street east of Cumberland Farms through the plaza and connect to South Street. This roadway is meant, in part, to facilitate truck traffic and other motorists through the plaza.

Commission Secretary Cathy Muzzy asked about plans to mitigate trash, sand and salt getting into the newly daylighted brook.

“There will be a lot of previous pavement, and the, with the stone swails, we’ll be able to pull sediment at the upper ends of these,” said Bastien. “We’ve also got new water quality Rain Guardian that makes it easy to pull a pry bar and scoop and shovel it, rather than having to use vacuum trucks.”

The area behind the senior center, one of the few spots that isn’t paved, will become landscaped with a lawn and performance space, according to Bastien.

Town Conservation Agent Ward Smith suggested a trio of conditions for approval of the Notice of intent. One condition states “the proposed bordering vegetative wetlands shall not be use as part of the stormwater management system and shall not be subject to the operation and maintenance plan.”

“If it’s part of the stormwater management system, they can go in there and clean it out without a permit,” said Smith. “If it’s bordering vegetative wetland they need to get a permit from the Conservation Commission to go in there and do something.”

BCS must also submit a de-watering plan, and no work can begin until the submission of a “construction period pollution prevention and erosion and sedimentation control plan that meets (state standards).”

All other potential issues, said Smith, were covered in the Notice of Intent submitted to the commission. The commission’s approval of the notice was unanimous.

Greg Vine can be reached at