Snow Dump Tree Plant Saturday …New $350K Snow Dump Plan Not A Done Deal

Snow Dump: The Village tested the winter’s remains for salt and heavy metals that are running-off into the Ottauquechee River

Woodstock Early Bird would like to let you know that a tree-planting is scheduled for tomorrow at 10am in the area of the current Village of Woodstock snow dump.

The group organizing the effort is the East End Task Force or Action Group. The group is part of Sustainable Woodstock which,  independent of the Village of Woodstock itself,  has been trying to get folks down to the site so they can learn about the area and “take ownership” in plans to turn the land into a park.

Village Trustee Trish Compton says about two years ago, resident voters approved a warned article asking permission to go forth with gathering information about how the East End might be rehabilitated. The Task Force and this planting would be considered part of that effort.

Chris Bartlett says folks should meet at 10am at the location near the Jungle wearing boots and bringing with them a shovel and a pick ax — if they have one.

The plan for the tree-planting  is to have participants plant a mix of white pine, willow and maple which have been harvested and donated by Ron Rhodes of Pomfret and Todd Menees from the Vermont Dept. of Environmental Conservation Rivers program.  Menees will be on hand to talk about the importance of riverbank restoration. While it may not be the optimum time to plant, the species are thought to be hardy, less sensitive to salt and have a good chance at taking. To help “color-up” the bank next spring, Bartlett says the group tomorrow may also disperse some Black-Eyed Susan seeds.

Bartlett says the whole operation is “A symbolic act that will indicate our intention to convert this eyesore into a community asset.”

George Sadowsky, Joby Thompson and Mary McVeigh discuss their vision for “Snow Dump Park”

According to Village Trustee Trish Compton, the energy for the tree-planting project tomorrow and recent information sessions — attended by as many as 25 people —  comes from organizers Joby Thompson and Mary McVeigh. Others involved in efforts to claim the Village acreage as future parkland include the aforementioned Chris Bartlett,  Laird Bradley, Sally Miller, Trish Compton as a Village Trustee liaison and the Woodstock Chamber’s Beth Finlayson — among others. The group –  independent of the Village of Woodstock itself – has asked for assistance and consultation  from Kevin Geiger of the Two-Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission and State of Vermont river engineer Todd Menees.

Town Manager Phil Swanson was attending a seminar late this week and not available to respond to queries about the tree-planting. It is not clear whether the planting of trees on Village lands was officially approved by  Village Trustees, the Conservation Committee or some other group.  Bartlett says that Swanson has, however,  been involved in the plans to re-plant the small riverbank area and “has been very helpful and supportive.”

While the intentions of “taking ownership” in a Village parcel are well-intentioned (Woodstock Early Bird does love a tree-filled park) it should be noted that a series of technical, legal and financial hurdles need to be cleared before there is even a chance of turning the 2.5 acres of Village land into a park. The majority of the decisions to be made are not even in Villagers’ hands.

Right now, the old snow dump is STILL the current snow dump as Village Trustees work with the Woodstock Foundation on the possibility of acquiring their land that could take snow dumped into a very comprehensively designed catchment system.

A very detailed proposal of such a system was shared by Otter Creek Engineering of Rutland with Village Trustees last week. We have had no word on whether the Woodstock Foundation have given its approval of the plan. At this stage, the Village Trustees do not have a say in what is or is not proposed.  While they asked questions and found it interesting there was no call or need for action.  That is a decision for the Woodstock Foundation.

Project Engineer Craig Jewett of Otter Creek Engineering shared with Village Trustees a snow dump plan being presented to the Woodstock Foundation

In order to get to a new Village River Park, here is what has to happen:

1. First, there is no new land for a snow dump unless The Woodstock Foundation approves a snow dump system that would prevent run-off from going into their fields,  currently used for agriculture,  and serving as a buffer to the Ottauquechee River.  That is part of an informal agreement worked out during exploratory discussions between Trustees and the Woodstock Foundation earlier this year.

2. IF the Woodstock Foundation is good with the OCE proposal (for 100% containment of run-off)  they MIGHT then consider selling about 2.5 acres on of land, on a ridge,  slightly above fields near Woodstock Recycling and Refuse to the Village of Woodstock at a cost of approximately  70K.

3. In addition to the 70K taxpayers would need to buy land from the Woodstock Foundation, they would also need to come up with the funds — as proposed by Otter Creek Engineering — of about $350K.  Project Engineer Jewett says that $350K ballpark estimate includes a 20% add for potential construction over-runs.  However,   175K  of the $350K is estimated  to go to re-engineering and paving a road into the potential snow dump area.

3A. The ROAD into the Woodstock Foundation land would be an issue as there are various entities involved in its use. Otter Creek Engineering’s Jewett says there is an easement provided either by CVPS and/or Woodstock Recycling and Refuse/Woodstock Compost, hence they have a right  to approve or disapprove potential changes to the road plan as an entry point for the Village’s snow dump activities.

4. Should all of the above be resolved, Woodstock Village Trustees and/or Voters would THEN need to find somewhere to obtain @$420K in order to move forward. (Getting up close to half a million dollars — Should we just buy the Alsup property?)

5. “The Jungle” itself, a variable and factor: The machinations and plans for the Village parcel and the disposition of the snow dump  may or may not affect the potential sale of the much-larger Bill Alsup property next door. . If that larger parcel cannot be sold and is to lie fallow — as it does now — how does that impact the potential for a healthy usable park?  We also hear the activism of residents occupied with the small riverbank Village parcel, as an abutment to the Alsup property,  may also be a factor in negatively affecting the potential for the Alsup sale.  Recently, Woodstock resident Al Sorrentino considered buying and developing the parcel (site of the old train station and rail yard as well as   POMA lift site) but, despite his expressed interest in working with Villagers and helping create a multiple use site,  found the potential cost of remediation of the soils too prohibitive for his financial plans.

On the topic of soil contamination, we note a Letter to the Editor in The Vermont Standard this week from Dale Johnson who spoke — anecdotally —  but from long experience as a Woodstock resident,  of the amount of known contaminants layered in the soils both in the area of the  Village-owned snow dump and adjacent to it. If his experience is to be considered, it begs the question of whether ANYONE should be digging anywhere until professional environmental decontamination can take place.

We asked Trustee Trish Compton about the issue and she said she didn’t believe the danger was that high as Trustees had the snow dump soil tested extensively just within the past two years. She said while finding some heavy metals, in addition to general salt and debris, there was little to be concerned about. She said the analysis of the snow dump area revealed that about 50 percent of melt was going into the river and the rest was being absorbed by soils.

However, according to Compton, the project of moving the snow dump has become all the more important in the days since Irene since there is now less riverbank. It is imperative, she thinks, to find a place where NO chemicals and heavy metals will be going into the Ottauquechee River. However, she acknowledges that virtually every other community in Vermont deals with the traditional dumping of snow into streams and rivers.  However, she adds,  the State can’t mandate stopping the practice “as it would bankrupt virtually every community.”

Compton says that the combination of finding a snow dump solution alongside creating a riverside park, “Could make Woodstock a showcase for other towns.”

6 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you, Julia, for this very informative update on the park area by the snow dump. Rachel

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  2. Dale Johnson’s concerns are real. Windsor County considered buying the property next to the Windsor County Building (jail), had a preliminary pollution study done, and decided there was too much needed remediation and uncertainty to proceed further. This was probable 10+ years ago, maybe Ken Cooper remembers.

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  3. Posted by Jill on October 20, 2012 at 08:03

    if we focus on the impossibility of getting all this done it will be impossible. if we focus on what could be and make plans that acknowledge the hurdles maybe we can get something to change. imagine a park, imagine new businesses, imagine new energy in this part of town! it is easy to do nothing, let’s support those who want to make change happen!

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  4. Posted by Margaret (Peggy) Kannenstine on October 20, 2012 at 11:50

    It is interesting that Dale Johnson
    , the previous owner of a polluted site, is discouraging remediation of another.

    One of the blocks in previous attempts to purchase the former railroad station property was the owner’s reluctance to have tests for contaminants conducted.

    If this is no longer the case, it seems to m that potential purchasers and the volunteer committee might well work together. It could benefit everyone!

    The snow dump is, in some ways, a separate issue. Remember: there is not enough land by the river in the “jungle” for safe dumping of snow filled with oil, salt and such.

    It is actually a state regulation, I think, that towns site snow dumps away from waters to reduce the chance for contamiantion. So, my wholehearted agreement with Trustee Trish Compton.

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  5. Posted by Toni Richie on October 21, 2012 at 19:01

    While plans are being developed for any park, I hope the powers-that-be will keep in mind the need for a dog park in Woodstock, somewhere within a mile of the Village center. I don’t know if the Jungle site would suffice (if it can be assured that it will be safe for people and dogs), but the Woodstock Foundation land might be a desireable location for such an endeavor.

    Toni Richie

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  6. Posted by Judith Taylor on October 22, 2012 at 16:44

    I believe it’s crucial that we support the efforts of The East End Task Force to explore ways to restore the land along the river.

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