WIlliams St. Blues

Editor’s note: This article is written by Andrew Lopez, a research librarian who works at Shain library. Lopez is our first staff contributor in at least several years, and we look forward to continuing to work with staff, faculty and members of the community in the coming semesters.

I collect trash along my daily walk to campus from the Post Hill neighborhood of New London. Sometimes I collect as many as 20 gallons of trash a day, just walking to campus. There is only one public trash can along the route, so the best I can do is fill a bucket with about 5 gallons of trash before I get there, dump the trash in the one can and collect five more before reaching the other end. I then repeat this on my walk home. I’ve thought about installing my own trash cans and taking responsibility for emptying them, but that would be crazy, wouldn’t it?

The 1.8 mile route along Williams Street is neither pedestrian friendly nor scenic. Large tracts of lawn between polluted roadways filled with hurried drivers cast an unwelcoming feel over the area. I pass at least three unmarked SEAT bus stops without signs, schedules, trash cans, benches or protection from inclement weather. At Williams and Briggs Streets, adjacent to the campus, I have seen people lying on the ground while waiting for the bus. In Shain Library, there is a government document called “Toward Civilization: Overview From a Report on Arts Education” that I can’t help but think of as I reflect on my walks. The report assumes that arts curriculums build more civilized societies, but my walks to campus have lead me to believe we are in fact moving away from civilization, or at least not towards it.

Of course, more native plants and trees along the whole route would be wonderful. Following past student work undertaken at the College, Maggie Redfern, Assistant Director of the Arboretum talks animatedly about the dollar value of all trees in New London. In a 1959 issue of the Arboretum Bulletin, professors Goodwin and Niering wrote about controlling the use of roadside herbicides in a piece picked up by Rachel Carson for her book, Silent Spring. Today, when passing through this corridor, one can’t help but think we should extend Goodwin and Niering’s efforts by controlling the use of roadside lawns. Incidentally, the Connecticut General Assembly declared pollinator health a major issue for 2016. And the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment is sponsoring a symposium in Feb. 2017 on sustaining pollinators. So what better occasion do we need in order to begin restoring native plant species along the roads and highways around our campus?

The good news is we don’t need a better occasion; We already have many. A multitude of efforts in this direction have been undertaken over the last few decades, led in part by the nonprofit New London Landmarks, and recently culminated in the 2013 “Creative Placemaking Master Plan.” The project was developed by landscape architect Brian Kent of Kent + Frost in Mystic, CT, and Peter Miniutti, Associate Professor of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at The University of Connecticut. This exciting document maps out the entire region of Northeast New London, including the Hodges Square Village, Riverside Park and Campus Hill (the Coast Guard Academy, Lyman Allyn Museum, and Connecticut College), with the ambitious vision of transforming the area “into a celebration of how people and communities can connect through walking and bicycling.”

A dynamic and enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Nov. 14 Hodges Square Village Association (HSVA) monthly meeting at Slice Pizza Bar on Williams Street. The subject of the meeting was an update on a $300,000 Recreational (pedestrian and bicycle) Trails Grant, due this December, that is seen as key to completing the design, sketched out in the Master Plan, for a trail that would connect Hodges Square, Lyman Allyn, Connecticut College and the Coast Guard. Meeting attendees included Art Costa of Thames Valley Sustainable Connections, Brian Kent who is the lead designer for the project, Forrest Sklar of Copy Cats, Cathi Strother from HSVA, Robert Lee from Lee’s Oriental Market, Ronna Stuller from the Green Party and New London City Planner Sybil Tetteh, as well as three members of New London City Council, Erica Richardson, Anthony Nolan and Efrain Dominguez, Jr.

With ongoing grant support and increased campus and community involvement, the planning document mentioned can lead to real change. Art Costa said at the November meeting, “community ownership is an important ingredient.” While the Recreational Trails Grant due this December applies only to funding for a design of the campus-side portion of the project, it is one of a number of grants and projects in the works. The city of New London is in dialogue with CT Department of Transportation (DOT) for a state grant to design bike and pedestrian space between the I-95 overpass on Williams Street below Hodges Square up to the College gates on Williams Street, across from the entrance to the Arboretum. Combined with the Trails Grant plan, this raises the question of the oppressive Williams Street bridge over Route 32, which the DOT is apparently willing to talk about redesigning.

Connor Trapp ‘18 and Ariana Pazmino ‘18 are student consultants on the Trails Grant. We should all start walking or biking down Williams Street more often or taking the footpath from Lyman Allyn to the Briggs Street intersection to get a better feel for the space. We should talk about it. The location at Williams and Briggs is a mere 1.3 miles due north of downtown New London and only 5 miles from the boardwalk at Ocean Beach. At Williams and Briggs there is a nice stone wall and a good view. With enough campus and community support, it could be the site of a much needed pedestrian trail.

1 Comment

  1. Wish the city and Shiloh Baptist church would remove snow from the sidewalks fronting their property between Briggs and going up Williams. This area was once going to be condos and later a church. Both discovered there is no sewer line from Sunset to past Briggs. All the houses in this area have old septic tanks. Additionally the land is ledge and wetland. It was originally named Stonebridge, for the bridge needed to go over the wetlands.

Comments are closed.