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Park renewal

“Neglect” may be too strong a word, but it’s probably fair to say that not much has been done to improve Meriden’s City and Brookside parks in a long time. After years of effort by the City and Brookside Park Neighborhood Association and city officials, that is changing.

Yes, fountains and ponds have come and gone over the years, along with bandshells and pavilions, and both parks lost some real estate when Interstate 691 came through in the 1960s. But not much has happened there lately, with the notable exceptions of a new and safer playscape in the 8-acre City Park and, thanks to the Lions Club, a water feature that’s been providing inner-city kids with fun and relief from the summer heat since 2000.

The 11-acre Brookside Park, across the street may, at first glance, seem to have less to offer, but it does harbor the last long stretch of Harbor Brook that’s still open to the sky before it plunges underground, out of sight and out of mind, to sneak through the downtown district in a dark culvert. Fortunately, that is scheduled to change with the planned “daylighting” of the brook as it passes through the former Hub site.

And now that summer is about to yield to fall, it comes as warm cheer that things are also looking up for City and Brookside parks. There is a plan for improvements that could add up to more than a million dollars’ worth, to include both full-size and junior basketball courts, facilities for volleyball and ice skating, and paved sidewalks through City Park. The funding, though, is expected to come in dribs and drabs — from city funds passed by a narrow margin in 2011; and state bonding money, which can take years from promise to cash-in-hand; and private funds from the John D. Martin Foundation and a nonprofit called KaBoom! — so the plan is to do the work in stages, as funds become available.

Bids have been received and city officials will soon start reviewing them. Work could start soon and may even be completed before winter sets in.

The important point is that good things are about to happen at two of Meriden’s oldest parks.



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