WALLINGFORD — Athletic fields at Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park will be used sparingly this fall as the town proceeds with a project to add parking spaces and a pedestrian walkway.
The project will increase parking at the popular east-side park by 32 spaces in the parking lot closest to East Center Street. The walkway will make it easier for people and vehicles to get in and out of the park. The work is set to begin in early September.
Parks and Recreation Director John Gawlak said once construction begins, the two baseball fields will be closed until next spring. Wallingford Little League and Yalesville Little League offer a combined fall baseball league, but the number of players is far fewer than spring baseball, Gawlak said, so not as many fields are necessary. The league can hold games at other fields in town, he said.
While fall soccer leagues are also smaller than those in the spring, there “may be restricted use” of the five soccer fields at the park, Gawlak said, adding that the directors of Wallingford Youth Soccer League support the project.
“It needs to get done,” Gawlak said. “Everyone has been anxiously waiting for work to begin.”
David Rodriguez, the soccer league’s travel director and district representative, said leagues will still play games at Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park on a limited basis, but the league is “moving the travel program to limit the use of the park as much as possible.”
Soccer fields at the park are smaller than regulation and more appropriate for ages 10 and under, Rodriguez said. The park will still be available for restricted use by these age groups, he said.
Travel league games will be played on fields at Pragemann Park and Woodhouse Avenue, Rodriguez said. Travel teams have been asked to schedule as many away games as possible to reduce the burden, he said.
Improvements planned for the park “are going to be huge for us,” Rodriguez said.
The park also provides access to Tyler Mill trails and a community garden along East Center Street. These amenities will also be impacted, Gawlak said. Since the park will be an open construction zone, the town “would have loved to shut it down completely,” he said. But the project will be completed in phases, so access will be limited to certain areas depending on the construction phase.
“People will have to be patient and plan ahead,” Gawlak said. “It might be a slow go on certain days.”
Those hoping to use Tyler Mill can also use the recently refurbished entrance on Northford Road or enter via Tamarac Swamp Road.
“It will be difficult, it will be a mess, there will be equipment...but hikers and gardeners with patience should still have access to the gardens and the trails,” said Mary Heffernon, chairwoman of the Conservation Commission.
As part of the project, the parking lot at the south end of the park, containing 149 spaces, will also be widened and a circular turnaround will be added. The driveway will be widened to 24 feet to allow for two-way traffic.
The town appropriated $400,000 for the project and received $181,000 in a Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant from the state. The town also got a $50,000 Save the Sound grant to create parking areas with permeable pavement that will allow water to pass into the ground.