Friends of the Meadow Get Down to Work

The new Friends of the Meadow Committee held its inaugural meeting Tuesday evening and tackled the task of restoring the five-acre parcel to its pride of place in the town’s center. 

City Meadow, a pasture for cattle in the 19th century, has been an ongoing project for the community since 2011. It was first envisioned as a stormwater collection system to prevent pollution from reaching the Blackberry River, but a more inclusive vision unfolded as residents imagined a natural landscape connecting Station Place and Shephard Road, complete with a boardwalk and observation deck. 

A stormwater treatment plan was developed, invasives were removed and handicap accessible boardwalks were established. More recently, Robertson Plaza was expanded with stairs leading down to City Meadow’s walkways.

But the area has again become overrun with invasive plants, predominately phragmites and cattails. The Friends group, which replaced the former City Meadow Committee, will seek to reverse this trend and enhance the Meadow’s role in the social life of the community.

Elizabeth Borden and George Cronin, co-chairs of the new committee, are joined by members Molly Ackerly, Lisa Atkin, Martyn Banks, Michael Selleck and Doreen Kelly. 

Members were asked Tuesday to share their visions of what role City Meadow should play in the town’s future. The suggestions—that it be a sanctuary for flora and fauna, become part of the evolving sculpture trail, and be used for educational purposes and as a backdrop for music and other forms of entertainment—maybe you can find some realistic phrase, like “go well beyond its its original role of filtering storm water pollutants. 

Guest Steve Melville said it should become a magnet to draw people to Norfolk. He suggested that stores open onto the Meadow.

Work on the Meadow is to begin soon. First Selectman Matt Riiska said he got a five-year extension of the Inland Wetlands Agency’s permit for the site and that invasive vegetation will be cut within two weeks. In June, when the vegetation begins to put out new shoots, representatives of the firm Native Habitat Restoration will apply herbicide. It will take several years to eradicate the invasives. 

Trees will be cut down and Riiska will consult with holistic land care expert Mike Nadeau, who helped guide creation of City Meadow in 2018, to discuss the next steps. The committee insisted that it review Nadeau’s proposed plan to ensure that his concept supports its aspirations. The committee asked for a sketch of the plan by mid-summer, with a walk through the meadow to better visualize Nadeau’s ideas. Committee members also asked Riiska to obtain pictures of Nadeau projects to give them insight into what the finished Meadow might look like.

The committee further discussed the proximity of City Meadow to the new firehouse. Several issues were discussed, including power for the observation deck, plantings, parking, the walkway past the firehouse and a bike rack. Member Martyn Banks, a firefighter, agreed to set up a meeting between the fire department’s building committee and the Friends group. The committee also requested blueprints of the building and planting plans.

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