Debate Continues Over Aberjona River-Widening Project
Even though the project has been approved and sent out to bid, the Planning Board is still hoping to change some aspects of the design.
Over the last 15 years, Winchester has suffered more than $25 million worth of flood damage due to the Aberjona River.
Beginning this summer and continuing into the fall, the town will begin a project to widen the river by 15 feet, which would limit the amount of flooding from the Aberjona. Construction needs to take place during the river’s low-flow period, which is between July and October.
The Board of Selectmen voted to approve the project this past winter. However, at the time, the Planning Board did not agree with the board’s decision, expressing concern over the size of the sidewalk along Mystic Valley Parkway, the removal of vegetation, the footbridge leading to Ginn Field and the damage to the natural wildlife in the river, like the storks.
Last week, the Planning Board hosted a site walk along the construction area in order to visualize their concerns to residents.
“We’re not against the river-widening project, but we want to make it the right widening project,” said Planning Board member Mary McKenna.
The Aberjona is to be widened between Waterfield Road and Mystic Avenue to minimize the amount of flood-waters that overflow onto Manchester Field and into the Manchester Road neighborhood.
According to McKenna, the preferred plan would narrow Mystic Valley Parkway along Manchester Field, leaving a five-foot wide sidewalk and a three-foot guardrail space between the sidewalk and the river. Most of the existing green space and trees along that section would be lost to make room for the widened channel.
However, the Board of Selectmen and the Town Manager’s office considers the discussion regarding the project designs over.
“This is a very time-sensitive project,” said Assistant Town Manager Mark Twogood. “This is the Board of Selectmen’s No. 1 project. This is what we’re doing. We only have a three-month window to complete this project.”
According to McKenna, these are not new issues the Planning Board is bringing up.
“We started last August and were told we were too late to discuss any changes then,” McKenna said. “But we kept talking about it. We could have more design input and we don’t believe that will effect the scheduling of the project.”
But Twogood disagrees, saying that this project needs to get done.
“A lot of issues were raised last August,” Twogood said. “It was fully discussed and the Board of Selectmen voted on it at the end of 2010. At some point we need to move forward with this project. We have hundreds of people who have suffered damage because of flooding.”