Winchester to Move Ahead with Aberjona River Widening
The Board approved the Chapter 91 permits to move ahead with widening the Aberjona River by 15 feet.
The time is coming close and the town is preparing to undertake the Abejona River widening project this spring and summer.
But Winchester still needed to finalize the plans before it moved forward with the project.
According to Jake Sananontio of the design firm, AECOM, the town's window of opportunity to widen the river is between July and October, the river's low-flow period.
"The town has experienced $25 million worth of damage since 1996," said chair of the Selectmen, Thomas Howley. "Flooding is happening more regularly and we, as a board, are committed to resolving these issues."
The river will be widened to 35-feet. Currently the river is anywhere from 10 to 20 feet wide. In order to extend the river another 15-feet, the breakdown lane along the Mystic Valley Parkway will be removed and turned into a sidewalk.
According to Gary Claiborne of Pressley Associates, the widening project will force the town to lose 123 trees next to the river. However, Claiborne said they will be able to plant 116 new ones, but only on the east side of the parkway.
"It's important to keep this area green," said Lance Grenzeback of the Planning Board. "One of the features that draws people to that area is the greenness of it and the trees."
Instead, Grenzeback and the Planning Board recommended that the town reduce the parking lot at Ginn Field by 60 percent (leaving eight to 10 parking spaces) and eliminate the basketball court at the field. They also expressed concern over the narrow size of a sidewalk if that replaced the breakdown lane.
Supporters of Ginn Field, however, disagreed with the Planning Board's assessment and urged the Board to leave the playground alone.
"The eight to 10 spots is insufficient for all that goes on there," said Mary Ellen Rourke-Falvey. "There's a lot of activity that goes on at the playground. It's our only in-town playground and a lot of families use it."
In the end, the Board decided to leave Ginn Playground alone and give AECOM approval to move forward with the project, approving the Chapter 91 permits.
Feeling the need to move ahead with the project and begin the river widening, the board expressed no interest in adjusting the site plans, which have been looked out for the past seven years. Any adjustment would need to go back and receive approval from DCR and MEPA again, which could delay the project by another few years.
"This is what's been approved," said Selectman Roger Berman. "Think of the time and money spent already. There was half a million in design and another $25 million in losses. Of course we'd like bigger sidewalks and more vegetation, but this is what's been approved."