Reckless drivers take toll
By Scott Bellile
The city of New London may close Hatten Park’s back roads to traffic due to incidents with destructive drivers.
City Parks Director Chad Hoerth told the New London Parks and Recreation Committee at its May 2 meeting that the parks and police departments remain concerned motorists will continue vandalizing the park. The committee did not make a formal decision on what to do.
“We talked about, internally, just closing it down for a while to see how people handle that … We’ve had so many problems with kids screwing around back there. They hit the shed back there by the [police] shooting range more than once,” he said.
Hoerth first suggested limiting access to the road in a memo dated Dec. 28.
“Individuals are ‘mudding’ around and rutting up the area inside the shooting range,” he stated. “We’ve put some boulders in the area to keep vehicles out but some are still finding their way in. A few years ago a vehicle also hit the shed located next to the range destroying it to the point that it needed to be completely rebuilt.”
The memo states when the shed was rebuilt, concrete bollards were placed in front of the structure to protect it from cars. But in summer 2016, someone struck a bollard hard enough to break it.
“Is there cameras back there?” committee member and Third District Alderwoman Lori Dean asked at the May 2 meeting.
“There’s not cameras back there,” Hoerth said. “We put up a deer camera every once in a while but that’s a still picture.”
Hoerth said the back road was already closed at the time of the meeting due to wet conditions. He said one possibility is to keep it closed after it dries and only allow bikers and pedestrians through. Another option is to close it on weekdays to prevent after-school damage incidents, then open it on weekends so visitors who enjoy riding through can do so.
Committee member Henrica Bult expressed concern over letting the vandals’ behavior impact well-intentioned Sunday drivers’ access to the back roads.
“I don’t want to make them suffer over having it closed off completely, but otherwise I’d put those pilings out in front and make it just a walk and bike only,” Bult said.
Another issue with the back road is keeping it graded, Hoerth stated in his memo. A sensor placed on the road in 2014 revealed 681 cars passed through in 11 days.
“The gravel road is not currently designed for that much traffic and that is why the road gets so rough so quickly (and the reason we periodically receive complaints on how rough the road is for bikers and runners.),” Hoerth said.
About 5,000 feet of the back road is slated to receive a new layer of gravel in 2019 at a cost of about $21,700, according to the parks department’s 10-year capital improvement plan.
Dean suggested limiting vehicle access could help keep the road in shape until then.
“I think it’s just probably best we leave it closed to traffic because it takes such a pounding to start with,” Dean said, “and it doesn’t matter what you do and how many times you grade it or fill it or anything else.”