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Norwalk Park's Renovation 'Marching Along'

NORWALK, Conn. – The view has changed from the Yankee Doodle Bridge –  Norwalk's "Big O" no longer catches the eye of motorists driving up I-95. Instead, they see construction workers moving dirt around on the now-barren hill that used to be the city's landfill.

"We're marching right along," Susan Sweitzer of the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency said of the work being done in Oyster Shell Park, behind Maritime Yards off West Avenue. Phase 1 of the park's master plan is being implemented by LaRosa Building Group, using $1.423 million of a state grant. Invasive plants that covered the hill have been removed, the sculptures, including the "O," have been relocated and the hill itself is being reshaped.

Improvements include paths up to the park's high point, where an open plaza, lighting and landscaping will be installed. Sweitzer said workers don't know yet exactly where the paths will be. "They needed to clear out sightlines in order to do a survey," she said. "When the grading is completed, then they'll plot out the walkways and the steps."

Work will continue through the winter, if possible. Snow may not slow down the project, depending on the status of the work. "If they get the grading done and they get a lot of preliminary work done, [even] if it snowed they could still dig footings for lighting," she said.

She's hoping it will be done by spring. "If they don't have to stop, it's essentially a six-month project," she said.

The status of the park as a former landfill is what makes the project expensive, she said. Contractors must be careful not to disturb the area too much. "There's very limited digging that's going to be going on in this project. There's a lot of clearing, but there's not a lot of digging," she said. "It's also because it's a landfill it's a very unstable soil situation. There's a lot of settlement that can happen and there was a fair amount of accounting for that in the design."

She hopes the park will see more usage when Phase 1 is complete. "I think it will be a real improvement to the neighborhood," she said. "I think there was a lot of concern for the fact that when you were up there it was kind of wild, in a naturally vegetative state. There were issues of sightline and visibility. I think a lot of people felt very uncomfortable, particularly if they were going there by themselves. I think the lighting will help a lot. I think people will be much more comfortable going out in the evening, for example, and walking. And also I think that hopefully there will be more people out there."

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