Notes from a sustainable park construction site

By Richard Calarco, CSFM, CRPA, AOLCP

The Town of Hebron, CT population 10,000, located about 20 miles east of Hartford, is committed to maintain its rural features. This commitment is demonstrated by the Town’s open space fund that enables the town to purchase land when it becomes that is outline in its plan of development. Using these funds the Town purchased the 170 acres that became Burnt Hill Park. The Town encourages sustainability, while maintaining our rural character. This was demonstrated right from the initial purchase as the Town worked with the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), when it purchased the property setting aside more than 40 acres of the park dedicated for passive use.

The Town initially hired a consultant to develop an overall master plan for the site and determine the Town’s needs. Based on this master plan I was charged to develop a park that had athletic fields, trails and rural character of the town, using as many town local resources as possible. To accomplish this goal the Town staff planning group, which included a Town planner, building official, conservation office and me (parks director). Each of us served as our point of reference to the land commission for parks and recreation, planning and zoning and conservation. This design team works with our consultants, Nathan l Jacobson & Associates, Richter and Cegan Inc., and TLB Architecture, LLC.

The existing site conditions reveal past and present agricultural use. A portion of the site was used for a cultivation of feed corn and an egg production farm. The site is surrounded by farm preservation land to the north, State of Connecticut Open Space to the east and private farmland to the south.

As our plans began to formalize we looked at some of our needs, including fill for the site. We learned of several sites in Town that had extra material from construction and we used this material for the park. Working with our Public Works department and our parks staff we began to stockpile the fill on site.

As previously stated, the site was an active egg production site to house this operation. Using, the design team planned the park operations facility using one of the egg production buildings for the park operations base.

The buildings were knocked down and the local fire department scheduled a drill for our volunteer fire crew to burn all the wooden structures. The metal was recycled in conjunction with the Town’s recycle operations. The concrete from the egg buildings was grounded into process gravel for our road base. One of the concrete bases was saved to be used as the base for the parks operation building and a material storage site.


At this active egg farm, our engineer team worked on storm water management as well as with Dr. William Dest, a retired University of Connecticut professor [and STMA member], to develop an under drain system for all our athletic fields. Once our drainage system was complete and rain gardens were added, we would reduce the storm water discharge from the site from when it was farmland.

The next design was to take into account the site opportunities and constraints with the historical use of the property. As part of our master design, we hired a soil consultant who evaluated all our wetlands and opportunities for wetland enhancement. The question was how to best enhance our wetlands and all for the public to be able observe the areas. Our planning used this information to develop cultural buffers to sensitive areas and minimize disturbance of forest area and used the existing ponds for the athletic field’s irrigation source. Our final plan designed to balance the cut out fill to minimize the amount of material needed for the site.

We now moved to the landscaping aspect of the park and used rocks and stones we found on the property during construction. And reconstructed our historic stonewall at the front entrance. Our approach was to use all natural plants and to provide natural screening and separation form athletic fields, walkways and provide a natural buffer planting for our wetlands.

Our athletic fields and general lawn areas using NTEP selected grass that would take into account turf quality, drought tolerance, reduce fertility requirements, and disease resistance.

The final design enabled our park to be able to monitor key views to our surrounding area. A natural walking and trail using the wood chips provided by our public works and utility companies who clear trees in our town.

The site like any park, needed to provide auxiliary parking for large special events. We had our contactor set up in this designated area. Using the tailing from the loam screening we developed a grass area parking lot with excellent drainage.

The next challenge was to construct the P & R office and operations in the egg production building. The maintenance building was designed with skylights for natural lighting and Solo tubes skylights where used in our restrooms building to bring in natural light as well.

Photovoltaic Panels were installed to take advantage of the solar power for the electric for the park building. Our recycle center takes waste oil from residents. Knowing this we designed our heating system to use waste oil burner to heat our park building. This not only enables us to not have a heating cost but also reduced cost to public works to have product removed from its site.

The final site of the Park building was designed to with landforms, landscaping design to provide shade in the summer, sun in the winter and protection from the winds. Our final plans for the building was to have the office area be white and the park operation building to be red to match a farm approach of the white house and red barn.

As you can see, our final product met our goal of developing a park that took into account our community and used as much as of the material available in our community on our site. Our design team through the process followed sustainability by using the four interconnected domains as best as possible: ecology, economics, politics and culture.

Richard Calarco, CSFM, CRPA, AOLCP, is director of parks and recreation, Town of Hebron, CT.