On the east side of Bushnell Park, where once there was grass and swings, there is now a large concrete slab surrounded by swaths of a dark-colored porous paving material.
Some have complained that the scene is aesthetically displeasing. They are right. City officials say the problem is temporary. Let us hope they are right.
The pad was installed last fall as a base for the popular skating rink, used by thousands of visitors over the winter. It was a better option than the plywood base that was used earlier, and should save some money in the long run. The area around the rink had been mucky because of poor drainage; the "FlexiPave" material and a trench were put in to resolve the drainage problem.
The hope was to use the space year-round, perhaps have such activities as yoga classes or tables for chess or checkers. "The real issue is programming," said Lisa Karam of the Bushnell Park Foundation. That would certainly help, and officials say they are working on it.
There's a consultant compiling and prioritizing the suggestions submitted with the iQuilt Plan, which will make the park the focal point of downtown arts and cultural sites. From that may emerge a permanent skating rink structure, which could be used for skateboarding, street hockey or rollerblading in the summer.
The money must be found and other issues resolved, but hopefully we'll see progress by next summer.
In the meantime, city officials should stop parking on the paved area -- the park is not for parking -- and make sure that the two mature trees that now are surrounded by FlexiPave are healthy.
The city and the park foundation have a more pressing problem. The lovely Corning Fountain has begun to leak and tilt slightly. This is one of the city's great treasures; it should be repaired as soon as possible.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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