“It’s My Park Day” at Mill River Park

Stamford residents of all ages enjoy events and explore recently completed parts of Mill River Park on “It’s My Park Day.”

Stamford residents of all ages enjoy events and explore recently completed parts of Mill River Park on “It’s My Park Day.”

Residents of Stamford, Connecticut gathered for the second annual “It’s My Park Day,” a celebration of the ongoing development of Mill River Park, designed by OLIN. This year’s event, organized by the Mill River Collaborative, invited community members to explore the west side of the park where new plantings, pathways, wildflower meadows, and the restored riparian habitat along Mill River were recently completed. The day also featured family-friendly activities such as arts and crafts stations, a children’s theater performance, and insightful tours led by members of OLIN’s project team. “With these site elements, especially the rejuvenated riverside habitat,” Associate Allan Spulecki told one tour group, “we designed Mill River Park not only to restore the river and its banks to a more balanced state, but also to serve as a unifying space that can bring together this city’s diverse communities.”

Top: Before OLIN’s restoration efforts, Mill River was channelized, which resulted in increased flood risk. Bottom: Today the restored and naturalized riverbank accommodates ebbs and flows in water volume, provides habitat for local wildlife, and creates opportunities for people to engage with the waterfront.

Flowing directly through the center of Stamford, Mill River has been dammed since 1641 and was channelized in 1963 in an effort to mitigate flooding. However, these measures compromised the river’s natural defenses against floods—silt buildup along the dam and the impervious canal prevented water from being reabsorbed into the soil, forcing floodwaters over the riverbanks. In an effort to restore the river’s degraded ecological systems, the Army Corps of Engineers developed a design to remove manmade obstructions from the river. OLIN then led a team of ecologists and civil engineers—including Steve Benz, prior to his joining OLIN as Director of Green Infrastructure—to create a restored riparian habitat along the riverbank by planting a wide variety of local trees, grasses, shrubs and wildflowers.

 

Left: Wildflowers, grasses and trees flank the restored banks of Mill River. Left: The park’s meadows are populated with many native species, such as this Butterfly weed.

This new riparian edge enabled OLIN to design a highly programmed public park, with jogging and walking paths, a kayak launch, fishing and bird-watching sites, and numerous areas for play, formal events, informal gathering and quiet respite. When completed, the restored river and new civic amenities will serve to re-engage Stamford residents with their waterfront and rejuvenate the surrounding community. The first phase of the park design is currently under construction and will be completed in 2013.

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