Seasonal car detour at Mohegan Park to be made permanent

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Mon., Jan. 9, 2012
The pictured portion of Mohegan Park Road will close to car traffic for good on April 15. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
The pictured portion of Mohegan Park Road will close to car traffic for good on April 15. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Driving shortcuts through Mohegan Park will become a permanent thing of the past this spring, when a portion of Mohegan Park Road will be closed to cars for good. The Norwich City Council voted Jan. 3 in favor of permanently closing the 1,250-foot-long length of road from the entrance to Spaulding Pond beach’s parking lot to a point just past the entrance to the park’s lower parking lot. The closure will be effective April 15.

Norwich Public Works Director Barry Ellison said that the city has closed the stretch of pavement to cars seasonally, from April 15 through Nov. 15, for the past two or three years.

A number of people spoke in favor of the decision at the council meeting, including several members of the Mohegan Park Advisory Committee. Supporters cited the danger to children at the Spaulding Pond playground, which is currently protected from the road by a string of jersey barriers.

“The roadway should be for the purpose of going to the park, rather than through the park,” committee member Kevin Crowley told the City Council. He said that seasonal closure of the road has led to increased use by joggers and walkers. Closing the road creates the need for a half-mile detour for cars, he said. “That’s not an inconvenience, in my opinion. It makes the park center a better place,” he added.

Patrons enjoying the park during the recent unseasonably warm weather seemed to endorse the council’s decision. “I can understand the concerns,” said Joan Salsgiver, of Mansfield, who was watching her kids climb on one of the park’s playscapes. She said she loved the park as a child and still drives down for weekly visits in the summer. “A lot of people here have their kids on bicycles. There’s baby carriages, buggies, people walking and jogging,” she said.

Rachel Claspell, of Voluntown, walking Spinner, her service dog in training, said that she has seen Yoga and Tai Chi classes conducted in the park center during the summer, as well as people also roller-skating through the park. She said that speed bumps on the road in question might serve the purpose of slowing down traffic.

Council member Charles Jaskiewicz cast the sole dissenting vote, citing concerns about added response times for emergency vehicles to the beach. “You’re increasing the safety response time by two minutes,” he said. Every additional minute of response time lowers an accident victim’s chances of survival, he said. “I believe it can be mitigated differently. Maybe we need to have more of a traffic watch,” he said.

Park patron Stacie McNally, visiting the park with her family, said that the slowed response time is “a valid point.” Still, she said, “I think there are people riding [through here] a little faster than they should.”

“I think it’s a good thing to discourage people from using the park as a thruway,” said Ellison. “We find more and more people using [Mohegan Park Road] for that purpose, to get from one side of the city to the other.”

The City Council’s decision means that drivers will need to use Harland Road or Boswell Avenue to cross the city from Taftville to Norwichtown, Ellison said. “Those streets are designed for larger amounts of traffic,” he said.

Ellison said that the Mohegan Park Improvement and Development Committee will determine whether the road will be torn up after closure and the appearance of the finished project.

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