Foundation chairman ‘surprised’ by lack of litter
By Scott Bellile
A local veteran said he has encountered less trash than expected at Taft Park since the city council voted to place a dumpster within view of the downtown New London veterans memorial last year.
“I’m kind of surprised how little litter there’s been around there,” New London Veterans Memorial Foundation Chairman Jim Jaeger told the New London Parks and Recreation Committee on July 2. “I get in there probably once or twice a week when I’m driving by, and I’ve seen a few small cans and things laying around, but they disappear pretty quickly.”
Jaeger thanked city officials for improving the appearance of the dumpster pad area by masking it with new trees, planting flowers and reseeding the grass.
However, Jaeger said he was unhappy to see someone left a large television at the dumpster pad.
The TV was visible when a crowd gathered on June 30 to celebrate a vet whose name was added to the wall, Jaeger said.
Public Services Director Chad Hoerth said the TV was placed inside the gated dumpster pad area, but nonetheless, the city is reviewing security footage to see who illegally disposed of the TV.
The New London Veterans Memorial Foundation purchased security cameras for the area to monitor improper disposal at the site.
A city sign placed on the dumpster pad gate warns people the area is under surveillance and they will be ticketed for unauthorized dumping.
Two centralized, fenced-in dumpster pads – one at Taft Park, the other at St. John’s Park – were installed last year to be used by business owners and tenants along West North Water Street.
The aim was to decrease the number of privately owned trash bins and dumpsters behind the businesses, which city officials believed represented the riverfront poorly to passerby and boaters.
Members of the New London Veterans Memorial Foundation, however, found the city’s choice location for the dumpster pad offensive to the hundreds of vets living and dead whose names are etched into the war monuments’ granite walls.
Vets including Jaeger held a picket-sign protest in the park last November to air their grievances, such as the dumpster would bring litter, odors and bugs to the area of reverence. They signed petitions calling on the city to move the dumpster pad elsewhere.
At a parks and recreation committee on Dec. 4, 2018, then-City Administrator Kent Hager asked the foundation to give the city until late summer to prove the dumpster pad location can work.
Hager said at the time city employees would be willing to pressure-wash the area if odors surfaced and ask dumpster users to be respectful if littering got out of hand.
“I think if you would give it time, we all hope that it works out,” Hager said in December. “And if it doesn’t, all of these folks (on the parks and recreation committee) would agree with you: Let’s get rid of it and remedy the problem.”
City looks to vacate street
Jaeger’s primary reason for appearing before the parks and recreation committee July 2 was to ask city officials to consider vacating a right-of-way that currently runs through Taft Park on the city map.
The right-of-way, State Street, ends at North Water Street. State Street does not physically bisect Taft Park.
But parts of the veterans memorial lie on undeveloped street rather than Taft Park.
The area in the State Street right-of-way contains grass, picnic tables and the obelisk war monument with the bronze eagle on top.
Jaeger said he was concerned that future city councils could decide to remove the veterans memorial to develop the property and install a walking bridge over the Wolf River.
He asked the city to vacate the right-of-way. This process would involve combining the undeveloped State Street right-of-way with the Taft Park parcel west of it.
Mayor Gary Henke told Jaeger a pedestrian bridge will “never” be installed at Taft Park because such a bridge would have to end at private land owned by Hilker Warehousing on the south bank of the river.
Nonetheless, Henke said he believes the city could vacate the right-of-way.
The committee voted to send the proposal to the New London Planning Commission for review.