What is the vision of the Six Lakes Park Coalition for a park at Six Lakes?
- We envision an accessible, public open space that welcomes all to enjoy the woods, lakes, and trails at Six Lakes. This vision is shared by the Town of Hamden, whose mayor and legislative council, in November 2022, unanimously passed a “Resolution Concerning Restorative Justice for Southern Hamden and Urging the Conversion of the Former ‘Olin Powder Farm’ to a Public Space Consistent with the Community’s Vision.” The Olin Corporation, which owns the property, is aware of the town’s vision, and we are optimistic that, once pollution on the property is remediated, Olin will be willing to discuss its end use as a park with the town. As we get closer to the actual creation of a park, it is our intention that the community will decide what that park will look like and how it will be used.
We already have parks in Hamden. Why do we need to add this one?
- Six Lakes is special, in part, because of its location. Tucked behind the Putnam Plaza, it is a stunning nature preserve in an urban center, bordered by the Farmington Canal Rail Trail. Preserving this property as public open space is an opportunity to invest in the health and wellbeing of the Newhall neighborhood, in which the Town of Hamden has historically underinvested, as well as create new opportunities for all Hamden residents to enjoy natural spaces.
Who is involved in the effort to create a park at Six Lakes?
- Residents of neighborhoods adjacent to the property and many other people and organizations are involved in different ways, and new people and organizations continue to join in this effort. You can find the members of the Six Lakes Park Coalition and the steering committee members here. In addition to coalition and steering committee members, those working on creating a park at Six Lakes include Hamden mayor Lauren Garrett; numerous local, state, and federal elected officials; and other organizations lending their expertise including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Yale Center for Environmental Justice, the Trust for Public Land, and others. We invite you to get involved, too! Sign up for Six Lakes news here and volunteer opportunities here.
What kind of contamination has been found on the site? Are you sure it will be safe for people to go there?
- Past contamination during the site’s years of industrial use has included casings, batteries, gunpowder waste, solvents, and the results of burning trash, debris, and chemicals on the site. The site has been owned for more than a century by the Olin Corporation and companies it purchased, and Olin has sole legal responsibility for cleaning it up to current governmental standards, which are stricter than those it would have had to follow in the past. For more on the industrial history of the Six Lakes site, click here.
Who’s responsible for cleaning up the land so it can become a park?
- The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is responsible for ensuring that Olin cleans up the property to current environmental safety standards. Olin initiated some cleanup under state supervision in the 1980s, but significant work is still needed before the site can be safely used as a public park. In recent decades, the focus has been on remediation of additional industrial pollution left by Olin in the residential portion of Newhall, most of which has now been completed. We have had numerous conversations with CT DEEP regarding the progress of contamination remediation, and the agency is currently evaluating a new environmental status report from Olin. We will continue to hold DEEP accountable for regulating and overseeing Olin’s remediation of Six Lakes.
Hamden’s taxes are already high. Isn’t this going to cost a lot of money?
- Yes, most likely in the range of several million dollars, but that burden should not be held by Hamden taxpayers. First, Olin is legally required to pay for the cleanup to DEEP’s environmental standards. Our intent is to secure a combination of state and federal funding and private donations to negotiate conversion of the cleaned-up land into a public park and operate it into the future. We’re still exploring numerous possibilities.
How long is this going to take?
- That depends. Olin has delayed this work for more than 50 years. After its obligations to the residential portion of the neighborhood cleanup had been largely fulfilled, our coalition took time to form. However, we are optimistic that all of the key players are now coming to the table and solutions are at hand. Once site work begins, experts say it should take just a couple of years to complete this project.
What has been done so far to try to turn Six Lakes into a public park?
- In 2022, the Six Lakes Park Coalition held multiple conversations with key stakeholders to move the project forward and get everyone to the table. We helped draft and organize public support for a resolution passed by the town council and signed by the mayor in support of Six Lakes. We began important outreach in nearby neighborhoods to learn about residents’ concerns and desires. We began communicating to interested members of the public who signed up for our emails. We will continue all of this work and more in 2023.
How can I get involved?
- One of our primary goals is to ensure that neighbors of Six Lakes, particularly Newhall residents who have been deeply impacted by the pollution of their neighborhood, are in the forefront of plans for Six Lakes Park. We invite you to join us by signing up for our communications and attending our events.