Granite Quarry exploring options for failing park walls
By Carl Blankenship
GRANITE QUARRY – Just beyond the stairs at Granite Lake Park, some retaining walls are in poor shape.
One of the masonry retaining walls is broken down and caved in, another on ground level is leaning about 15 degrees. Jim LaFevers of the Granite Quarry Parks, Events and Recreation Committee said the wall does not have long before it caves in as well.
LaFevers went before the town Board of Alderman on Tuesday and requested the walls be removed and replaced with sloped, mulched banks and the granite blocks be stored for later use.
The committee’s plan would not remove the north walls except for some loose blocks around a tree, where the slope has been compromised.
The committee also requested to replace the old wooden hand rails at the stairs with metal ones that would match the rails at the park shelter. The plan also specified not impacting the soil at the base of trees near the steps.
Alderman Jim Constantino asked how much of the work would need to be contracted out, and LaFevers said the masonry work and hand rails would need to be performed by contractors, but otherwise, hopefully, some of the other work could be done in house.
LaFevers acknowledged the scope of the project would involve a lot of work, both removing the existing walls and replacing them with properly compacted banks that would not suffer from erosion issues.
Mayor Pro Tem John Linker said the town should not be fixing park issues like this piecemeal unless there are dangerous problems that need to be repaired immediately.
“I have pushed for a master parks plan that would include all of these issues, and our manager has cautioned us to not fix anything that is not the same material,” Linker said.
He brought up the the state’s Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grants and said focusing on single issues in the park could actually hurt the town when trying to secure a large grant to do a major overhaul.
LaFevers said it would cost $3,000-$4,000 just to have the hand rails installed based on the cost of rails put in at the shelter last year.
Town Manager Larry Smith said the area falls within the town’s Federal Emergency Management grant repair area and ideally the town would be able to have the project paid for through that grant once an engineer looks at the site.
Mayor Bill Feather agreed with pursuing a larger overhaul, though he said the walls should be fixed.
Alderman Kim Cress commented he would be concerned about safety and compromising the history of the site. Cress said the large stone blocks present a greater risk of injury for people working on the wall than smaller and less-dense units, like brick, and it is a job for stone masons.
Linker agreed having town staff work on the walls would make him nervous.
Another issue is the steps themselves. LaFevers said they are difficult to maneuver and not often used.
Cress fielded the idea of removing compromised parts of the wall with gray terrace block to fill in the removed sections, which would preserve the look of the wall, but not removing more of the iconic granite pieces than necessary.
“I hate to lose that,” Cress said.
The board agreed to speak to an engineer about what would be possible and getting the project funded through the FEMA grant.