Construction will begin early next year on phase one of Newark’s plan to build a vast network of parkland and trails at the former Curtis Paper Mill site.
Earlier this month, council accepted Reybold Construction Group’s $998,798 bid to complete the first of three phases for the area off Paper Mill Road, where the mill’s smokestack once stood before it was taken down earlier this year.
The mill was first built in 1789 and functioned until 1997 when production ceased. The city purchased the property in 1999, and officials have been discussing plans to reinvent the site ever since.
Parks and Recreation Director Charlie Emerson said a pre-construction meeting with Reybold will be held in January with plans to break ground on the park sometime in February. Plans include turning the existing brownfield site into a park with walking, jogging and biking trails, access to White Clay Creek, a meadow with native landscaping and a 15-car parking area.
Emerson said that originally, the department had plans to recondition the smokestack instead of tearing it down, but that it didn’t pan out financially. Not only would the brick have been expensive to recondition but the smokestack would need to be inspected regularly if it remained in the park, he said.
“It would have been a high cost to keep in place,” Emerson said.
Instead, some of the bricks were salvaged before the structure was demolished and will be used in the new park to build a round plaza area with benches, tables and two to three kiosks with old photographs and information about the paper mill. At the entrance to the plaza will stand two pillars constructed out of the recycled brick and made to look like the mill’s iconic smoke stack.
This first phase of the project will take between eight and 10 months to finish, according to Emerson. The project is funded by the city’s capital improvements program, DNREC Brownfields Remediation Grant, Delaware Land and Water Conservation Trust Fund Grant and a state bond bill program.
Phase two will be just south of phase one and will cost $900,000, however a construction date is not currently set and will depend on funding, Emerson said. The site will boast an eight-car parking lot and new pedestrian and bicycle bridge across White Clay Creek that connects to the phase 1 area of Curtis Mill Park.
The third phase of the project, costing $1.5 million, will be the larger of the three and will be constructed across the street from the Newark Reservoir in an open field on Old Paper Mill Road. This section of Curtis Mill Park will include a 45-car parking lot, skate spot, basketball court, ball wall court, playground, picnic pavilion, multi-use turf field, bicycle jump park and walking and jogging trails.
Although the last two areas of parkland won’t be completed anytime soon, Emerson said he is excited to finally get started on the Curtis Paper Mill site, the first leg of a project that has been several years in the making.
“I’m really happy about that,” he said. “Right now it’s been an eyesore for that site for some time, but when it’s done it’s going to be a great entryway into the city.”