The Mansfield Town Complex may soon transform into a sustainable site thanks to one University of Connecticut professor and her students who created a master plan for sustainably redeveloping the area.
UConn Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Kristin Schwab and her plant design class developed the nine-part plan for sustainably refurbishing the Mansfield Town Complex, which includes the area around the Mansfield Community Center, Mansfield Town Hall and Edwin O. Smith High School, last spring, Schwab said.
“Students worked in groups, then presented four different plans to the Mansfield Sustainability Committee,” Schwab said. “An intern last summer then whittled them down to one plan.”
Students gained valuable insight into what employment in the field of landscape architecture is truly like through developing the plan, according to Schwab.
“(Students) worked with the Sustainability Committee, key town stakeholders and staff to develop their approach. They tested how well (their plans) resonated with the client,” Schwab said. “In the real world, projects are developed in teams like this.”
The plan aims to improve the connectivity of the Mansfield Town Complex by increasing its bicycle and pedestrian friendliness, as well as building a direct path to the Mansfield Town Hall plaza from Storrs Road.
“We’re trying to institute more sustainable practices around the municipal building. Mansfield residents know it as town center, and it’s near downtown and highly visible,” Schwab said.
The plan also prioritizes making the area environmentally healthy and efficient with solar carports, native vegetation, and on-site stormwater management.
“Instead of catch basins, we want to treat stormwater on site,” said Schwab. “It would be a very educational, beautiful part of the landscape. People have been worried about how much water we’re using with UConn’s growth, so we would show them this.”
Community involvement and education would also be achieved by installing signs throughout the area which would describe the sustainable refurbishments individually, according to Schwab.
She said she is currently seeking support for the plan from the public and Mansfield Town Council in addition to expanding the plan’s publicity.
“We need stakeholders to understand the plan’s benefits before implementation, we’re trying to do public outreach to get more input on these ideas.”
Another hurdle the plan faces is obtaining adequate funding, Schwab said.
“The (Mansfield) Town Council does need to approve and buy in to this effort. They would be very involved in appropriating funding, we would also look at grants, especially environmental grants, and private fundraising.”
A Mansfield Town Council member has voiced concern about the plan’s cost, as funding has already been devoted to other causes.
“We have in process the project for reviewing our hard assets,” council member Virginia Raymond said. “We’ve had deferred maintenance once. I have no idea how any of this fits into facility maintenance plans.”
Once the plan is passed and funded, a landscape architect will be hired to enact it over the course of about five to seven years.
“(The Mansfield Town Complex) is a large complex, and with it being a widely used area, we want to phase it out,” Schwab said. “But planting trees in the island of the parking lot (between Mansfield Community Center and Mansfield Town Hall) would be easy to do and could happen in six months, for example.”
Though the plan is composed of distinct parts, it is a master plan that considers the entirety of the Mansfield Town Complex. A Mansfield Town Council member supported this big picture thinking.
“It’s good to think of the campus as a whole, instead of isolated pieces of sidewalk, grass, and road. This shouldn’t be dealt with in an isolated way,” council member Antonia Moran said.
The timeline for completing the plan within five to seven years of its approval and funding will be developed this academic year, Schwab said.
Alexandra Retter is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.