Judge Rules Vt. Park Upgrades Can Move Forward, Despite Opposition

Changes are coming to Burlington’s City Hall Park

A new court decision Thursday dealt a blow to opponents of a plan to dramatically revamp one of the busiest parks in Vermont’s largest city.

The group Keep the Park Green had asked a court to halt reconstruction of Burlington’s City Hall Park, but Judge Helen Toor of the Vermont Superior Court Chittenden Civil Division ruled the opponents’ disappointment about changes coming to the park and other claims weren’t enough to stop the project.

“This is just a really sad day in the history of Burlington for this to be happening,” Wayne Senville of Keep the Park Green said of what’s going on behind the chain-link fence now blocking public access to Burlington’s City Hall Park.

After years of planning, the city just started preliminary work on a big park overhaul. Upgrades include widening the paths, installing an interactive water play feature, and putting in a variety of seating.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said Rainbow Cornelia, one of the opponents who demonstrated outside both the civil courthouse and the construction site Thursday.

Those opponents said they fear a loss of historic character and of mature shade trees in the park.

“I see trees that are going to be slaughtered any day now, and it makes me sick to my stomach,” said Donna Walters of Keep the Park Green. “We’d like to see the park get enhanced, but not by cutting down so many trees.”

Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington, said city leaders have worked to address a range of concerns, and was glad to learn Judge Toor’s decision will allow reconstruction work to proceed in the park.

“We are moving forward, full-speed,” Weinberger said in an interview with necn Thursday about the future of the park.

The mayor said he believes the reconstruction opponents have made “attempt after attempt to obstruct” the coming changes to the park, but said now is the time to improve accessibility to a facility he is sure the public will use more often.

“This is going to be a park that’s far more beautiful than it is today, have far more vegetation—more than 1,500 flowers and shrubs that aren’t there now,” Weinberger said.

The new City Hall Park is expected to open in the Fall of 2020, the mayor told necn.

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