BRUNSWICK — The Brunswick Mall is being used to death.
Once a healthy lawn, much of the town’s prime public space is now a patchwork of muddy ruts, tire tracks and expanses of bare ground.
According to Tom Farrell, director of Parks and Recreation, the degradation has reached a point where it’s interfering with the public’s ability to safely enjoy the open space.
“Right now the (soil) compaction is so solid that when we get rain it tends to say on the surface” rather than percolating down through the soil, he said, creating a slick surface.
In order to prevent further damage, Farrell said the mall needs a break.
At a minimum, the ground would be aerated, and probably reseeded or sodded in the spring. Because the new grass would need time to establish itself, Farrell said the damaged portion of the mall would be closed for at least a month.
While the repair efforts won’t restrict ice skating this winter, they will require the Farmers Market to find a temporary new home.
Town staff met with local farmers on Oct. 31 to find a new spot for the market, and are meeting again Nov. 14 to tour the proposed location: the narrower portion of the mall that is closer to downtown.
Farrell said the group considered several alternate locations, and decided that keeping the market on the mall, albeit in a different area, is preferable.
“We all came to the conclusion that if we could make this work, this would be the one that is most appealing, I think, to the market as well as the public,” he said.
Tom Fair, of Applewald Farm and the president of the Brunswick Farmer Market, declined to comment on the process of choosing a new location.
But Dick Keough, of Keough Family Farm, was part of the group that met with Farrell. He said the new location probably won’t affect business.
And Cathy Karonis, of Fairwinds Farm, agreed.
The question of how to care for the public space is nothing new.
On several occasions over the past 10 years, the Town Council has discussed how to balance preservation and use of the mall. It has also moved the Farmers Market before. In fact, the market used to be on the lower mall – exactly where Farrell is proposing to put it next spring – but was moved to its current spot over concerns that soil compaction was harming the trees.
A possible long-term solution is simply to rotate the market between the two halves of the mall, allowing the soil and grass to recuperate every other year.
“It’s the premier public gathering place in our community,”Farrell said, “and our intent is to continue to maintain it so it can be used in that fashion.”
Two farm trucks are driven through the mud while leaving the Brunswick Mall after the Farmers Market on Friday, Nov. 4.
Muddy ruts in front of the Brunswick Farmers Market on Tuesday, Nov. 7.