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Vernal pool changes plans for school project

Designers 'reconsider' athletic field layout

Conservation Commissioner Maureen Doyle tries to identify egg masses she sees in the school site’s vernal pool by comparing them with a recent guide to pool life. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
May 02, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — An interest in protecting wildlife is prompting a redesign of outdoor elements of the middle/high school project.

Recent aerial and ground surveys "forced us to reconsider" the layout of the athletic fields to fit them into the site's ruggedness and "provide adequate buffer to these areas," landscape architect David Warner told the Conservation Commission Thursday.

Of particular concern to Warner and others was that the survey process discovered a vernal pool, a fairly small body of water that is typically dry part of the year but provides a breeding habitat for various amphibian and insect species, some of them endangered. Although this particular pool, located on the eastern side of the property, has not been formally certified, the site designers are trying to ensure the animals breeding there have enough nearby upland space to survive, and that athletic fields don't run off into the pool (or other nearby wetlands).

"We felt it was our obligation to see what kind of creatures were in there," he said. (A reporter's visit the next day found numerous egg masses of frogs and/or salamanders, some species of which can only breed in such pools.)

Although the work will change the landscape, protecting them, Warner added, will have to be incorporated into the school's long-term maintenance plan, as will other "green" features being planned. Among those are rain gardens and a boardwalk; in response to a question from member Maureen Doyle, architect Charles Hay said adding a green roof (where plants grow on it) would be "prohibitively expensive," but it will be white to reflect heat.

Some of those features, several commissioners and designers hope, will become educational amenities, too.

For more on this story, please see Monday's Southbridge Evening News.

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