MARBLEHEAD — It’s the gateway to Marblehead, and it flanks Salem’s Lafayette Street, with its stately homes overlooking Salem Harbor. So, it matters a lot how the former Lead Mills site, at the Forest River, looks.
With that in mind, Salem and Marblehead are promoting two public meetings to help decide how to use the property. At both, they will listen to students from Conway School of Landscape Design, who have been retained to suggest ideas for the site. But regular folks are expected to have some input, as well, and they will be invited to participate in workshops and make proposals.
Conway School students have been charged with examining the property, talking with people who use it, view it or live near it and then making suggestions for what it ought to become. Yesterday, a trio were at the site surveying its dimensions and assessing the soil.
“We’re making our analysis of the site,” said Allison Ruschp, a native of Stowe, Vt., at work with colleagues Emily Berg, of Ithaca, N.Y., and Jeff Dawson of Northhampton. As to the use of the land, Ruschp cautioned that as a brownfield, a plot of land still possibly plagued by buried toxins, “It has to be a passive use.”
That rules out a soccer field, for example. And even a dog park might be problematic because Fido couldn’t dig down very far without reaching the membrane designed to contain the toxins. Even holes for fence posts couldn’t be dug.
Berg sees the slightly more than 4 acres as “a park of some sort.” Benches could work.
“We hope to plant something to further the remediation.” She smiles, noting that they’ve recently received a suggestion from an 80-year-old woman. “She wants to see the field planted in lavender.”