MARBLEHEAD — Three students from the Conway School of Design offered three plans last night for this town and neighboring Salem to get the most out of the former Lead Mills property on their border at Lafayette Street.
Their ideas ran the gamut. One would involve moving earth, creating extra parking spaces, planting trees, erecting signs and establishing a path for bringing non-motorized boats to the beach. Another would do very little.
“They’re just making suggestions,” Marblehead Town Planner Becky Cutting told a crowd of roughly 25 people at Abbot Public Library. “They’re coming up with options. This is not the end of this.”
At a previous meeting, residents were invited to share their ideas. Student Emily Berg noted that many of those ideas mirrored the thoughts of the Conway group, which was contracted by the town.
The ultimate decision, Cutting later told The News, will be made by the town’s Conservation Committee in conjunction with the Salem parks and recreation department. Salem owns a small section of the land, which was the site of a lead smelting and processing mill. It left the land contaminated, with 35 times the allowable levels of lead in some places.
Founded and incorporated in 1840 as Forest River Lead, the company was active for 40 years under this name. In 1884, it was purchased by Chadwick Lead works of Boston. After a remodeling and enlarging of the works, the name was changed to Forest River Lead works.
The entire main factory was destroyed by a large fire in 1897. After rebuilding, it became the largest lead mills facility in New England, creating 6,000 tons per year to be used in paint and other products.
The students quickly outlined the steps that have been taken to safeguard the public, including removal of some soil, chemical treatment of other soil and the installation of topsoil. Even so, there are restrictions on what can be done with it now.