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Coating on the sidewalk at the John H. Thomas Memorial Swimming Pool is designed to mitigate heat islands

SPRINGFIELD — The John H. Thomas Memorial Pool was empty and empty for the season, and the trees in the area had not yet assumed their fall colors when a group of city and Department of Conservation and Recreation officials opened the facility on Thursday Next year summer visited heat in their heads.

A few days earlier, the Department for Conservation and Recreation began applying an acrylic resin epoxy intended to reflect the rays of the summer sun off the pool’s parking lot. The project is a pilot program to investigate whether the bright coating could be used to address urban heat islands.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, less vegetation and more sidewalks and buildings mean urban areas get hotter than surrounding areas, creating heat islands. The increased heat leads to higher power requirements for air conditioning, poor air quality, and heat-related injuries and deaths.

Sara White of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Director of Climate Resilience, Commissioner Douglas Rice and Deputy Commissioner Gary Moran were all present to inspect the coating.

According to Rice, several factors led to the pool lot being chosen as the site for the pilot program. It was a place where people often waited to enter the pool.

“We were already in the process of improving the parking lot and it looked like it was ready for repaving,” Rice said. “In connection with this work, it made sense to try it here.”

He also said the program is designed to evaluate a relatively new product in locations with a high concentration of black asphalt.

“Black tarmac can get extremely hot in the summer,” Rice said. “Now that we have a coating we can come back next summer and see what kind of improvements would be needed.”

White said this is the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s first project with this type of material, and if it can detect a change in temperature next summer, they also plan to coat more parks across the state.

“The great thing about this product is that it can be placed over an existing carpet,” White said. “It doesn’t require a lot of digging or anything like that. It is a resin product. It almost looks like paint and is applied to the asphalt as a coating.”

She added: “We got the first two coats down earlier this week before the rain came,” White said. “We’re taking a break because of the rain. We will soon have a finished coating and will be producing the cables for parking lots.”

The Department of Conservation and Recreation has received requests from other municipalities to install the coating in other locations with foot traffic, White said.

“This is especially the case near pools, in places where people might be barefoot in the summer,” White said. “We’ve seen some municipalities use this in their parks and their facilities as well. I think there are many ways to expand this.”

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