Travel trailers open for residents still without gas service

As four travel trailer sites start to fill local parks in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence, families are slow to occupy the spaces as they continue to find alternative housing in the wake of the Merrimack Valley gas disaster.

The largest travel trailer site, located in O’Connell South Common Park in Lawrence, has 180 trailers in which residents can stay until gas service is restored to their home, a process that could take until Nov. 19. According to Christopher Besse, the public information officer with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, 95 trailers at the park have been prepared for residents and just 13 families have moved in as of Wednesday evening. Besse said another 30 trailers have been assigned to families who should be moving in soon.

Besse said he is unsure if all 180 trailers will be occupied.

“It’s really hard to tell, it depends on people’s situations and the other housing options that are available,” said Besse. “It also depends on the weather and the temperature.”

South Common Park, bordering South Union and Market streets, is typically used by local athletes to play softball and baseball.

Besse said the rest of the trailer sites are being prepared throughout the week. According to a release from MEMA, Pemberton State Park in Lawrence will have 100 trailers, along with 80 trailers at Grogan Field in North Andover and 40 trailers at Recreation Park in Andover. Besse said as of Wednesday evening, the South Common Park location is the only one that is currently housing families.

The 30-foot Acadia and Coleman trailers are lined up and organized into rows across the parks and include a kitchen space, bathroom and sleeping quarters that can fit up to eight people.

Each trailer site will be staffed with security personnel along with management and maintenance. Besse urges residents who wish to live in alternative housing to call Columbia Gas or MEMA and go through an intake process and not just “show up.” Other housing options provided by Columbia Gas include hotel rooms and apartments.

According to Columbia Gas’ daily briefing, as of yesterday, 22 out of 44 miles of main line have been replaced in the affected areas and 1,334 out of 6,100 service lines have been replaced.