Recreation looking ahead at new fields and renovations

by beth on November 17, 2017

The Recreation Commission is planning new outdoor track and field projects. The overall strategy is to focus on increasing and improving fields, lighting, and maintenance within the Town’s current “footprint” for recreation.

The Commission will present a plan to the Board of Selectmen this Tuesday in hopes of proceeding to Annual Town Meeting in the spring.

In preparation, it provided a preview to the Southborough School Committee last week. The committee and administration were supportive of plans for the campus at Neary School and Trottier Middle School.

Then-Chair of the Recreation Commission, Brian Shifrin, helped present plans to add a lighted, full sized turf field at Neary. Other field improvement plans focus on leveling and playing areas there. Rec also wants to repair the Trottier track.

As the newest selectman, Shifrin will be on the other side of the table on Tuesday night. Rec will be asking for the board’s support to bring articles to Town Meeting voters.

Before I get into new project details – I know some readers will have questions about snafus with articles voted on at past meetings. So, here’s an update on Choate and 911 fields.

There has finally been some progress fixing the lighting problems at Choate Field in front of Woodward School. Public Works Superintendent Karen Galligan informed me: 

National Grid installed the pole for the transformer on Monday.* Now that the pole is in the Town’s electrical contractor can complete the Town’s piece of the work. The contractor will be out on Monday. When that work is completed, sometime in the next two weeks, weather permitting, National Grid can come back, set the transformer and turn on the service. I am hopeful that National Grid is able to come out quickly once the rest of our work is done.

Turf issues at 911 Field may be trickier to fix. Recreation received bids back for work to fix the field. Rec Director Doreen Ferguson told the School Committee that bids may be a little over their budget. She stated they may need to find some resources to get that fixed.

I reached out to Ferguson for an update following Recreation Commission’s meeting to discuss the bids. I haven’t heard back. But I’m sure that topic will be addressed on Tuesday night.

The Neary field projects are intended to be in addition to returfing 911 Field. But it was clear from last week’s meeting that Ferguson was also worried about what would happen if neither project happens. She explained that providing fields for Town sports has gotten more challenging as the dynamics of working parents has changed.

The Rec head indicated that practices need to start later because of the increase in families with two working parents. A number of parents also commute to the city by train.**

In addition to the turf field, Rec would like to see two full sized grass fields at Neary. That appears to mean eliminating the rarely used baseball diamond.*** According to Ferguson, Southborough Youth Baseball has consolidated their play over at the Mooney Complex (at Finn School).

But even if Rec gets wide support, levelling land for a 3-field project isn’t be a slam dunk. The field sits on top of a former landfill. Rec will need to bring in environmental engineers to assess what they can do.

The project recommendations came out of a strategic plan outsourced by the Rec Commission. Already, one recommendation from the report had to be scrapped.

According to Ferguson, the report suggested that the Trottier track be replaced with a full sized field surrounded by a new track. It’s an idea that the Conservation Commission has told them isn’t feasible given wetland areas.

If approved by voters, the work would be done over the summers of 2018 and 2019 to avoid impact to the schools.

*My understanding from earlier in the month was NGrid had planned to put up the pole about two weeks prior. But the October 30th windstorm and aftermath put them behind schedule.

**The Commuter Rail Station only came to Southborough 15 years ago. Presumably, the number of residents commuting by train began increasing significantly after that.  

***Updated (11/20/17 12:22 pm): I removed some detail about exactly where around Neary the turf field is planned for. In looking at materials submitted for the packet for the upcoming presentation to selectmen, I had misunderstood where Lunblad field was. (It’s up on Parkerville Road.) Rather than trying to reinterpret the comments made at the School Committee meeting (in which visuals were presented to committee members but not shown to audience/cameras) it’s best to wait for the presentation at the Selectmen’s meeting.

1 Alan November 17, 2017 at 1:26 PM

Should Mr Shifrin recuse himself from this selectman’s vote on this subject.

2 Arborist November 17, 2017 at 4:55 PM

And who is going to pay for all This ? Our taxes are climbing beyond reach now !!

3 beth November 17, 2017 at 5:25 PM

Stay tuned for details on that. But I should point out that I believe there are user fees for youth sport leagues using fields. And Rec plans to rent out use of the new field to adult leagues when not in use by the school or youth sports.

4 SB Resident November 20, 2017 at 11:25 AM

WIth huge amount of wasted money on lights for the tennis and basketball courts that are not needed, it seems like rec wants to bite off more than it can chew. We should scrap those plans and move that money to some of these plans which are much more important.

Understanding that there are wetlands, replacing the trottier track with a full sized one should be priority number one. There must be some way to modify the area to accommodate it, but I’m sure it boils down to cost. I’d prefer to see the turf field as an infield there instead of at Neary too. It makes much more sense to have the “high end” complex as part of the middle school. Maybe we should just start with this rather than trying for three projects in one all while we are building a new public safety complex where the fallout from tax increases due to that won’t have been felt yet.

With that said fixing up the neary fields is needed, but depending on how much money we are talking I’d like to understand the long term vision for neary as a whole before we spend much there. The “trailer” class rooms need to go, that playground/asphalt pad could use to be completely redone, and the entire school itself is questionable in when it will need some major refurbishment. The parking lot location vs the location of the fields is not ideal either. Putting a turf field there just doesn’t seem prudent.

Lastly, I didn’t understand any of what is desired for Lundblad, it is already just a big grass field. Other than no parking and/or walking path/stairs up to it from the nearly lot, what needs to change there?

Also curious if Rec has any details on if there actually is a market for renting out the fields to adult leagues. Where’s the money come from when the fields aren’t used like they will predict?

5 beth November 20, 2017 at 12:18 PM

For more details and answers to your questions, you should really attend tomorrow night’s meeting. Or you can just stay tuned to see what’s presented there. (In that case, don’t assume all of your questions will be addressed.)

I should point out that I had mistakenly believed Lunblad was the area next to Neary, not the field up on Parkerville Road in front of the school. (I couldn’t see the visuals presented to the School Committee and never got those or a response to questions from Rec.) The packet shared for the Board of Selectmen’s meeting tonight set me straight. (It appears from your comment that you did know where that is. I wanted to clarify for others reading the comments.)

It also looks like I may have been wrong about the diamond being removed. In the packet, it is pictured as relocated for reconfigured Neary fields. (That confuses me based on comments from Rec at the School Committee meeting about its lack of use. But I’m guessing it will be explained in their presentation Tuesday night.)

You can see the presentation overview in the packet here:

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