New Athletic Fields Complex Could Open In 2015
At April 30 town meeting, residents will be asked to approve using $100,000 from town's sale of real estate fund for initial planning and engineering work at proposed site off Main Street near Middleton.
Town residents may be about three years away from breaking in a new athletic fields complex off Main Street, near the Bostik plant and the Middleton line. First however, they will be asked to approve an article at the April 30th town meeting to use $100,000 from the town's sale of real estate fund to pay for preliminary design and engineering work at the site. The real estate fund reportedly has about $940,000 in it.
On Monday night, the Board of Selectmen met to discuss the warrant article (#24), as well as the broader proposal that could see numerous athletic fields and even a dog park and space for walking and other passive recreational activities. Given the site's proximity to the Ipswich River, another possibility could be a launch area for canoes and kayaks, although this will ultimately depend on where the wetlands are located on the parcel. On the 98 acre site, which is owned by the Lynnfield Center Water District, about 67 total acres are estimated to be usable when considering wetlands and other factors.
"It's pretty simple in appearance but pretty complex to figure out," said Select Board Chair Arthur Bourque, calling the fields complex "a very personal project" that has taken years to get off the ground despite longstanding calls from the community for more athletic space. "The fields were a problem long before I got (to the board of selectmen)," said Bourque.
Bourque emphasized that the Center Water District is not actually transfering ownership of this land to the town. A condition of the deal will require the town to ensure that the water supplies are not threatened by the development or by drainage once the fields are built, and the town will also be responsible for the insurance coverage.
Access to the parcel of land is expected to be provided by a right of way from a property owner, and Bourque, who delivered almost all of the presentation, noted that land owned by Richardson's Dairy would give abutting residents several hundred feet of a buffer zone. While the facility will likely have bathrooms, there are no plans at this point for it to be lighted.
The total cost of the project is expected to be several million dollars, with $1 million of that bill set to come from the deal that allowed the Market Street at Lynnfield project to move forward. The location of the wetlands also makes it impossible for all of the fields to be simply placed right next to each other, and town officials are apparently still looking at as many as eight different plans with various combinations of fields on them.
One possible site plan on display at the meeting showed a Little League field, a baseball field that's 400 feet to center field and 320 feet to the foul lines, a football field (360' x 160'), soccer field (300' x 180', 1.24 acres), basketball court (84' x 50'), a tennis court, and the previously mentioned dog park.
The state's Department of Environmental Protection, plus the town conservation commission and Lynnfield's town meeting voters, still have to place their own approvals on various aspects of the project though. "So we have a long ways to go," said Bourque.
Selectman Al Merritt called the project "a big fat opportunity" for the town, saying that the project offers free land and accessibility to the town, at a modest cost to taxpayers. He added that the town's adult and youth sports programs are "one of the real gems" of life in Lynnfield. Fellow Select Board member Bob MacKendrick was equally favorable toward the project, saying it is planned "on a pretty fiscally responsible basis," adding that "hopefully the townspeople will move it forward."
If town meeting voters do approve Article 24 on April 30th, they will authorize existing money in the town account (it will not affect the tax rate) to begin engineering work, such as surveying wetlands, while also assessing the town's current inventory of fields as well as its future needs, among other tasks. This process would include conversations with the town's many sporting organizations, but Bourque was emphatic that the process is not envisioned in any way that favors one sport over the other.
Looking ahead, selectmen expect there to be a "real need" for private contributions to help the field complex become a reality. The current timeline envisions construction of the complex starting in March of 2014, with a completion goal of April, 2015.
"This is our one chance in my opinion to solve this problem," said Bourque.
At their next meeting on April 9, the selectmen indicated that they plan to name members of an advisory committee to move the project forward and which is intended to represent a broad cross section of the sports and age groups that will benefit from the new facility. However, it was also reiterated that these advisory committee spots are not intended "for individuals who are just advocating for a particular sport." Those interested in serving on the advisory committee can inquire at town hall.