The town's new field committee held its inaugural meeting on Thursday night - although the next big step for the long-awaited athletic fields complex comes less than two weeks from now at town meeting.
On Thursday, Chairman Arthur Bourque provided an update on the project to representatives of the town's various athletic programs and others. Phil Crawford, vice chair of the town finance committee, and Kyle Shinnick, a former Lynnfield Rotary president who is a manager with the firm Land Pros, are the other two committee members at this point. Two additional committee members have yet to be named and Town Administrator William Gustus indicated after the meeting that the selectmen may take this matter up on April 30 when they meet right before town meeting.
At this point, town meeting figures very prominently into the proposed athletic fields complex. That's because voters will be asked to approve article #24, which would use $100,000 from the town's Sale of Real Estate Fund for initial engineering and consulting work on the fields project. The fund currently contains about $950,000 and Bourque said that the $100,000 in question would be replenished when the town gets its expected $1 million in funds from the Market Street at Lynnfield project.
"There's no impact on taxpayers for the first million, there's no impact on the taxpayers for what we're trying to do currently," said Bourque, who recently wrapped up 12 years as a selectman and was elected town moderator. Bourque has long been active in the effort to bring a fields complex to town, and early in the meetng he noted that his former colleagues on the board of selectmen, Bob MacKendrick and Al Merritt, are also longtime supporters. Merritt is also the committee's liaison to the select board.
If voters do approve the warrant article, one of the next steps would be the selection of the planning, consulting and engineering firms by June 1. By October 1, planners hope to have the needs assessment, surveying and wetlands delineation work complete, and by the start of next February, the preliminary fields layout and project cost estimates would be ready.
While town meeting voters will have considerable say over the project's momentum at the end of the month, Bourque also noted that the Lynnfield Center Water District, which owns the land, plus the town conservation commission and state Department of Environmental Protection will also have matters to sign off on with the project.
Last weekend, committee members reportedly took a trip up to the land parcel, which sits off Main Street close to the Middleton border. One thing about the 98.5 acre site is that some of the older wetland delineations may no longer be completely accurate - which could at least conceivably provide a little more land to work with than expected. Later in the meeting, it was noted that the land in question was actually taken by eminent domain by the town back in the 1960s for a reservoir that was never built.
"I knew we had a lot of space... There was just more land than we could ever possibly imagine," said Bourque of the recent site visit. Along with fields for a variety of sports, planners also envision passive recreation facilities as well, such as a dog park, walking/biking trails and possibly a canoe/kayak launch.
"We're working to try to incorporate this so it is a multipurpose park so everyone in town can get excited about this," said Bourque.
Later, Town Administrator Bill Gustus pointed out that "a complex like this really adds to the quality of life in a community," noting that house hunters often check on a town's recreational offerings before deciding to move in.
Looking ahead, there are still numerous other questions to address as the project goes forward. For example, planners must determine who exactly will maintain the fields, although as public property, the DPW appears to be a likely candidate. It also remains to be seen whether running water will be available at the site. Bourque said it is unlikely that there will be a refreshment stand, and no formal decision has been made on lighting the fields.
The goal is to complete the project for April, 2015 - and between now and then, fundraising will be key. Crawford reported that he has already begun researching potential grants from the state and elsewhere - although, as he noted, "the first step is getting all the engineering done."