The Parks & Recreation Commission met in person Monday for the first time since the pandemic, although there was a remote option available for those who could not attend.
Several topics were discussed, including progress on the dog park, the need for removal of trees on the Town Common, and the opening of Sandy Beach.
Dog Park progresses
Director Jay Guelfi said blue flags have been placed to mark the area where the dog park will be located off Fruit Street, and construction is expected to begin shortly.
The surfacing of the dog park will be rice stone (similar to pea stone). Rice stone is recommended by the Stanton Foundation, which is providing the majority of the funding for the park.
The rice stone irrigation concept was developed by the Stanton Foundation jointly with the Animal Rescue League of Boston and veterinarians from Angell Memorial, according to Andrew Leonard, principal at Leonard Design Associates in Arlington.
“[Rice stone] has been used at many parks throughout Massachusetts,” Leonard said. “It provides for safe percolation of dog urine, easy pickup of feces, and does not get muddy or eroded, as do grass or stone-dust surfaces.
“One of the aims of the Stanton Foundation is the promotion of canine welfare,” he continued. “The design of any dog park funded by the foundation undergoes a rigorous examination by their professional review board and must meet their standards.”
Guelfi added that the Lennon Foundation is committing to donate additional grant money for this effort. Funds first will be expended through the grant fund for the work, and secondly through the Community Preservation Committee’s approved funding for the project.
Common requests an issue
A request was unanimously approved for the Boy Scouts to use the Town Common on the evening of June 14 for an awarding of ranks and badges, followed by a meeting.
That led to a discussion about using space on the Common, as program coordinator Colleen Allen said she had received questions about weddings.
“I think there needs to be some kind of policy around it,” she said. “Somebody was asking if they could put chairs there, and I just want some clarity.
Guelfi said that he asks people what the proposed scope of the ceremony would be. Usually such requests involve 25 people or fewer and have an officiation and then pictures in the gazebo.
“I always say, ‘That’s fine, but be aware that you may be hit by a Wiffle ball or a Frisbee,’” he said. “We cannot close the Common for your wedding. It’s a public place. When it gets to the point where I feel it is going to be more than that, I tell them that it is not town policy to allow private events on the Common with chairs and bands.”
Terry said there needs to be a balance between people who want to use the park recreationally and those who want to use it for special occasions.
“I would discourage them by making them very aware that there is going to be a risk,” he said. “They can use it for whatever they want, but we cannot reserve it.”
He said it could become a “line-drawing exercise.”
“If they start spending money on a tent or a photographer, they need to be aware that something’s going to happen,” he continued. “We’re going to need to start making rules.”
If people want to reserve a section, they need commission approval, Terry noted. He thought signage could help.
Events such as the Farmers Market and the Polyarts Festival are allowed and have worked well.
“The real spirit of the Common is to have people enjoy it,” Terry said.
Common trees a concern
Guelfi said that he met with Department of Public Works director John Westerling and a tree consultant regarding the condition of the trees on the Common. There have been requests for tree removal for several years, but now there is a concern about limbs falling on spectators there.
“The maple trees are dying, and the big sugar maples are slowly deteriorating,” Guelfi said. “One of them is completely lacking any foliage at all.”
The committee discussed the need to remove the trees for safety in the immediate term and to examine the possibility of getting funding for tree replacement in the future.
“There was a plan to do an inventory of trees last year, but the budget money was cut because of COVID,” he said. “But now it’s a safety risk. I think it’s something that, between myself, Public Works and this commission, we can approach the Town Manager about the removal and then talk about the replanting of trees after that.”
The proposal for an inventory, analysis and plan would cost between $20,000 and $30,000, Guelfi said. “And we budgeted for that initially, but the pandemic hit,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the trees are still dying.”
Sandy Beach opens after delay
Sandy Beach opened this past weekend with the new residential restrictions in place, Guelfi said. The planned Memorial Day opening was postponed after the “washout” because of the rain.
“We opened both bays,” he said. “While I was there I had to turn away about 20-25 cars that were non-residents. “Most people, while disappointed, left peacefully.”
“It’s going to take a learning curve,” said member Liisa Jackson.
“I found it compared to last year [in terms of] the boats and the jet skis,” Guelfi added. “Still, the residents get a little aggressive with the jet skis, and the lifeguards were blowing the whistle.”
This is the second year of the residents-only policy, which was instituted during COVID-19.