If the Hopkinton Cricket Club is to add another pitch to use for a sport that is growing in popularity, it will have to be somewhere other than Reed Park, with the Parks & Recreation Commission giving the proposal four thumbs down in a unanimous vote Wednesday night.
Chair Dan Terry and commission members Liisa Jackson, Laura Hanson and Amy O’Donnell all voted against the idea of installing a cricket pitch at Reed Park, which largely has been used for passive recreation. Member Cynthia Esthimer did not take part in the meeting.
Concerns raised at a previous Parks & Rec meeting were brought up again, including parking issues. Chief among the concerns aired by commissioners was access to the park, which currently exists only via a narrow, unpaved road just off Wood Street.
Terry mentioned concerns raised by the Fire Department, saying he had spoken with the chief. Terry referenced an ambulance getting stuck while trying to access the field once before. Right now, he said, there are not many people at the park, and those who use it aren’t necessarily engaging in activities that could result in injuries.
“The fire chief, while he didn’t have institutional knowledge of the town having a hard time accessing the property in the past, the deputy chief did,” Terry said. “He said he could see if there is significant improvement — the road filled in, the road widened. … He went so far as to say if [cricket pitch advocates] are thinking of having any kind of, say, 11 people on a field, collisions happen. … The fire chief would discourage us creating something there that’s going to have an organized, reasonably large group of people. A handful of people, it’s not so bad right now. But really, I think we need to make an investment at some point in this town in order to really access that property.”
Widening the road, commission members agreed, isn’t under their purview.
Hanson referenced the consideration of Reed Park for a dog park, when the commission realized access would be a problem.
“I can understand the concern of residents around there, because it has been a passive-use recreational field,” she said. “I think we have to balance that this is a property within our jurisdiction to do something with, but whether that is a cricket pitch, and whether that is the ideal location for a cricket pitch, I just don’t know, because the access and the neighborhood is going to be prohibitive.”
Added Hanson: “I can already foresee the pushback from the residents, and I don’t foresee a Wood Street access [directly to the field] being viable, because we know how expensive that would be. Eventually, that would be the way to get Reed Park usable. The reality is, that is the only way it’s going to be a useable, safe, public space. Barring that, I foresee this being an uphill battle with access and with the residents.”
Hanson suggested looking at the Fruit Street fields for another pitch (there’s already one on the grass field next to the turf). She also seemed keen on a suggestion by fellow member Jackson about the possibility of using space at Legacy Farms, although that is not under the commission’s jurisdiction.
Terry brought the discussion back into focus on Reed Park, calling it a “great place” that “could have a variety of different uses.”
However, he went back to the issue of access — both by users and emergency personnel. He credited the Hopkinton Cricket Club, specifically representatives Ravi Dasari and Rajanagan Rasan, for having “bent over backward” with commitments on alleviating some of the issues.
Still, Terry said, “The other side of the issue I don’t feel great about is the fact that public safety personnel in town have asked us not to encourage active use of the property. The passive use is enough. The risk associated with passive is minimal.”
At some point, Parks & Recreation Director Jay Guelfi said, spots typically reserved for passive recreation may need to be eyed.
“It’s a problem of a growing population and a lack of space,” Guelfi lamented. “I appreciate the fact that there are spaces in town not typically used for active recreation. … My charge is to solve the problem. Again, I see a really big, flat playing surface that could be used, not just for cricket, but for soccer, ultimate Frisbee, for a lot of different things. That’s the dilemma the town is facing when it comes to organized recreation.
“The reality is there are places that have not been used in the past that are going to be used because of the demand. Whether it’s Reed Park [or someplace else] … I know this isn’t going to be the last time we have discussions with folks who live near a beautiful spot who want to keep it for passive recreation.”
While they put the kibosh on a cricket pitch at Reed Field, commissioners told cricket representatives their work was not done in helping them find another spot, with Fruit Street a possibility. O’Donnell mentioned the possibility of a master plan for the Fruit Street fields to see what could be done there in the future. Terry asked Guelfi to talk to consultants the town has worked with in the past about costs for a master plan.
“I can assure you I feel your pain,” O’Donnell told Cricket Club representatives. “I don’t think this is the right place.”