At its hour-long meeting Thursday night, the Parks & Recreation Commission discussed its applications for funding before the Community Preservation Committee that met later that evening, noting the positive momentum for a cricket pitch at a reconfigured Pyne Field.
Progress made on pickleball courts
Director Jay Guelfi said soil samples were taken at the proposed site off Fruit Street (across from the new dog park) by an engineering firm. He requested that a date be set up for community engagement with stakeholders, including pickleball enthusiasts, to garner additional information. Current plans include four permanent pickleball courts and four temporary courts that can be converted into a tennis court so that tennis, which also is growing in popularity, could be included.
Guelfi also announced that the bidding documents are being prepared by the new town accountant so that the project can move forward. Once the paperwork is completed, a bid can be accepted by late January or early February. Construction could then begin in the spring, and the pickleball project is anticipated to be completed by the end of the summer.
Guelfi noted last week’s CPC meeting, where cricket enthusiasts explained the sport and the number of players involved. Because it is not considered a spectator sport and because players tend to carpool, he said the games are not expected to strain the parking situation, although parking was a concern brought up at the CPC meeting. Because CPC chair Ken Weismantel expressed a need for an initial parking plan to be incorporated into the design, the funding request was raised from $704,000 to $1 million. The money would be drawn from CPC funds and not impact taxpayers.
“The cricket guys, I would say, lobbied for our current reconfiguration of Pyne Field,” Guelfi said. “I felt overall that it was well-received and people were enthusiastic about it.”
Parks & Rec Commission chair Dan Terry explained that the project was expected to be done in two phases, with parking initially expected to be done in the second phase. He said a good solution for parking would be to create steps to the lower area because of the steep grading there.
“I think the expensive part is just accessing that area with some steps and regrading,” he added, noting that a large, paved lot would not be necessary. It would need to be accessible.
Fruit Street master plan study pulled
Commissioners voted unanimously to pull the $50,000 request for CPC funding for a master plan study of Fruit Street from consideration. It was pointed out that most of the land in that area is being used for various recreational purposes. Discussion arose about the possible need for a town master plan for the wider area that encompasses land designated to entities other than Parks & Rec.
“We’re kind of built out at Fruit Street at this point between the pickleball court, the dog park, this field and the parking lot,” Guelfi said.
“I think the field problem is still a real problem in town and needs to be sorted through,” said commissioner Amy O’Donnell.
EMC bathroom project awaits bid
Guelfi said he will reach out to the company that expressed interest in bidding on the EMC bathroom construction project. Previously, the consultant desired to submit a bid but had questions about language in the request for bids that could not be answered because staff was not in place to respond.
Terry said he would reach out to other firms that have been involved in previous projects in town to see if there is an interest. Guelfi noted that it is “concerning” and “a little weird” that no other companies have submitted bids.
“It’s just the study,” he explained. “You would think that would kind of be a layup.”
Summer concert series plans taking shape
Commissioner Laura Hanson announced that she has filled nearly every slot for the summer concert series on the Town Common.
The list includes award-winning Boston rockers Bird Mancini. Another potential artist is Kevin So, whose music encompasses soul, blues, folk and country stylings. So recently toured as a keyboardist for renowned blues artist Keb’ Mo’.
Guelfi receives good marks
Commissioners reviewed Guelfi’s performance over the past couple of years. He received a score of 4 out of 5 after commission discussion. Guelfi was praised for adapting programming during the pandemic so that recreation activities still could be enjoyed. Guelfi also was commended to reaching out to diverse members of the community, such as cricket players and elders — a jigsaw puzzle competition called “It’s a Puzzler” will be held at the Senior Center in January, and it quickly sold out. In that regard, commissioner Cynthia Esthimer said, “He is excelling.”
“It is really important to note that programming is continuing to surge and is growing at a great rate, continued Esthimer. She noted that the work to engage people during the pandemic has strengthened public confidence in the department.
Said Esthimer: “I think that’s a sign of a good leader.”
One area for improvement commissioners noted is enhancement in overall communication strategies and weekly meetings among staff members.
“He’s reaching out to every single group in the community,” Hanson noted, commenting on new programming. “I think he went above and beyond.”