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Parks & Rec discusses sustainability, pending projects

by | Dec 1, 2022 | Featured: News, News

The Parks & Recreation Commission at its Wednesday meeting learned about the efforts of the town’s Climate Action Workgroup to promote sustainability and discussed potential ways in which the commission can work with the group.

The Climate Action Workgroup is a subcommittee of the Sustainable Green Committee, explained member Geoff Rowland. The first project it is working on is creating a greenhouse gas emissions inventory to determine the sources of Hopkinton’s emissions.

“From that, we’ll be making a net zero resolution,” he said, saying that he expects that will be submitted in January. The group also is working on a climate action plan, which it hopes to finalize with the help of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) in the spring. Some of its goals would be to promote the use of green energy sources, recommend the use of electric vehicles with charging stations in town to accommodate them, and to promote reuse and recycling.

According to statistics from 2017 presented by Rowland, the “big three” sources of greenhouse gas emissions are commercial and industrial buildings (34.9 percent), passenger vehicles (30.4 percent) and residential buildings (27.7 percent).

One gap in the data, Rowland pointed out, was that there were no figures available about the emissions produced by waste and recycling. He also noted that the impact of deforestation could not be determined at that time.

An issue Rowland brought up specific to the commission was the use of pesticides and artificial turf, which evoked discussion.

Parks & Recreation Department Director Jay Guelfi said that switching to an organic fertilizer for the Town Common had been discussed previously and is “still on the table.” His concern was the way it would impact the look of the grass for the first few years.

“I need to see a Town Common that has as an organic town common plan,” he said. “If it looks like a tossed salad — which is what I’ve been told by some people that it’s going to look like for a while — I’m going to get a lot of negative feedback about that from a lot of people in town.”

Commission members Dan Terry and Cynthia Esthimer added that the commission previously had looked for examples of other towns that used organic fertilizer so that it could better understand the short-term and long-term impacts. The commission also reviewed a presentation from a landscaping company, but it did not find the information it was seeking.

Rowland also brought up the potential for a “green fund.” He suggested that if solar canopies could be put over parking lots such as those at EMC Park and Fruit Street, the revenue generated could be put toward funding other green projects. The money also could be used, he said, to help residents who are economically disadvantaged to convert their home energy sources from gas or oil to solar energy. He said Town Manager Norman Khumalo would be meeting with town counsel to discuss that prospect in greater detail. Terry said he knew of a similar program in Medfield.

Terry said a solar canopy wouldn’t be feasible for the Fruit Street lot because the infrastructure isn’t there to support lighting for the athletic facility.

“The way solar works is you need to feed the grid to generate revenue,” he explained, noting his expertise in this field.

Terry commended the Climate Action Workgroup for its efforts, noting, “It almost sounds like it’s work that every town needs to do.”

Updates provided on projects

Guelfi told the commission that the design for the proposed pickleball courts has been updated to look “much more symmetrical.” He also met with Hopkinton Area Land Trust (HALT) Director Chuck Dauchy, who was agreeable to reconfiguring the trail on the proposed site to accommodate the courts.

Tennis is a component of this plan, Guelfi added, describing the growing interest in the sport in town.

Guelfi noted that the lacrosse wall update has been completed. The Department of Public Works (DPW) is removing the remaining turf and crumb rubber. This is another sport that has gained popularity of late.

A bid was accepted for the skate park, Guelfi said. Once it is finalized, he will work with the Little League on a construction schedule, which he expects to begin next summer.

Pyne Field reconfiguration discussed

Terry brought up the potential reconfiguration of Pyne Field. Guelfi said there were some safety concerns that were brought up by the sawmill company that uses the parking lot about being able to access Fruit Street.

Terry noted that the sawmill company uses the parking lot for its trailers, but the commission has never enforced the issue. He also questioned whether this discussion was under the purview of the commission. He said that because Fruit Street is a public way, it more likely would fall under the jurisdiction of the Select Board or town counsel.

The field is being redesigned to incorporate cricket, a sport that has become wildly popular in town among different age groups. Current plans also call for a baseball field. Terry suggested that the current locations on the plans for the cricket area and the baseball field be flipped to allow for more parking spaces. Guelfi said that a T-ball field might be a good fit in that location. He said he would talk with the Little League commission to see if the dimensions of the baseball field could be reduced.

Bidding process for EMC bathrooms delayed

The bidding process for the study of construction of the EMC bathrooms has been delayed, Guelfi noted, because of the previous resignations of the town’s procurement officer and accountant, positions that have since been filled. There was a question by the company that wanted to bid on the project about the bid’s language that could not be answered due to the vacancies in these positions.

A request for funding for the bathrooms from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) would be premature until a study is done, he added.

Terry noted that money for the study was allocated five months ago. This will be the third time the study will be put out to bid, Guelfi said, although a company has expressed interest in bidding on it.

Funding request for Sandy Beach security gate on hold

The CPC request for funding for a security gate at Sandy Beach also may be delayed, according to Guelfi, because the members of that committee have not agreed on whether there should be a token or card system to collect fees. He said the request would be more effective to present to the CPC next year, with the possible inclusion of giving the parking lot “a complete overhaul.”

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