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Parks & Rec approves EMC Park allergen signage, eyes skateboard event for Nov. 12

by | Oct 18, 2023 | Featured: News, News

The Parks & Recreation Commission voted 3-0 to approve a sign at EMC Park to alert visitors to the dangers of eating near playground equipment for people who have food allergies.

The concept of the sign originated with Reese Robledo as a class project when she was in the fourth grade five years ago. She has had numerous food allergies since she was four months old.

Robledo’s teacher connected her with Health Department Director Shaun McAuliffe, who was enthusiastic about starting a public awareness campaign. Approved by the Board of Health in 2020, it was shelved during the pandemic but recently revived. McAuliffe made the request to the commission.

Director Jon Lewitus noted that signs have been placed at school playgrounds. He suggested that a sign be placed near the picnic tables to bring awareness to people eating so that they don’t transfer food particles onto playground equipment. Common allergens include peanuts and wheat.

While members were in favor of the signage, they raised concerns that a sign be placed in an area where it would not be ignored among the growing number of signs there.

Terry recalled that there was a death in town about eight years ago from anaphylaxis.

The sign is being considered as a prototype for statewide playground usage, McAuliffe noted at a previous Board of Health meeting.

Said Terry: “We might be pioneers.”

Temporary skate park event planned

A skateboard event using a temporary skate park concept discussed at the last meeting is coming to fruition, Lewitus announced. It will be held Nov. 12 at Hopkinton Middle School on the basketball courts from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Registration already has begun, Lewitus said. Terry saw this as an opportunity to promote the upcoming EMC skate park.

Miscommunication cited in school facility fee rate hike

Lewitus noted that he recently met with Hopkinton Public Schools Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh to discuss the tripling of fees for Parks & Rec use of school facilities that went into effect on Sept. 1. At previous meetings, commissioners mentioned that the change occurred months after Parks & Rec had approved its budget based on the old fees.

“My understanding is that the information was passed down, but it didn’t go to the right people,” he explained. “They didn’t go behind our back or anything.”

Now that the department has Lewitus as its permanent director, communication is expected to improve.

Additionally, Terry noted that a reorganized Turf Management Committee met earlier in the day with several new members.

“For me, it was a matter of reminding everyone that those fields are not just a school asset,” he said. “The commitment to the town was that they were going to be used townwide.”

Holiday lights contemplated for Town Common

Lewitus said two vendors reached out to him to see if the department planned on installing holiday lights for the upcoming season. Commissioner Amy O’Donnell noted that last year was the first time that professionals installed lighting, and it was well received by the community.

The money would have to be spent from the recreation revolving fund if the commission approved of the lighting. It is comprised from cash receipts from all program registrations and is used for expenses such as paying vendors, mowing grass and paying utility bills.

The matter will be discussed at the November meeting, as only three of five members were in attendance to give feedback. Members Ravi Dasari and vice chair Laura Hanson were absent.

CPC funding request submitted for storage shed

Terry, who serves at the commission’s Community Preservation Committee’s liaison, announced that the department has submitted an application for a storage shed at the pickleball courts. Applications for funding were due last week, he explained.

The CPC will meet Thursday night to begin evaluating funding requests. Discussion around Parks & Rec requests likely will commence in mid- to late November. If the department decides not to move forward with the request, it can be revoked.

Girl Scout request to build gaga pit at EMC Park tabled

A proposal was submitted by a Girl Scout troop to build a gaga ball pit at EMC Park. Lewitus said he was concerned about building it there now that plans to build the skate park are in motion.

Members discussed concerns including the availability of space there and the traffic it would generate at the already busy park. The idea will be revisited at a future meeting. An alternative location was not proposed.

Next meeting to focus on budget

The next meeting on Oct. 30 will focus entirely on the department budget. The deadline for submitting budget requests to Town Hall is Nov. 1.

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