The Parks & Recreation Commission at its meeting this past Wednesday discussed the jurisdictional issue that arose between the department and the town over the storage of Main Street Corridor Project construction materials at the Carrigan Field parking lot on Marshall Avenue.
Jay Guelfi, the Parks & Rec director, said there was a complaint from a resident about a flat-bed truck blocking traffic on Marshall Avenue last week.
“I think [professional project specialist] Michelle Murdock at the town handled it very quickly and very appropriately,” he said. “I think the town is doing its part to resolve any potential issues that come up.”
Part of the issue with complaints, committee chair Dan Terry said, is the confusion over who has jurisdiction over the parking lot and who should address the complaints. Town manager Norman Khumalo indicated it is controlled by the town.
“I don’t know that any of the property that we feel like we have control over is deeded to us,” Terry said. “It is something that needs to be straightened out with the town. I don’t know that Parks & Rec owns any of the property it has control over.”
Added Terry: “My own personal belief is that the town has spoken. It doesn’t do us any good to give people false hope. This is an issue that’s going to be handled by Town Hall — not by Parks & Rec.”
“It does muddy up the waters,” commission member Liisa Jackson said.
“The Board of Selectmen has the final say on how we treat the outfield at the back of Carrigan Field,” Terry said.
He added that the same argument could be used at Sandy Beach, Fruit Street and other recreational properties.
“If re-elected, I promise to work on that over the next year and get better clarity on that,” Terry stated.
Guelfi said town officials shouldn’t “get to have it both ways” by saying it is their property while asking Parks & Rec to respond to the complaints.
“I did not feel good about the way that all happened,” Terry said, noting that when the department requested a conversation on the lot jurisdiction, “They said, ‘Never mind, we don’t need your input.’ That’s not how I like to do business. It’s a fight I intend to pick.”
Commission member Bob Dobinsky noted that the state tends to view Parks & Rec departments as autonomous authorities.
Dog park construction to begin soon
In other Parks & Rec news, Guelfi provided an update on the projects that are eligible to receive funding through the Community Preservation Act (CPA).
Ground will be broken on the new dog park this month, he said. The contract for the EMC Park skate park is in negotiations regarding the drainage design, and the contract is expected to be signed in the coming days.
There is a budget request at Town Meeting in May for $350,000 for funding for the skate park, Terry said.
Security cameras are going to be installed for at the Fruit Street fields “in the next few weeks,” according to Guelfi. Money also is requested for safety netting to be installed at EMC Park at a cost of $40,000 and playground equipment for $50,000.
Terry said Parks & Rec is “showing that it can move forward with proposed projects.”
One topic under discussion is the creation of pickleball playing courts in town because of the growing demand for the sport. An initial site is the Center School gym, which already has been lined for it.
“That’s only gaining momentum in town,” Guelfi said. “More people want that than I ever realized, especially people over 50.”
Programming options expanded
Another issue brought up by the committee is how its programming role is expanding because of COVID-19. One course coming up on May 1 is, “Demystifying Stocks — An Immersive Workshop Empowering Women and Teens.” However, it is open to anyone with an interest in learning about finance.
“With COVID, we were under such restrictions to offer any sort of traditional rec stuff, we branched out,” Guelfi said. “And maybe that’s something we need to reevaluate as we come out of COVID, for sure.”
Programming that previously may have fallen under a traditional adult education program now could fall under the Parks & Rec Department if it chooses to head in that direction post-pandemic.
“I think it’s great that we’re offering more emotional enrichment things,” Liisa Jackson said. “I think during this time it’s really important to look at those ideas.”
“I wonder if there’s a need in town, and I wonder if we should be fulfilling it,” Terry noted.
Summer programming is open for registration, Guelfi added. He also wanted to make sure the public was aware that the playgrounds are open now that pandemic restrictions have lessened.