The Community Preservation Committee on Thursday reviewed several applications under consideration for fiscal year 2024 funding via the Community Preservation Act, with the proposal for a $706,000 cricket pitch at Pyne Field generating the most discussion and support.
Under the Community Preservation Act, at least 10 percent of the funding raised must be allocated among three categories — open space, historic preservation and affordable housing, according to the state website. The remaining 70 percent can be allocated to any of these categories, as well as recreation.
Proposed cricket pitch gets positive response, but concern raised over parking
“In the past four years or so, cricket has been an emerging recreational activity among a lot of the new residents in town,” explained Parks & Rec Director Jay Guelfi. Some cricket enthusiasts have been playing at the field on Fruit Street, and Guelfi referred to them as “outstanding partners with Parks & Rec.”
Guelfi described the skyrocketing popularity of cricket in town as being “like basketball in Indiana, where it’s less of a sport and more of a religion.” He also compared the interest in cricket here to lacrosse 25 years ago and to pickleball in more recent times.
“We really need a home for cricket in Hopkinton,” he stressed. “We’ve kind of committed to the cricket folks that we want to find a home for them.”
Gale Associates completed a preliminary design review, and Pyne Field could be reconfigured to accommodate a cricket pitch as well as a baseball field, Guelfi said. Currently, baseball and softball are played at the site. He added that softball still would be able to be played there with the new field design.
Parking, land grooming and irrigation would need to be addressed, according to Guelfi. There is no capacity for lighting for the field and no permanent bathroom facilities.
Parks & Recreation Commission Chair Dan Terry noted that the current proposal is to create the cricket pitch on the current baseball field and move the baseball field. He said that parking needs would be better determined once the cricket pitch is in use before making “a finite investment.”
“The challenge of the cricket field is it’s pretty big,” he added, noting a standard cricket pitch is 330 feet in diameter. However, the cricket players have told Parks & Rec members that “it doesn’t need to be perfect to the edges, necessarily.”
“There’s demand within the community, and that demand will grow over time,” Terry said. “It’s more than just a game that’s played; it’s part of the texture of the community.”
A benefit to creating a full-size cricket pitch is that Hopkinton could host cricket tournaments, Guelfi added.
Several current cricket players appeared at the meeting to describe the enthusiasm for the sport. There currently are five teams in the cricket league. It consists of 200 total members, with 140 of them deemed active members. Members play in tournaments throughout New England.
Cricket player Rajan (Raj) Rajanagan explained that the players live at Legacy Farms, where “for 80 percent of them, their main sport is cricket.” Players carpool, which leads.to “a maximum of eight to 10 cars.” There are no real spectators at this point, and the sport is mainly played in the spring and summer, although it has extended into the fall.
“It will just keep growing,” he said of the demand, noting that he had applied previously to the School Department to get use of a field, but that could not be implemented because of the pandemic.
“I am running some school programs to encourage kids also to play,” he added, with a current focus on Grades 4 and 5. “In my summer program, I invite kids to play who are taking summer classes. That’s how quickly it’s growing.”
“You guys have got to do something with parking,” stressed CPC chair Ken Weismantel, an at-large member. “The neighborhood is not a happy camper with just the amount of stuff that’s going down Fruit Street.”
He later added, “I just think you have one too many Little League fields in the plan.”
Without a parking strategy, Weismantel said he doubted an article would pass at Town Meeting.
Terry countered that while the overall parking situation for the proposal is “a question mark,” the parking for Little League “is a zero-sum gain.” The soccer program is willing to be accommodating, Guelfi added.
Several members expressed support for the cricket pitch.
Pluses discussed were that cricket matches are much longer than baseball or softball games, players carpool, and there are 22 players on the field at a time with few spectators at contests.
Proposal for Marathon School playground receives negative feedback
The other major proposal mentioned was for a $1 million playground at Marathon School. The funding would have to be allocated through either the recreation or undesignated budgets. Community access was proposed for non-school hours.
Weismantel questioned whether the request should even be considered by the CPC since it is a school-related project. The response from several of the board members was negative, judging by shaking heads and some who said they would not support it.
Possible property acquisitions considered for open space funds
Steve Levandosky, the representative from the Open Space Preservation Committee (OSPC), spoke about the potential acquisition of what was referred to as the Conroy property, an 85-acre parcel west of Hopkinton State Park near Saddle Hill Road that is abutted by a town-owned parcel and a parcel owned by the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). He noted that the Conroy property owner also owns a parcel that abuts Saddle Hill Road and would be willing to sell the property “if the price is right” because it is not considered buildable land. A recommendation was deferred until a price is obtained.
Another parcel Levandosky mentioned was called the Jenner property, a parcel of about 40 acres which he said is “surrounded by the Connor property and the DCR property.” The owners, he said, are willing to sell it for about $100,000 with the condition that it be named Rice Woods in honor of a family member.
The third parcel of about 20 acres he brought up for open space funding consideration was called the Connelly Hill property. He said it does not appear to be buildable land.
No definite amounts were given for these potential purchases at this meeting.
Security gate at Sandy Beach removed from consideration
The Parks & Recreation Commission decided to pull the request for funding for a security gate at Sandy Beach so that more consideration can be given as to how gate fees would be collected.
“We’ve done a lot at Sandy Beach to improve security,” said Terry. “Since this is kind of a structural thing and a permanent thing, we just thought we’d wait a little bit.”
“How does a security gate promote recreation?” Weismantel asked.
Replied Terry: “It’s about security.”
He added that Sandy Beach is open for two months. Members questioned how the beach would be accessed with a gate during the other 10 months. After some discussion, Terry reminded the members that the article is being pulled pending further study.
Vote next meeting
The next CPC meeting will be Thursday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m., when the committee will vote on its recommendations.