Friday, July 15, 2005
Spirit of cooperation invades discussions of possible ballfield on Foss Farm
On Tuesday July 12, members of the Recreation Commission, Conservation Commission and the Pony Club, as well as victory gardeners and farmer Mark Duffy, gathered as the Selectmen opened a debate on extending the uses of Foss Farm.
Foss Farm is town-owned land comprising 58 acres purchased in 1971 on the east end of Route 225 in Carlisle. It is currently home to myriad community activities, including horse and pony events, dog walking, conservation, gardening and the farming of a hayfield. Prepared for a potentially divisive debate, the Selectmen evidenced slow smiles and blinks of disbelief as, one by one, the various groups pledged to work cooperatively to examine whether and how to build needed ball fields on Foss Farm with minimal disruption of the activities that already take place there.
Chair Doug Stevenson opened by observing, "We should be strongly considering the use of Foss Farm for a recreation field. How do we move in that direction?" Selectman Tim Hult pointed to a RecCom comprehensive study that concluded the town needs to double the number of fields, and agreed that, "We should move forward aggressively, looking at both Banta-Davis and Foss Farm" with the goal to "present an intelligent plan to the town this year."
Stevenson also spoke to the legality of ballfields, noting that "outdoor recreation" was one of the stated purposes on the Warrant for purchase of the property. "I don't see any legal impediments," he said, indicating a letter from the ConsCom in 1971 gives permission for baseball fields. The land was purchased using state and federal monies, which may mean some legal hoops to jump through but, "There's nothing that says we can't do it if we decide as a community we want to do it."
RecCom pledges cooperation
Allen Deary of the RecCom set the tone for the discussion by emphasizing working with other entities for a "win-win." "We know we have to be cooperative and see how we can fit in." He proposed a working group to study the problem and find a location for fields that would minimize interference with other activities. He said the RecCom is excited at the opportunity to create more than a single field, opening the possibility of tournaments, some of which could also be money-raisers. He pointed to the location as another plus, as the fields would have few neighbors, would open onto a main road, and be situated close to Kimball's for after-game refreshment.
Tom Schultz of the ConsCom said, "I like what I've heard....We welcome trying to see if there's something we can do here." He noted a number of hurdles to be overcome, including federal and state rules for money use, wetlands issues, threatened species requiring protection, agricultural use, and people who depend on Foss Farm for their livelihoods.
Other groups react
Duffy, who farms at Foss Farm, said, "The many uses have pretty much gotten along." He hoped that the "spirit of cooperation" would not be lost. "I can look at this as 'they want to have tournaments in my hayfield,' or as 'they want to work together to see if we can do something.' Right now I'm taking the second approach." Beth Platt expressed the Pony Club's openness to "talking and working things out." The club considers Foss Farm "a very valuable resource" in which they have invested "a fair bit of money." A Foss Farm gardener noted the location is perfect for the community gardens. "It would be hard to duplicate these conditions anywhere else in town."
Do we need ball fields?
An objection to ballfields was raised by Jen Bush of 68 Church Street who said she frequently passes Spalding Field and "it doesn't look like it's being used very much." She asked that the town "make sure we really need to develop Foss Farm." Maureen Tarca of the RecCom said the need has been well-documented and that townspeople without children sometimes are unaware that the crunch is after school and weekends during a few months of the year. She admitted, "We've got to convince people like you" that the need exists.
Selectman John Williams pointed to the many entities in the same room and expressed amazement that "we're not going to fight?" Hult volunteered to "get this going" by putting together a task force. The Selectmen will take feedback over the next week or two as to the composition and mandate of a task force, and Hult hopes to "move forward aggressively" to develop a plan for Foss Farm.
© 2005 The