Friday, February 2, 2007
Turf fields at CCHS are back on track with RSC okay
At long last, the Regional School Committee (RSC) approved a revised plan to create two new artificial turf fields to be constructed on the hill behind the Concord-Carlisle High School. RSC member Peter Fischelis and the group that worked to get this project "on the ground" have spent many hours, over months, of time trying to create a plan that would be acceptable to those with competing interests. Neighbors wanted a wide buffer, naturalists wanted to maintain a wildlife corridor, cross-country runners wanted the path up in that area to remain intact, and coaches and athletes wanted more fields. The original plan called for three fields but the natural grass field has been eliminated.
In his presentation, Town Manager Chris Whelan pointed out that coaches see many advantages to the plan and the two artificial turf fields. In a light winter, such as this one, kids could continue to use the fields. Having the fields at the high school keeps kids on campus. Also, the fields can be used while the proposed new high school is being built.
Situated on the hill behind the high school, the fields will require a fair amount of grading before construction. One field will be ten feet below the present level and the other will be four feet below the present level. The fields have a southern orientation to minimize sun in the eyes of athletes and are large enough to accommodate small teams on half the field. There is also a separate area for teams to warm up and portable toilets will be on the site.
The plan includes a gravel parking lot for 100 cars. Handicapped parking spots and a walkway to the fields will be paved and ADA-accessible. The cross-country loop will remain in the area but be re-routed. High-tech lights will be used to minimize light pollution.
Whalen said, "In a year's time, we will decide on whether to put a small investment, say $100,000, into the existing junior varsity field, [which is also on the hill behind the high school.] The money would only be invested if we could use it for several years." The reason for that stipulation is that the junior varsity field would become a parking area if the proposed new high school gets built.
Positive impact on school and town programs
Asked to comment on the plan, CCHS Principal Art Dulong said he was totally in favor. "We'll have an opportunity to extend our Health and Fitness Program. Kids won't have to walk down to Emerson Field during gym class. The fields add a great deal to our after-school interscholastic program and potentially a great deal to the intramural programMy personal view is the high school is the focal point of the community. I have been supportive of the skateboard park and the swimming pool." Dulong felt the fields were important for the long-term health of the community and that residents need to recognize how many youth and adults will use the fields.
The new CCHS Athletic Director Barry Haley agreed. "The new fields have a tremendous potential to impact our school programs and the town's programs. Artificial turf gets a vast amount of usage." Haley added that grass fields generally get used about 200 times per year while artificial turf fields with lights get used 700 times a year.
RSC member Jerry Wedge brought up the bus parking and maintenance buildings that exist behind the high school. The new parking lot will be gravel so it can be modified to accommodate the bus parking and buildings in the future, if necessary.
Timeframe and funding
In conclusion, Whalen laid out a schedule. If the proposal passes a number of reviews and Concord's Town Meeting in April, construction would begin in late June and be ready by spring 2008.
The RSC voted to approve the field proposal and moved to enter into negotiations with Concord about using Regional School District land for the fields. Reached later by phone, RSC member Michael Fitzgerald said the inter-municipal agreement will define usage, such that CCHS programs can use the fields during the day, Monday though Friday. The Town of Concord recreation programs will have access on nights and weekends. No financial transactions are expected in the agreement.
The fields are not a regional project. Fischelis, reached by phone after the meeting, said these two fields are part of a plan to build six new fields in Concord. The RSC expects to lease the land, approximately eight acres, to the Town of Concord so that Concord will have control of the land and therefore be able to use $1.5 million of Concord's Community Preservation funds. Another $1.5 million will be voted on by Concord taxpayers in April. A target of $1.6 million is expected to be raised by private donations to fund the larger plan; $700,000 has already been raised. Field maintenance will be funded by user fees through sports programs.
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