Neighbors of the old Browne School Playground made what could be their final pleas to limit the number of changes to be made to the park behind the new Police Station at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting.
The Recreation Department has plans to add a multi-purpose hard court, a children’s play structure and a water spray area to the park at 552 Main Street, said Recreation Director Peter Centola. He hopes to start work on the project this spring.
Some neighbors, including those who attended the Town Council meeting, say the changes will ruin what is now a nice little piece of green space in their neighborhood.
Candy Aulenbach, who lives near the park and has followed the process since it started, said that original plans were much more simple.
"It started with, 'Let's repace the swing sets with the money left over from the construction of the new police station'" Aulenbach said. "That didn't happen."
Town Manager Michael Driscoll noted that the money borrowed to pay for the police station could not be used for a park due to state regulations.
Virginia Rice, who lives near the park, said the hard court and play area would be right in the middle of the park.
“The design is not a good fit for the park,” Rice said. “It is a small park on a hill and the design destroys a good sledding hill that kids use in the winter.”
The hard court area would have basketball hoops, Centola said, but the area could be used for a many other activities, including in-line skating, dodge ball or even learning to ride a bicycle with training wheels.
Neighbor Genevieve Jones said she does not think that another hard court area is needed.
“I have not seen or heard a study that that town needs more park facilities,” Jones said. “Or that there is overuse of the courts at Bemis or Howe parks.”
She said she would like the money used to improve and repair the parks already in Watertown.
Town Councilor John Donohue, who lives near 552 Main Street, said that the courts at Bemis Park do get a lot of use, and added that Bemis is geared more toward older children.
“For the water park and play area the age demographic is probably 10 or younger,” Donohue said. “Kids that age do not participate in activities at Bemis.”
He added that the hard court would allow more people in town to use the park at 552 Main Street.
“We have to have a handicap accessible surface,” Donohue said. “If we are not doing that we are not making it accessible to all residents.”
While Centola said he has heard from many who oppose the additions to the park, other people who attended a meeting about the project on Dec. 4 say they welcome the new features.
The plans for the 552 Main Street Park have changed since it was first discussed in 2010. The plans took into account not just the immediate neighbors but also those living in surrounding neighborhoods and the whole town.
Town Councilor Susan Falkoff said she was interested in what the neighbors had to say about the project and encouraged them to submit a statement to the Town Council Clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Town Council did not vote on the plans, and will take up the 552 Main Street Park at their meeting on Feb. 12, said Town Council President Mark Sideris.
What do you think? What improvements should be made at the partk at 552 Main Street? Share in the comment section below.