Parks & Rec Provides Field Use & Property Report

Last week, Parks & Recreation Department director Jennifer Fava sent a long-awaited “Property Review and Usage” report to the Long Lots School Building Committee.

It provides a list of properties managed and maintained by her department, along with potentially usable acreage, usage information and more.

The report notes that Parks & Rec assigns blocks of time for use of the fields to various groups, which then manage their assigned times. Last year, more than 11,000 participants used the fields.

Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department allocates field usage to various groups. They then schedule their own games and practices. (Photo/Steve Perkins)

In the fall, Parks & Rec fields are used by Westport Baseball & Softball; PAL football, cheer, boys and girls lacrosse and track, Westport Soccer Association, and Parks & Rec.

In the spring, all those groups plus PAL rugby — except cheer — use the fields.

In summer, Parks & Rec fields are used by Baseball & Softball, PAL football and track, Continuing Education and Parks & Rec.

The report noted increased demands on the fields, as more sports added seasons beyond traditional ones; increased participation numbers; the addition of high school girls rugby, and added numbers for adult baseball, soccer and lacrosse.

The report also anticipates an increase in school enrollment, with the potential for increased demands for youths sports.

The report noted that the Long Lots baseball field is used on fall weekends by Westport Baseball & Softball, and during the spring by Parks & Rec and Staples (weekdays), and Westport Baseball & Softball (weekends).

The loss of one of the town’s 4 90-foot baseball diamonds would have “a significant impact” on baseball and other sports, the report said, citing a domino effect if the Doubleday (Kings Highway Elementary School) field had to be used (as it is also used for football and lacrosse).

PJ Romano and Doubleday Fields are used for multiple sports. Moving one sport can impact others.

Regarding the Community Gardens, the report said that Parks & Rec’s primary role is to “check the list of members provided by the Community Gardens against the sex offender registry which is necessary as it is located on school property. Once cleared, we provide a photo ID for any of those members upon request. The photo is necessary to access the gardens during school hours. Not all members request an ID.”

The report also said that Parks & Rec provides a link to the Gardens on their webpage, and “must be notified of any upcoming work at the Long Lots Preserve for authorization to proceed. We have provided limited assistance with one off issues in the past.”

The report offered 2 possibilities for potential new fields — Lillian Wadsowrth Arobretum and Winslow Park, but noted challenges including rezoning, topography and wetlands.

The report concluded with potential locations for the Community Gardens.

Baron’s South would have to be rezoned. The Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum would require rezoning, removal of forested areas, and the addition of utilities and parking.

Riverside Park and Winslow Park would also need to be rezoned, with more parking added.

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7 responses to “Parks & Rec Provides Field Use & Property Report

  1. Imagine if there were 20 or more community gardens in town, and a new school was being built that would displace one of those community gardens.

    Imagine that an appointed group charged with building that new school decided to locate that community garden somewhere else nearby even though they were not directed, in their mandate, to do so. Imagine that they decide to do this anyway
    and make the decision to displace the only ballfield in town.

    Consider that the ballfield was meticulously cared for over 20 years with every blade of grass carefully planted and tended by the players and their families. Consider that the ball players were mostly seniors. Consider that the ballfield had an integral role in the health of the local ecology and it was brimming with life and harbored thousands of pollinators. Consider that the ballfield retained water instead of shedding water so it didn’t exacerbate flooding conditions to the adjacent neighbors, and every other homeowner in the watershed. Considered that the ballfield players never made noise. Never used nighttime lights.

    Would we still be looking to place that community garden over that only ballfield in town and tell them to start over somewhere else? Vegas odds say no.

  2. Joseph Vallone, A.I.A.

    Is it finally time to investigate combining the passive recreation of Winslow Park with some active recreation? I served on the RTM back in the 1990s, shortly after the Town purchased this 29 acre site for $12M. Important point of clarification; those lush rolling hills on the site are in fact, manmade by the Baron, that is not the site’s natural topography. At the time, many citizens were in an uproar over this investment, publicly stating; the Town had no right to use tax payer dollars to invest in real estate holdings.

    Fast forward 30 years and of course, Winslow Park proved to be a wise investment. Although, at the time, elected officials were unable to articulate a specific use for the land, most folks recognized the opportunity and eventually things quieted down. Somehow the site morphed into what many people now refer to as “the dog park”.

    During last night’s Long Lots School feasibility study meeting, the director of the Parks and Recreation Department presented the town wide study of our athletic fields. This presentation had many people in attendance scratching their heads wondering why this venue was selected to present a town-wide issue.

    I’ve long advocated for the combination of an active and passive recreation use in Winslow Park. Back in the early 2000’s I proposed creating a full size, lighted, multi-purpose field to be used for soccer and lacrosse. I also proposed installing cooling coils under the field allowing for the creation a large community ice rink, including a warming hut and a concession stand for hot chocolate. The same concerns where raised back then as they are today; zoning and parking.

    Is it now time to reconsider ways to better use this park? Baron South has severe topographic challenges and the Senior Center has taken a portion of its land but Winslow Park should be in play. (pun intended)

    The P&R Director’s report claims the site’s challenges are re-zoning and traffic. If the community has the will, the zoning can be modified. The current location of the parking is challenging but probably should remain as is, to support use of the southern portion of the site. (meaning, the portion of the site closest to the Post Road) I propose access be made in the northern portion of the park. (currently where the temporary construction staging currently exists) At the very least, this is one location in the park I would consider for a new parking lot to support an active recreation use.

    I am suggesting Winslow Park could be a great location for either a new multi-purpose field or perhaps a 90′ baseball diamond. (with an ice rink?). The benefits of this location include; the avoidance of traffic in residential neighborhoods, consideration of the economic benefits to area retailers for pre and post game meals, easy access to the Post Road, the adjacency to the Playhouse parking as a buffer from single family residential homes and the ability to provide a lighted field.

  3. Lou, I love your baseball analogy. Once upon a time in America the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants left for the West coast.

    The field of dreams of many fans were uprooted, but not lost. Soon a new field was built in Flushing. National League baseball, and baseball continued, and grew in epic proportions.

    I have zero skin in this game. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I would love the gardens to stay in place, and kids moved while a new school is built.

    That is NOT going to happen. The BOE (very silent) is not moving the kids.

    Lou, you have never pressed the BOE have you? Your fight has been with the LLBC and Jen Tooker correct?

    You have failed to bring in the BOE Why?

    I have been watching this closely, and everyday becoming more disappointed in your messaging. It’s okay to have a passion, unfortunately your passion is becoming obsession.

    The Dodgers, Giants, and Mets have all flourished and continue to bloom, so will the Community Gardens.

    • O’Malley and Stoneman were hated till the died. Then they were hated even more.

    • Hey Jimmy. Thanks for reaching out via social media.

      Your baseball analogy is wonderful as well. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the issue at hand here. Gardens and preserves aren’t baseball fields. You know that.

      You say you have no skin in the game. Then you go on to accuse me of having a fight with the LLBC and Jen Tooker. Then you go onto accuse me of never pressing the BOE. That’s not your style, Jimmy. Your style is to call me your friend and then suggest we have coffee.

      I know you are passionate about the town. So am I. It’s OK to have a passion. Unfortunately, your passion is becoming an obsession. Your obsession is calling out the Board of Education. And me. I am not looking to fight with the LLBC and Jen Tooker. I am looking to continue to build and protect two Westport gems that any other town in America would celebrate, promote and protect.

      I have reached out to the Board of Education a dozen times, Jimmy. They have repeatedly told me that their mandate to the LLBC was to build a school. They have told me that their preference was to have the school located on side of the school opposite from where the gardens and preserve are. They have told me that they hope that the gardens and preserve can be protected as they serve as an excellent buffer between the school, construction, and the neighbors to the south of the property. They have told me that they had no role in Jay’s decision to consider putting a ballfield over the community gardens and the preserve.

      You grew up here. I am disappointed in your messaging. Your messaging should be that we keep this property as agricultural and green open space. The one time you visited the gardens and preserve, your response was “you can’t move this.“ Most of the places around it are getting mowed down Jimmy. Wake up.

      How easy it is for you to say that the Community Gardens will continue to bloom. To get them to where they are now took 20 years. Tell the dozens of garden members who are elderly that the Gardens will continue to bloom after they’re covered with a ballfield. That doesn’t add up Jimmy. I don’t remember you ever putting any effort into creating them. And I don’t remember any effort you’ve made protecting them other than saying that you think the gardens should stay in place. That I appreciate. Thank you.

      I don’t drink coffee Jimmy. I’m happy to sit down with you anytime and have a beer and discuss this and anything else. You can apologize to me then for making false accusations about me on social media. Then we can talk about saving the Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve. Then we can talk about working together to do other great things for this town.

  4. Robert Harrington

    In fairness they did come before the BoE. We had a discussion and heard from many stakeholders – both gardeners and baseball stakeholders – for well over an hour. So I don’t know that the BOE has been silent – and we have certainly engaged with stakeholders. The LLBC clearly has too.

    I wish the BOE had taken a clearer stance ahead of the pending LLBC decision – and I pushed for this – but we at least discussed it. I am hopeful the BOE will still take a clear view once the recommendation is made and make a statement IF the decision goes against the Westport Community Gardens.

    I will say that the Parks and Recs representative did finally deliver their report to the LLBC and presented last night – but they didn’t take any questions from ANY stakeholders, taxpayers, residents etc and they left will the meeting ward still ongoing. I can same this as I am a supporter of the group, but I am not a WCG member – I just don’t think that approach sat very well with many of them. It didn’t sit well with me.

    The silver lining in all this is… (and I truly believe there is one)….We learned last night that the incremental dollar amount to keep the gardens in place AND build a new school is $2 million versus other options. For a long-term important project – and for a school campus that will last 60+ years – I think that is an incremental price well worth paying to making this difficult site work for many stakeholders. That price is still significantly less expensive than if we went with a renovate vs new solution AND will be completed here in 40% less time.

    There is a win for for the schools and the WCG – and that price tag is only an incremental $2 million. I hope we can all rally around that.

  5. Robert, I have read so many opinions, including my own. 90% of the engagement here has been done with civility, and open minds.

    When I say the BOE has been silent, I’m saying there has been no statement of a “preferred” location on the property and reasons why? Where is central and your team on this?

    Everyone from the RTM to BOF have “listened” walked the gardens etc. A lot of us multi times. Of our town bodies, the biggest “stakeholder” is the BOE right?

    As the LLBC continues to work towards a solution, I would hope to see the BOE both elected and central become more involved in explaining state mandates for schools, town student needs, etc.

    The goal is a new school, keep the gardens, and kids playing ball right?

    I am hoping when the options are presented, choices and civil discourse will lead to a positive outcome for all.

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