Athletic fields

Petition urges Newton to improve public parks and sports grounds

“It’s not an easy problem to solve,” Traxler said. “A lot of these fields are more weeds than grass, a lot of them are dangerous. Overall I would rate the quality of play as poor to very poor.

Newton Parks Commissioner Nicole Banks said the main problems with the city’s fields are lack of irrigation, poor quality synthetic turf and overuse of the fields – all three contributing to poor conditions in the most 75 acres fields that Newton Parks owns and operates.

Banks said new funding for the fields could come from increased O&M budgets or potentially from the Community Preservation Act, which allows Newton to levy an additional 1% surtax on property taxes to fund affordable housing, historic preservation, and open spaces and recreation.

The city is currently budgeting $ 1,000 per acre of fields, Banks said.

Traxler said the city is expected to spend over $ 5,000 an acre – the difference being “a shortfall of $ 300,000 from where we are now.”

Banks have also recommended increasing rental fees to market rates of $ 30 per hour for grass and $ 100 per hour for turf fields. In a typical year, lawns make around $ 36,000 and lawns around $ 38,000 – that number would roughly double with increasing fees, she said.

“Raising our fees would bring us closer to what the surrounding communities charge and allow us to reinvest some of that money in our fields,” Banks said.

After nearly two hours of discussion, the committee voted unanimously to maintain until it drew up a resolution or letter.

President Josh Krintzman presented a resolution at the April 7 committee meeting, stating that City Council supports increasing the maintenance budget to $ 375,000, creating short and long term land improvement plans and using funds and the Community Preservation Act for land renewal. The resolution was passed 8-0.

At the March meeting, Ward 2 Councilor Emily Norton said she “would absolutely not support” the increased land fee if it meant limiting opportunities for children and families – “you won’t. can’t tell what someone’s situation is “.

“I just want to be very careful before raising the fees for families to participate,” Norton said in an interview. “I just want to make sure that we don’t solve the funding problem at the expense of people who can’t really afford it.

Burt Granofsky, head coach of Newton Youth Ultimate, a member of the Newton Athletic Fields Foundation, said he agreed with a fee increase, although excluding families who cannot afford it is “a real concern”.

“At some point, it just takes more money to maintain the fields and create new fields,” Granofsky said in an interview. “One way to do that is to either increase the player fees they were talking about… or just increase the license fees. “

Granofsky said the city’s fields generally appear pristine for the first few weeks of the season, but quickly begin to degrade with use.

The sand on baseball fields can take more wear and tear than grass fields, said Richard Dinjian, municipal liaison for the Newton Little League.

Dinjian said the diamonds used by his league are kept in relatively good condition with private funding.

“We spend $ 50,000 a year on field maintenance,” Dinjian said in an interview. “I prefer to spend this money on baseball. I would rather spend that money on the coaches and on the program itself than spending it on doing what the city cannot do.

In an interview, Traxler said Newton officials view the city grounds as another facility, ignoring athletics’ unique impact on the local community.

“The pitches themselves being decoupled from athletics,” Traxler said. “You can’t watch them separately from the residents who use them. “

He said the parks department has focused too much on maintenance to effectively plan for the future, and the city’s lack of financial commitment is holding back improvements on the ground.

“Putting the shovels in the ground isn’t the hard part,” Traxler said. “The hard part for Newton is that we don’t have the will to do it now.”

Daniel Kool and Aaron Velasco can be contacted at newtonreport@globe.com.


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