I admit that I am obsessed with the poor condition of the athletic fields in the city. (This probably comes from almost three decades of coaching, 25 years of refereeing youth and high school teams, and many years of playing.) While I appreciate that Mayor Fuller increased the allocation for field maintenance by several thousand dollars in this year’s budget, a massive problem remains. The maintenance solution will require a combination of regular city appropriations and, likely, more contributions by users of the fields in the form of higher permit fees. (The youth leagues currently pay nothing in that regard.)
But there is also a pent-up demand for capital improvements of many fields because of decades of neglect, not just a need for ongoing maintenance. An appropriate source of funds for some of those capital improvements would be Community Preservation Act funds. (Yes, the same funds that have been used to support low-income senior housing and will–I hope–be used to acquire the forested open space of Webster Woods.)
So, it was with some concern that I read Mayor Fuller’s recent update and found a misconception about the use of CPA funds. She said:
By state law, CPA funding can be used only for four specific uses: land preservation,affordable housing, historic preservation, or complete renovations of outdoor recreation facilities.
The last phrase is wrong. There is nothing in the law that limits CPA funding to a “complete renovation.” As noted on this site:
In the CPA statute (Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 44B) the definition of “Recreational use” in Section 2 is actually part of the definition of “open space”, as follows:
“Open space”, shall include, but not be limited to, land to protect existing and future well fields, aquifers and recharge areas, watershed land, agricultural land, grasslands, fields, forest land, fresh and salt water marshes and other wetlands, ocean, river, stream, lake and pond frontage, beaches, dunes and other coastal lands, lands to protect scenic vistas, land for wildlife or nature preserve and land for recreational use.”
“Recreational use” is further defined, in this same section, as follows:
“Recreational use”, active or passive recreational use including, but not limited to, the use of land for community gardens, trails, and noncommercial youth and adult sports, and the use of land as a park, playground or athletic field. “Recreational use” shall not include horse or dog racing or the use of land for a stadium, gymnasium or similar structure.
In short, there is a good deal of flexibility for use of CPA funds for capital investments related to the athletic fields. The town of Lexington, for example, used CPA funds for lights on a field and to rebuild a track.
I’d like to see the administration, the Parks & Recreation Commission, the City Council, and the various youth and adult leagues jointly come up with a master plan–with funding sources clearly delineated–to bring our fields up to date and maintain them for years to come. Our 7000+ youth athletes deserve nothing less.