Letter: Ward Park Association Questions Amount of Fields to be Lost
The Ward Park Neighborhood Association is saying that up to 15 percent of field space could be lost with the installation of a Senior Center at Ward Park
Editor's Note: The following is a letter written by members of the Ward Park Neighborhood Association. It is addressing the proposal by Mayor Arthur Vigeant to place a new Senior Center at Ward Park.
Marlborough Ma – In response to the growing opposition against his plan to take away public park land for a 13,000 square foot municipal building, Mayor Vigeant recently sent letters via US mail to residents in the Ward Park neighborhood. A map specially prepared by the City DPW Engineering division on February 20, 2013 was included. The map shows the 7.6 acres that constitute Ward Park (parcel 69-394), but also includes a grove of trees, the Bigelow School parcel, and other city owned parcels in an attempt to convey there are 12 acres of city owned “park” land for calculations.
In fact, there are not 12 acres for calculation, since the Bigelow school is not available and the mayor has publicly refused to use the grove of trees in the park’s expansion. Vigeant states the proposed building will take 3% of these 12 acres or 0.36 of an acre. To come up with his 3% number Vigeant is narrowing the proposed senior center to the exact ‘footprint’ of the building itself. The 3% does not include any paved access drives or any building buffer areas required with new construction. At their December meeting, the Park and Recreation Commission passed an undetermined “northeast section” of the park to Facilities Department for the purpose of a new building.
Given the facts of the proposal, Ward Park Neighborhood Association (WPNA) believes approximately 15% of the all field area will be rendered unusable by this building. “In truth, the area directly affected by this proposed building is Ward Park’s remaining open space field area where children play. Bigelow School, the courts, and ‘other City owned parcels’ would not be impacted. We feel there should be no new buildings on any of Marlborough’s undeveloped precious public park land. The children of this city need every square inch of the available open space” said Sharon Judd of the WPNA. She adds “We feel putting the long awaited new Senior Center on a small 0.36 acre lot with no room for outward expansion does our seniors a great disservice.” The city would need to give the seniors more space to meet needs of growing population in a short number of years.
Emilie Allen, one of the seniors in the WPNA states “Ward Park should be for the kids, not seniors. A new building for seniors should not come on the backs of children. I think that there are plenty of areas and buildings with sufficient parking that could be revitalized for a lovely senior center”. Petition signer Raymond Shea states “The taking of common spaces within the city especially with the history that this park holds is unacceptable. Doesn't the city have other land that could be used that would not take away playgrounds for our children?”
A petition authored by the WPNA in opposition of building on Ward Park has obtained 747 signatures to date. “We don’t understand why the Mayor is rushing forward to take away the park land” says Chrissy Manzi of the WPNA. “In light of such a large opposition, shouldn’t he be concerned enough to put the project on hold in order to meet and listen to his concerned constituents?”
The only public meeting held was on December 19, 2012 at which the Mayor stated he was only willing to entertain questions about the plan moving forward. Many of the 30 plus residents in attendance were stunned he would not hear why there should be no building on park land. Residents expressed their concerns regarding the already crowded neighborhood, not taking any land from a park, parking issues, great historic value of Ward Park, the fact Ward Park land was acquired for the benefit of youth development, space for playing, voiding use of space for large outdoor community events, poor drainage, and defunct buildings in town that could be renovated instead. At the end of the meeting, it was stated by Councilor Elder and the Mayor they only heard one valid concern, which was drainage, and that would be addressed later by the engineers.
Manzi recalls asking Councilor Elder if it would be possible for the City to send letters via US mail to all residents in the Ward Park neighborhood notifying them in advance of the December public meeting and being told it wasn’t possible.
In an editorial appearing in the March 2013 issue of “Marlborough Seniors on the Go”, Vigeant appears to dismiss the petition with the statement “My door has been and will continue to remain open to the Ward Park neighborhood as well as any other residents who wish to provide substantive input”. Manzi replies “The WPNA petition is three pages long and over 1400 words with details of concern. How much more substantive could the input be? It makes us wonder if the Mayor is simply not interested in any opinion contradictory to his. A valuable historic park is not the right place for a building”.
Many petition signers believe just because the City owns the property, it does not mean building on a park is a sound idea. Full text of the petition can be read at www.savewardpark.com.