LITTLETON — Concerns about recent damage to town soccer fields caused by playing sports on when the fields were wet has prompted selectmen to consider a policy that could limit usage after storms.
“I’m all for bringing in other events in town, but when the fields are being ruined due to rain and being played on I think it’s time that the select board make a policy,” resident Heidi Hurley said during the board’s meeting on Nov. 8. “Who’s paying for the fields to be fixed at this point? Is it the taxpayer? Is it Park and Rec? Where is the money coming from to pay for the field at Remich Park that has been basically destroyed?”
Now, the field at Norton Pike was used when it was soft, said Hurley.
“Are we going to continue to allow people to play during a storm and ruin the fields, where we probably have $6,000 worth of damage at Remich Park?” she said. “Every year, will we have to eat that bill?”
Carrie Gendreau, chair of the board, said taxpayers ultimately pay for the fields.
“The fields are getting used more,” said Gendreau. “It has to be a healthy balance … That’s what we have to look into because this is the first year that we’ve run into this conflict or challenge. You’ve got the wheels going on it and we have to look into the cost. We want the players there, Parks and Rec, the school. We want to come up with a collaborative solution so it’s positive for everybody.”
In response to Hurley, Gendreau said the board will have to look into who makes the decision to cancel a sports event if there is a torrential downpour and who is in control of private groups using fields.
Selectman Milton Bratz noted that the Littleton Parks and Recreation Department has three commissioners.
“At some level, you would think that the commissioners would be making policy in terms of usage,” he said.
Littleton Town Manager James Gleason said the fields are public and anyone can show up from dawn to dusk.
Hurley said some solution needs to be found when currently a private league can come in and ruin town fields.
“When it rains and pours and people are playing it can cause some damage,” said Gendreau. “What we have to do on our end is a little bit more research and come up with some coordination. What are we going to do if we have 15 more people come in next year? We do have to address it.”
Sandy Porter, a youth sports coach and middle school soccer team coach, spoke strongly in favor of limiting use during certain times.
“There should be fields that are off-limits for some things at different times of the year, and one of them is definitely that varsity soccer field,” he said. “I know for a fact that the varsity soccer coach does not practice on that field when it gets the least bit wet because of poor drainage. That is a big repair job. That field should not have been used regardless of soccer.”
The field now has to get ready for next baseball season, said Porter.
“Quite honestly, as a member of the community, I think it’s embarrassing when other teams come to play Littleton and they see the quality of the fields we have,” he said. “My boys had to play on Apthorp and that’s where they’ve always been playing. It’s not a soccer field because it’s a softball field. We need better and more fields for people to use and some of them should not be used by certain people at certain times of the year because of the damage it can do, or the fields need to be made much better. This is an embarrassment to this town, to be honest with you. The fields in all the other schools that I go to are tremendous. This town does not have enough green grass for an urban society, for even a rural society. We need better and more fields.”
What those concerned about the condition of the fields are asking for is for a little common sense when there is a storm, said Hurley.
Resident Steve Bromley asked if there is a way to determine how much it will cost to repair the damaged fields.