Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, October 18, 2018
Committee airs plans to transform ballfield
The Stonington Economic Development Committee on October 1 unveiled a preliminary proposal that would transform the ballfield property on School Street, maintaining the ballfield while developing other areas for parking, recreation and other community activities, including the farmers market.
SEDC members Susan Robinson, Julie Morringello and Stroud Watson presented the proposal to selectmen noting that it was an offshoot of the 2016 parking committee report which had recommended developing parking at or near the ballpark. This proposal goes beyond that suggestion, adding such features as a walking path around the open space on that property that would connect to a path leading to the downtown, restrooms, a pavilion as well as parking for, eventually, about 80 cars. Robinson explained that idea stemmed from the suggestion that the town encourage visitors to use Cemetery Road where the transformed area would present a different first image to them.
“This would turn it into a park-like setting,” she said. “It could become a hub for a lot of different events.”
Watson added that the proposal, once fully developed, could also include the existing office space in the old school building on School Street.
“It’s a resource that could become part of this,” he said. “It could become a community place for multiple uses.”
Mindful of the costs involved, they suggested that the plan be developed in phases, which would make it realistic and affordable.
Create a 22-car parking lot along the front of the ballfield, adding landscaping, trees between the lot and School St. and between the lot and ballfield;
Reorient the ballfield moving the backstop and bleachers to the northern end of the property, grade the ballfield area;
Create a small park near the south end of the parking lot including landscaping, benches and picnic table, and possibly a sculpture.
Move the existing playground across the street next to the basketball court;
Create a 50-car parking lot in the former playground area;
Install restrooms and equipment storage;
Build a mulit-use, open pavilion;
Expand the existing walking trail to form a loop around the entire ballfield property, starting and ending at the 22-car lot.
Address handicapped access at the office building with a new ramp or lift on the side of the building;
Add a 10-car parking lot in front of the building;
Move the farmers market across the street to the 22-car lot;
Extend the walking trail past the office building and down Memorial Lane to Pink Street.
Selectmen generally liked the proposal. Chairman Donna Brewer called a it a thoughtfully-developed design and Evelyn Duncan noted that the new park across from the fire station has been a popular addition to the downtown and is used regularly. John Robbins said it was important that the plan kept the ballfield as a ballfield. Robinson said that they understood from the beginning that the town’s sentiment was to maintain that.
Travis Fifield urged the SEDC members to configure some of the parking spaces to allow fishermen to use them with trailers. He also suggest that part of the area could be used as a staging area for tractor trailers waiting to make deliveries to the fish pier or the Harbor Market and Stonecutters Kitchen.
Costs will be an issue and the committee members stressed that they understood those concerns, which was why they proposed a phased approach to developing the side. Watson said that the next step would be to develop a detailed, to-scale design which would enable them to develop cost estimates for the different phases of the project.