Tisbury considers plans for Veterans Park rehab
Men's softball and little league representatives and Tisbury's board of public works (BPW) commissioners pitched some ideas back and forth for improving and maintaining the town's Veterans Park in a meeting Monday night.
Department of Public Works (DPW) director Fred LaPiana sent letters about the meeting to contacts who sign up to use the field for the Adult Softball League, Friends of Vineyard Soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, the Vineyard Football Association, volleyball, and Vineyard Little League.
Ray Tattersall and Dan Sharkovitz, co-commissioners of the Adult Softball League, and Ernie Chaves, president of the Vineyard Little League, were the only ones who attended the meeting, held at the DPW offices. In response to questions from BPW chairman David Ferraguzzi about what improvements they would like to see in the park, the men agreed irrigation of the fields was their main concern.
Veterans Memorial Park, off Causeway Road, exhibits the effects of the Vineyard's dry summer. Photo by Mae Deary
Tisbury's DPW maintains the park, which contains the town's only soccer and baseball/softball fields, under tight budget constraints. The town allows athletic groups to use the fields for free. The combination of heavy use throughout the spring and summer and no irrigation have left the baseball fields dry and the soccer field in poor repair.
Although the town allows athletic groups to use the fields for free, Mr. Sharkovitz said that a few years ago the Adult Softball League used money from league fees to buy topsoil. "We try to do as much as we can to keep the field nice," he said.
In addition, Mr. Tattersall said, the league also created an all-dirt infield on the larger of the two baseball fields, using very fine stone-dust, which is easier to maintain than grass. He said a lot of members of the league have been willing to contribute time and materials towards maintenance.
While BPW commission John Thayer commended everyone for their efforts, he said that any plans for improvement and maintenance have to take into account the fact that volunteers may come and go. "Even if you get free stuff, you have to plan for a maintenance budget," he pointed out.
The American Legion's War Veterans Memorial Park Inc. deeded Veterans Park to Tisbury in 1964. It includes a soccer field, two baseball/softball fields, a playground, basketball courts, a bathroom facility, and parking lot on about five usable acres abutted by wetlands on one side.
Mr. LaPiana provided reconstruction estimates which totaled $413,200 for all three fields, including removing old turf, installing a drainage and irrigation system, grading, and adding topsoil and sod, goals on the soccer field, and a backstop and benches on the baseball/softball fields.
After discussion, Mr. Ferraguzzi suggested that the main object for the park should be irrigation and drainage, and to strip, crown, and sod the fields. The BPW commissioners agreed to move forward on putting together an article for Tisbury's April 2008 annual town meeting warrant and to look into other funding sources, as well.
Mr. Tattersall asked the commissioners what the league could do.
"We may say, go raise $200,000," Mr. Thayer said with a laugh.
He added that in order to reconstruct the fields, no one would be able to use them for about a year.
As a result of an article that appeared in The Times about Veteran's Park on August 16, Mr. LaPiana said that NSTAR workers offered to volunteer to make repairs at the park through their annual community outreach program (see related story).
Although Andy Farrissey, who works as a subcontractor to NSTAR, offered to add irrigation in the fields, the BPW commissioners thought it would be best to hold off until a drainage system is installed, to avoid digging everything up again.
Tisbury planning board co-chairman Henry Stephenson also attended the meeting, outlining the planning board's proposed master plan for the downtown area that includes possibly adding a service drive and pedestrian walkway at the edge of the park.
In a follow-up phone call on Tuesday, Mr. LaPiana said that he thinks most people who use Veterans Park understand that it was a great donation made to the town, but basically was created by filling in a swamp and seeding it. "At the time, no one was thinking about it as a professional athletic field," he pointed out. "This is actually taking this whole park and bringing it up a fair notch in quality towards more of a professional field, in keeping with the current safety standards."
Through the years, the town has made several improvements and upgrades to Veterans Park, Mr. LaPiana recalled. When the Steamship Authority built its new Vineyard Haven terminal, its management donated the old dock facility to the town, which the DPW moved to Veteran's Park to provide bathrooms.
Tisbury funded and put in a new lighting system around the big softball field, installed water fountains and new bleachers, and realigned one of the baseball/softball fields to accommodate a soccer field.
Mr. LaPiana said that it is important that the planning board remains a part of the process. It will also be important, he said, to ensure that the Conservation Commission approves plans for any work done to the fields, because they are located in a wetlands area, and near land of archeological significance to native Americans.