2017-09-29 / Community News

New senior recreation area in the works

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


Plans for a new community recreation area next to the Memorial Park concession stand and restrooms was approved by the council. Work will begin soon, and the area, which was requested by senior citizens in town, is expected to open this spring. (Michael Kelley photo) Plans for a new community recreation area next to the Memorial Park concession stand and restrooms was approved by the council. Work will begin soon, and the area, which was requested by senior citizens in town, is expected to open this spring. (Michael Kelley photo) Senior citizens in Scarborough have long advocated for a senior center or, at the very least, a place where they can play games and stay active. Their vision is expected to come to fruition next spring.

Last week, the town council approved a plan that would put a community gaming update between the concession stand and athletic field in Memorial Park.

Community Services Director Todd Souza said the space is the perfect location because it is close to parking and restrooms and “tucked in an area” that is otherwise not being used.

Last year the council appropriated $100,000 through the fiscal 2017 capital improvement budget for the gaming area, which is designed to include space for such games as pickleball, horseshoes, bocce, croquet, chess and cornhole. Souza said in order to get a bigger bang for the buck, much of the work is being done by the planning and public works departments.

The design of the space is to be flexible enough so it can he reconfigured if need be. The only permanent piece will be the two pickleball courts.

Excavation, drainage and other site work is expected to begin by October. Paving work and landscaping will be done in October and between then and May, the game areas will be delineated. Final work is scheduled to be wrapped up in the spring and the game area be open in May.

Souza said he believes all the work can be done with the approved funding amount, expect for a pavilion, which has been requested as an area people can sit and get out of the sun. The pavilion, Souza said, could “be as grand or as simple as we wanted it to be” and could cost $30,000 to $50,000. Councilor Katy Foley said she was disappointed to see the pavilion request not be part of the project.

Souza said the funding and design of that could be part of a future discussion, but until then, work will get underway to complete the gaming part of the recreation area, something that senior program advisory board member Jean-Marie Caterina said will be a relief to seniors.

“The seniors are pretty impatient. They would really like to see this plan done and accomplished. It’s been on the drawing board for a couple of years,” she said. “I know the attitude of many of the seniors is ‘gee we aren’t asking for a whole lot. Can’t we just have this small recreation area?.’”

She said while the seniors requested it, the gaming area will serve the entire community.

“What I love about this project is it is truly intergenerational space. We talk about the need to bring those pieces together, and this does that,” Foley said.

Councilor Kate St. Clair said approving the plan is a “no-brainer.”

“This is the least we can do for the seniors in this town. We are constantly, constantly talking about the schools and there is nothing wrong with that because that’s a huge part of our community, but there’s a whole other part of our community that has been very patiently waiting for something, anything,” St. Clair. said. “Clearly I don’t want to spend a $100,000. The (financial) state that we are in bothers me, but the money is there. It’s been there. We voted on it two years ago.”

St. Clair said the gaming area will be a “fabulous way to integrate more of our town” and make Memorial Park “more of a hub.”

“I am really excited about it,” she said.

The only concern councilor Chris Caiazzo had with the recreation area was how it fits in with the town’s master plan for the municipal campus.

“I’d like to see the master plan. We keep doing these projects and we are doing them, right now, without looking at the long-term plan. I’d like to see a master plan so we can incorporate this in the right areas at the right time so we don’t eventually have to move this stuff at some point,” he said.

Souza said this area will not impact how other space in Memorial Field or the town campus will be used in the future.

“Memorial Park, I saw as a recreation area, so I didn’t see this as taking the space of any other use,” he said.

Town Manager Tom Hall said “there is full intention of doing a full master plan,” but the Memorial Park section was “accelerated” because of this project, as well as the new pubic safety building, a complex to house the police, fire and emergency response departments, proposed near the opposite end of the park. Work on the rest of the master plan will be launched soon.

“I think you’ll be satisfied when you see the larger plan,” he told Caiazzo.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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