Representatives from the DPW said town fields can be maintained at a moderate level, but the fields are being overused.
“I am worried there is a usage issue,” Parks Superintendent Jeremiah Pearson told the recreation committee on Thursday last week, January 16. “There will always be a usage issue. We need more fields. We need more practice fields, especially.”
Between practicing and playing games, the fields are in constant use. With multiple sports being played on the fields, there is a limited window for maintenance and repair.
“The best time to fix a field is in the fall or the spring,” Mr. Pearson said. “What is going on? They’re being used. I can’t fix a field when it’s actively being played on.”
Despite these challenges, the fields have improved. Mr. Pearson said when he joined the town in early 2018, the town’s 40 acres of irrigated fields were in poor condition.
“Those 40 acres, which we have put all our work into, have improved,” Mr. Pearson said.
“I do feel like we can maintain moderate fields for an average,” he continued. “Some fields will be a little bit above moderate, like Trotting Park. The fields that we’re redoing, we want to keep those up. We want to put more maintenance into those fields than some of the other ones, but as an average, we want to get to that moderate level. I feel like, before, a lot were in very poor condition, and we’re moving upwards, which is a good thing.”
Field use was addressed in the 2017 Athletic Field Master Plan by Gale Associates. The report recommends installing either nine new natural grass fields or three artificial turf fields. Since then the town has installed one artificial turf field at Falmouth High School.
“There are interesting charts in the Gale report, which show the usage of the fields, and a lot of the fields are overused,” interim director of public works Peter M. McConarty said.
Mr. Pearson said while the DPW knows the fields are overused, the department does not know what fields are being played on when. Ms. Dillon said the DPW should be kept in the loop.
“Maybe that is a takeaway, that we have to formalize, with all the groups that use the fields, the schedule,” committee member Lori C. Dillon said.
This information could be used to determine when the town needs to rest a field, or determine if some fields should only be used for games or practices.
“You can have a practice at a field that is a C-minus field, and save your field that is a game field and a B-plus, but you have to be creative, you have to plan ahead, and you have to talk,” Ms. Dillon said.
She said if a league is told it cannot play on a field due to overuse, it will find another field to play on, rather than not play at all. Mr. Pearson said the town has to consider this option.
“We’re going to have to start talking about restrictions, who can do what, and moving practices,” he said.
Recreation Director Joseph E. Olenick said completion of the third field at Trotting Park will start to address this issue.
“Once the third field at Trotting Park is done, I think we will be able to rest one of those fields each year,” Mr. Olenick said.
Referring back to the Gale report, committee member Michael G. Heylin said, if the town had more fields, it would also have more opportunities to rest fields. With one turf field installed, the town would need either six natural grass fields or two artificial turf fields to fulfill the report’s recommendations.
“Six grass fields, you couldn’t do that,” Mr. Heylin said. “That’s just not feasible to do.”
Committee member Richard J. Boles described turf fields as “the logical solution.” He recommended one full-sized turf field and a half-size turf practice field.
Committee member Scott A. Ghelfi said the town needs to take full advantage of its existing turf field.
“I want to make sure we are maximizing the non-high school hours, because that was the understanding, that that is a community situation,” Mr. Ghelfi said.
Ms. Dillon said the Falmouth Soccer Club board contacted Falmouth schools athletic director Kathleen Burke prior to the fall season, but did not get a response. Committee member Sandra L. Cuny recommended Mr. Olenick act as the point of contact to coordinate use of the turf field at Falmouth High School.
“I could make that contact,” Mr. Olenick said. “I could see what is available.”
The committee also discussed what could be done to curb unauthorized use of town fields.
“It is one of the things that drives me nuts,” Mr. Pearson said. “The big kick in the teeth was the baseball field. Immediately after we finished, people were on it.”
Last August, a team played on the baseball diamond at the Sandwich Road fields before it had a chance to settle. Mr. Pearson said a fine for unauthorized use of a field might deter teams from playing on a closed field. There are challenges with this.
“Number one, you have to catch them in the act, and number two, you got to have something in place as a consequence,” Ms. Cuny said.
Mr. Brown said the committee could consider security cameras, fencing, chains or locked gates at fields around town.
“The taxpayers have put more than $1 million into four fields, and I’m afraid if they get ruined, they might not want to give us any more,” he said.
In addition to unauthorized teams playing on the fields, Mr. Pearson said there is a dumping problem at Trotting Park.
“Every day, there is something left, like a refrigerator or a stove,” he said. ‘We just picked up a whole pile of brush. The highway department is up there every day.”
Mr. Pearson said while he is open to installing security cameras in the area, he asked who would be able to watch it. Mr. Heylin said the cameras do not have to be monitored 24/7, but when an incident occurs, someone can review the footage.
Mr. McConarty said people dump items at Trotting Park during the night.
“It is a dirt parking lot, and it’s black at nighttime,” Mr. McConarty said. “There are no lights, and no one drives up there. The police might drive up there once in a while.”
He said if Trotting Park is going to be a premiere field accompanied by a premiere skate park, the town might want to consider installing lights in that parking lot.