A plan to fund a second artificial turf field that would allow Falmouth’s overcrowded athletic fields to rest is in the Town of Falmouth’s capital plan, but the funds would not be available for eight years.
To speed up the process, the Falmouth Recreation Committee is looking at replacing an existing grass field with an artificial turf field at Falmouth High School in the next two to three years. Members presented their ideas at the Falmouth School Committee on Tuesday, February 11.
The Falmouth Public Schools and the Falmouth community, through the town’s recreation department, would share the new field in a way similar to the high school’s existing turf field, where the high school football team plays. That field is open to the town’s Pop Warner football program, Recreation Director Joseph E. Olenick said.
School committee members had questions about the possible uses of the field as well as the attendant maintenance costs.
“From the Gale Associates master plan study that was done three years ago, our fields are in very poor condition, and the town has been spending thousands of dollars to help get them in better shape,” recreation committee member Sandra L. Cuny said. “The problem we have is that we can’t rest the fields. The Gale study will tell you we needed nine new grass fields or three new turf fields.”
The recreation committee has not yet come up with firm cost estimates for the new field, recreation committee member Scott A. Ghelfi said.
Another potential location for a turf field is a site on Sandwich Road. However, using this site would cost more because the town would have to clear the land and put in a road, Ms. Cuny said.
If the high school site is chosen, Mr. Olenick said, he would work with high school athletic director Kathleen Burke to schedule community use of the field on evenings and weekends, after school games and practices end, which would allow other fields to rest during those times.
“This would create enough time for everybody to coexist without fights happening because everyone’s going to want to get a piece of it,” he said.
The proposed grass field to be replaced is now used by the high school’s girls’ field hockey and lacrosse teams.
“The recently cleared area intended to expand the field remains unusable due to drainage problems,” Ms. Cuny said, noting the site has ample land and parking, with no need to clear trees.
Mr. Olenick said he would submit a grant application to the Falmouth Community Preservation Committee to pay for the bulk of the cost and would request funding from the New Balance Falmouth Road Race to pay for the turf itself.
School committee vice chairwoman Kelly A. Welch asked Mr. Olenick which community activities he would schedule on the new field.
The recreation director said he would focus on travel sports such as soccer and lacrosse, which can be damaging to grass fields. This would free up time for adult groups to use the Trotting Park Road fields.
School committee chairman William S. Rider asked Mr. Olenick about his level of satisfaction with the existing turf field.
“It’s helped us immensely with Pop Warner because the field that was reconstructed for it then had its own drainage issues,” Mr. Olenick said.
School committee member John J. Furnari said that when he served on the initial turf field committee, he met with three different towns that had multiple turf fields. He said a second turf field in Falmouth would be a great resource.
School committee member Meghan Cummings Fleck brought up the issue of the lack of public restrooms and trash receptacles at most of the town’s fields.
Mr. Olenick said he would look to have restrooms and a possible concession stand at the new field, or at least have portable toilets during sporting events. The recreation department and the Department of Public Works would take care of the trash receptacles.
Ms. Welch said the school committee must consider any possible Title IX sex discrimination issues to ensure that the schools are not “playing favorites” in assigning the field use.
The recreation director said he would include in the grant the funds for enough bleachers to accommodate the spectators at girls’ field hockey and lacrosse games, although the field would not be stadium style, like the one where the football team plays.
School committee member Andrea L. Thorrold asked who would be responsible for the field’s maintenance and whether the community would be charged usage fees.
“We would certainly charge fees for it,” Mr. Olenick said. “One of the advantages of having it be at the high school is that equipment has already been purchased for it. Maintenance and repairs along the way would fall under us [the recreation department].”
Ms. Thorrold also asked about policing the use of alcohol by adult groups on school property.
“Police would be involved as far as keeping people from drinking alcohol is concerned. That has been an issue with some fields,” Mr. Olenick said. “The advantage is it would be more open than the closed-in Trotting Park fields are. We could certainly require a police detail to be there, or at least police to come by the field after the games to make sure that nobody’s staying there drinking.”
The same rules and policies at the town’s other fields would apply at the new field, Ms. Cuny said.
In response to a question about whether a turf field could be created at the YMCA facility to be built near the intersection of Brick Kiln Road and Gifford Street, Mr. Ghelfi said that the recreation committee has no connection with the YMCA’s plans for that site.