Just one month after the governor signed legislation updating the state’s Community Preservation Act, Needham officials are ready to take advantage of the changes to help fund two parks projects.
The new language allows for towns that have adopted the CPA surcharge to use the funds to renovate and upgrade existing parks and recreational areas, not just build new ones as allowed under the original legislation, which was passed in 2000. The update does exclude purchase of turf fields.
Needham has had “several projects in the queue” under the town’s capital plan, but the projects have been set aside in years past as other priorities arose and as officials waited eagerly for the legislative update, Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick said Tuesday.
She asked selectmen to endorse two projects that will appear before voters at the . The first seeks $444,000 in CPA funding for improvements at , with the remaining $50,000 of the project to be raised by a community group. Plans for the park and include a new play structure, improvements to the fields and basketball court and a new walkway and entrance off Great Plain Avenue.
If approved at the special Town Meeting, the project could get underway next spring, Fitzpatrick said. The play area has been closed since 2010.
The second project would request between $26,000 and $30,000 from the CPA’s administrative fund to hire an engineer to draw up a conceptual plan and design for a shared-use trail from Needham Junction to the Dover town line, part of the .
Fitzpatrick said that both projects fit in with the town’s capital plan and would help the town in an area that residents have said is lacking—access to trails and recreational areas.
In the most recent National Citizen Survey, the results of which were part of the board's discussion Tuesday, 67 percent of Needham residents surveyed said that the town’s recreational opportunities were either “good” or “excellent.” (In 2010, 71 percent felt the offerings were good or excellent, while, in 2008, 65 percent felt that way.)
Selectmen voted unanimously to endorse both CPA requests.
Selectman John Bulian said he felt funding the Greene’s Field project was a “tremendous use” of the new legislation and a boon for residents of all ages.
“I’m very pleased to see the Greene’s Field project moving in this direction,” he said.
Fitzpatrick said the town has already identified other projects that could benefit from CPA funding, including at least four trail projects and an estimated $1.6 million upgrade to the playing fields at . Those items, however, will be discussed further before requests are submitted to the Community Preservation Committee.
The committee must review and vote on all projects, including the Greene’s Field and rail trail projects, before they go to Town Meeting.
Selectman Jerry Wasserman said investing in town parks was an important step toward maintaining Needham as a great place to live.
He referenced the National Citizen Survey, in which 97 percent of residents who responded felt the quality of life in Needham was either “good” or “excellent.”
“I think it’s because we do projects like this,” Wasserman said.