somervillelogoSomerville’s overburdened recreation and athletic fields require creative solutions that will be drafted by a consulting firm that has completed an initial assessment of the city’s fields, and a new task force will be convened to review the proposals, Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced.

Eleven out of the 18 fields in Somerville exceed the recommended 250 annual uses for a well-maintained natural turf field, according to an assessment of the city’s recreation fields completed by Gale Engineers and Planners on behalf of the city, based on field usage by sport for each field and industry standards and guidelines. Somerville averages 433 uses a year for each natural turf field—an unsustainable amount of use regardless of maintenance and upkeep of each field. Fields included in the assessment include those owned by the City, the State Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Tufts University.

The multi-purpose natural field at Lincoln Park has the highest number of total annual uses at 1,218 (nearly four times the recommended uses for a natural turf field), and public meetings to discuss a Lincoln Park renovation are already underway. Other natural fields with high annual uses include Nunziato Field with 729; Foss Park’s baseball diamond with 672; and Trum Field’s softball diamond with 625. The city’s two synthetic fields at Dilboy Field and Capuano Field average 601 and 672 annual uses respectively, both either within or nearly within the recommended limit of 650 for a well-maintained synthetic field.

Somerville’s fields were also evaluated for safety, accessibility and equipment condition. Among the issues found were drainage issues; spectator seating at six fields that is not compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements; ADA-compliant access to three fields; and varying conditions of equipment at each field, such as backstops, fences and netting.

Gale Engineers and Planners is currently working on developing several potential solutions that would ease the burden on fields within the most densely populated city in New England. Mayor Curtatone plans to form a task force that would then review those potential solutions and provide recommendations and feedback.

“We’ve continued to increase our investments in recreation because we believe that getting kids active is better for their health, their academic success and overall well-being, and in some sense we’re a victim of our own success as more children are enrolling in athletic and recreation programs,” said Mayor Curtatone. “As our school enrollment also continues to climb upward, it heightens our sense of urgency in ensuring that our children have the best possible facilities and fields to play on. The dense nature of our city makes it challenging to locate new recreation fields in Somerville. By drafting solutions that will be reviewed by this task force, I hope we can uncover some new possibilities and give our children the quality outdoor facilities they deserve.”


36 Responses to “City to seek creative solutions to overburdened recreation fields”

  1. BAN says:

    Why do we need another task force? Don’t we have an entire Recreation Department, and a full staff whose job is to oversee Dilboy Field?
    The biggest problem is allowing Youth Soccer to play 2 seasons per year. The grass needs a season to rest and re-grow. There is also constant use of Foss Park with adults playing pick up soccer. No grass can withstand this type of use. If you look you’ll see that the dedicated baseball fields are in much better shape than the soccer fields for this reason.

  2. A.Moore says:

    As soon as you see consultant and task force over growing grass you can see where this is leading. Ditto BAN

  3. ritepride says:

    Consultants make good fertilizer fodder!

  4. JAR says:

    Conspicuous by their absence are the two Little League diamonds at Conway Park (which is also used by adult softball and by Pop Warner Football) and the newly-renovated Little League field at Hodgkins Playground whose grass I am told was damaged severely over the winter.

    I think the time has come to approach Tufts about possibly going back to using the triangle near Powderhouse between the Boulevard and College Ave.

    Dilboy needs some radical reworking in order to better utilize the space there, including off-street parking or drive-and drop off access closer to the baseball diamonds that will not involve having to cross busy and dangerous Rte. 16.


  5. Matt c says:

    Ban, it’s as simple as putting in turf fields like Cambridge has. Clearly there is a big demand by both older and younger residents!

  6. ritepride says:

    If the guy from the old Sunoco gas station would stop parking his used cars in the Dilboy parking lot there would be more parking in the lot. The city should just go there and tow his used cars away as he is exceeding his permit limit.

    Also priorities are way off base. Not enough traffic light crossings by the stadium for the amount of people attending events at Dilboy. New traffic crossing lights were just installed by the rebuilt bridge going over into the river by the Arlington/Medford side, that site will be used way less than the crossing areas by the field. Absolutely guarantee you that no study was made of the actual number of people who cross at the bridge at the location near the Arlington side (Phoenix Apartments)

  7. BAN says:

    JAR, perhaps Conway Park fields are not included because there is no problem there. It proves the point, the baseball/softball field is used in the spring, the main field is used for football in the fall. We never had this problem with fields, despite having many more kids in the city playing sports, until we began allowing youth soccer to use the same fields both spring and fall. You simply cannot do this and expect the fields to be in good shape. If they would like to pay me the money allotted to the task force perhaps I could explain it to them scientifically. @Mattc, no, it is not that simple. Many people don’t like playing on artificial turf, and it is also an unnecessary expense.

  8. Sam Franklin says:

    What’s with all the hating on youth soccer? Interest in soccer has grown rapidly over the last 15 years with over 800 kids now playing soccer per season in Somerville. There are about 150 kids playing baseball, and another 150 playing pop warner per season.

    Also, a lot of kids would like to play lacrosse so they go to leagues in Medford, etc, because there’s no place to play in Somerville. Interest in youth baseball and football is dropping in our area and nation-wide.

    Heavy use damages natural grass regardless of the sport being played. The grass at Conway is not in good condition. Although grass grows there, unlike Foss, the surface is very rough, uneven, and full of rocks.

  9. chauncygardener says:

    I don’t think anyone hates youth soccer. But there is a problem with over-use of the fields caused by youth soccer. Use of the fields, especially with cleats, does some damage to the grass, however, as was said above, football and baseball take place during different seasons and use different areas of the field (at least at Conway Park that is the case). Youth soccer is the only sport that uses the same space twice per year, which doesn’t give the grass enough time for regrowth.

  10. A.Moore says:

    I didn’t see any hating on soccer here. Just people going over what the grass problem is.

  11. Jim says:

    Tufts backing out of the PHCS could provide an opportunity to think about playing fields there. I bet you could redevelop that site and shoehorn in a turf soccer field as well.

    Also, to the person mad about the gas station on Alewife Brook Pwky, they are the nicest people ever and most of those cars aren’t connected to their garage.

  12. Matt C says:

    @BAN: Would you prefer to not let people use the fields or to not have the experience you prefer. As someone who plays field sports all year long I can tell you modern turf fields are great and preferred over the majority of public fields which get pitted, dry, and rained out.

  13. HTM says:

    MattC, BAN seems to be making a comparison, and the question I see here is, why does youth soccer feel the need to play two seasons, especially seeing what it does to the fields. It also contributes to the drop in numbers in other sports. At the age of 8 you should be able to play football/soccer or baseall /soccer, which is important to creating a well-rounded person/athlete.

  14. Matt c says:

    I’m sure if the draw were not there they would not fill two seasons worth of soccer. On the same hand, i hope if football and baseball were popular enough the city would enable those kids to play two sessions.

    Why do you want to take away something that is popular enough to draw kids away from video games and TV.

  15. so right says:

    HTM gets it. two seasons a year is excessive, and is destroying the fields, so logic says we just say one season per year. Huh? it seems so simple……

  16. sam says:

    Soccer isn’t played 2 seasons because it’s popular, it is the same kids and the same teams playing both seasons. And soccer isn’t the only thing taking kids away from couches and video games. It is absolutely correct that 2 seasons of soccer draws kids away from baseball and football. At the age of 8 you need to decide which sport to pursue, because in Somerville you cannot play soccer and another sport even at that young age. I say they should pick a season and should not be given a permit for 2 seasons per year.

  17. Matt C says:

    Moving away from debating whether kids should be compelled to play one sport or another the critical issue is the current field solution cannot support the level of activity that we as a community are demanding. We have two choices:

    1. restrict access
    2. increase capacity.

    Both have there ups and downs. My personal opinion would be to increase capacity. With solutions like turf you can then bring in lights that allow the fields to be dedicated to kids during the prime hours with little chance of canceling while allowing use of the field later in the evening ‘under the lights’

    I think it is critical in a city like Somerville where open space is SO limited that we are able to get the most out of it as possible.

  18. out of touch says:

    absolutely. at that age, we should be encouraging trying different sports and activities. but the soccer crowd is politically correct and running the show right now. It’s appalling we allow facilities to be destroyed rather than making policies that might annoy the blessed people. Get a grip, form policies that will use the facilities correctly and then enforce them.

  19. sam says:

    out of touch, you are so right! MattC, you are out of touch. I suppose you have a piggy bank full of coins to buy land, install artificial turf, and then install lighting? The first solution is to limit youth sports to 1 season per year. Two seasons is overkill, and is what is creating this ‘crisis’, as well as contributing to the drop in numbers of the other sports. Then when everyone is on the same playing field we can start to get creative with the issue and solutions. Or maybe little league and pop warner will just play 2 seasons as well, then we’ll see if the soccer people squak as they will need to ‘share’ their space.

  20. JAR says:

    o those who mentioned the PHCS site as a possible YOUTH baseball or YOUTH soccer (or both) field, I agree. It is a contiguous piece of city-owned real estate that meets most of the criteria needed for a suitable facility that would satisfy the needs or at least relieve some of the demands being placed on the current fields.

    I’ve coached Little League for over 20 years, during which time the number of teams has gone from a total of 38 (in both minors and majors) to 13 or 14. While there has been a commensurate drop in the number of fields used for baseball, it has not been, percentage-wise, the same. We lost the two diamonds at Glen Park and the replacement was a youth soccer field, which is fine. We also lost the aforementioned triangle at Tufts. The large diamond (used by Babe Ruth) at Lincoln Park was replaced with 1-1/2 natural turfed soccer fields.

    Draw 7 park is also natural turf, although a quick look at Google Maps satellite images reveals that the grass is largely gone. Perhaps it’s a candidate for artificial turf, although it MAY function as a wetland or something like that being, as it is, so close to the Mystic River. I don’t know. Conway is, or has been, used as a soccer field. By the way, I only mentioned Conway because there was no usage data presented for it and I was interested in seeing how much it actually gets used by both baseball and softball. I agree that there are relatively few problems there. Hodgkins has already been mentioned. My remarks about the parking at Dilboy pertained specifically to the distance from off street parking (adjacent to the pool) to the small diamond, which involves going around or through the tennis courts and across a fairly wide expanse. Not a big problem with an aluminum beach chair, but try it with a bag full of team equipment and baseballs. I won’t speak to the traffic control issues on the Parkway, except to say that I agree with those people who spoke earlier about it–it could probably stand at least a cursory review and maybe some attention by the Commonwealth.

    I’m curious, too, as to whether or not there was or is going to be any specific linkage with respect to the development at Assembly that includes youth or adult sports fields.

    Foss is a diamond in the rough that COULD be transformed into a fabulous complex with some better thought given to its configuration (in my opinion).

    As for the number of seasons of soccer: I can’t really speak to that since I know little of the whole soccer thing. In so saying, I don’t have any particular aversion to it other than my general disdain of any sport which (a) has a clock and (2) requires one to hit the spheroid off one’s head.

    I’d like to see this PHCS site discussion mature. And I’d also like to see an enhanced role by Tufts. They’re a large and impacting influence in the City, but seem (at least to me) to do an inordinately small amount for the our youth.


  21. Villenous says:

    Great, now the cranks are angry at kids for playing too much soccer. Newsflash, they aren’t going to play baseball or football because you want to force them into it. Places where there’s big interest in football have spring and summer programs. Places where there’s big interest in baseball have summer and fall programs. Somerville isn’t one of those places. If local kids want to play a lot of soccer, then let them play a lot of soccer. It’s their choice, not yours. And if the demand for soccer means we need to turf over some fields or to add capacity, then do that. If we had big numbers of kids and adults playing baseball/softball and football on our fields, we’d have the same problem because we’re a small city and field space is limited. Our fields aren’t capable of handling heavy use from any sport.

  22. so silly says:

    villenous is ridiculous. 2 soccer seasons destroy the fields. so limit to one season, which is more than fair to all. No, we have to build more fields, instead of just proper treatment of existing fields. and here’s a great idea—stop handing over green spaces to be destroyed by dogs!!!

  23. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    As a young girl in the sixties, I can remember walking up to the corner of my street watching a baseball game and thinking how lucky was I. There is just something so wonderful about the color green which shades of gray cannot replace.

    Today, the ball field which once was, is now covered with asphalt for employees who work at TAB, our former junior high.

    Bringing back an open field of grass would be like reuniting with a childhood friend. The ball field which once was brought so much fun to so many of our neighborhood boys. I believe sports is what helps many of our youth remain focused on their futures. Sports can be what saves some from taking a dark path for it provides self discipline, direction, teamwork, and self worth.

    We talked about green space at the last meeting at TAB. Adding a park to be used for sports would be a great benefit to that space.

    But we have great resistance by those who are only looking at the other shade of green.

    We proved that a collective voice can shift tides. I encourage anyone interested in maintaining our neighborhoods for working class families, come to the meetings. Our opinions do make a difference. I had my doubts, but the decision to remove Tufts from the bargaining table was a win for the people who make this town so great. We still have more work to do, but I’ve learned in other aspects of my life that nothing of great value ever comes easy.

  24. Matt c says:

    villenous… You are making too much sense for this crowd. Silly… How often do you walk by a dog park at any time of the year that there are not residents using it… I would say that if you have a lot of use them it’s a good thing to have. Even if you don’t use it

  25. Villenous says:

    Silly, kid have been playing fall/spring soccer for 40 years. Grouse all you want, and I’m sure you will, but it’s not changing. We’re talking about hundreds of kids (and their families) vs. a handful of cranks. You stand no chance. Best crawl back in your dark hole and complain about something else. P.S. You’re not going to get any farther complaining about dog parks. What’s next? Too many baby strollers on the sidewalks?

  26. missing the point? says:

    umm, 40 years? way off the mark with that. 40 yrs ago girls weren’t even allowed to play Little League, and soccer was far off. Nobody’s complaining about the soccer, anyway, you just don’t get it!! the complaint is two seasons per year doesn’t allow the grass to heal. What about that are you struggling with? I would add that 2 seasons a year isn’t fair when, as you agree, there’s limited space for all. but that doesn’t matter when the damage is happening.

  27. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    In all fairness, there are dog owners who do not pick up after there dogs, allowing them to run freely in parks meant only for sports.

    I do agree with you villenious that we don’t seem to have the interest of sports and population of kids, but isn’t this more of a responsibility to coaches, city administration and DPW who should be managing the sites better?

    What happened to the mayor’s idea to bring a Kraft stadium to the corner of Assembly Row?

    We could be taking better care of parks and I would like to see more within the new development plans across the city.

    But parks don’t make money and why developers and administration are not interested in providing more.

    Why are people against the Kraft stadium? Wouldn’t that be the answer to our revenue problems so other parks can be better maintained? Isn’t this a great idea to get more people involved, including our youth?

  28. Sam Franklin says:

    To echo what others have said, sports are an important forum to keep youth engaged and on track in life (not the only forum, but one healthy way). In Somerville, we don’t have the luxury of space. So why waste an entire season watching grass grow (literally) while the kids could be playing soccer, lacrosse, baseball, quidditch, anything? Artificial turf is not a perfect solution. Letting natural grass rest for months is not a perfect solution. Maybe there are other surfaces to consider that I’m not aware of. We have to put the space we have to the most use.

    I, too, would like to see Tufts step up with making more sports fields available to the city. Talk about resting the grass, the soccer field on Powderhouse Blvd hosts less than 2 dozen games per year. It could stand triple the usage and still be a prime grass field.

    And I don’t think that every open space should be made over for sports. Pocket parks, dog parks, open green spaces are all very important. If only we had the space – oh, yea, then we would be living in the middle of nowhere ; )

  29. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    What I don’t understand is why we gave Tufts our park on powder house circle and also the basketball court at PHCS site.

    I’m confused- are we building new to abandon and reuse for other purposes of old or rehabbing old thus avoiding costly efforts to build new or do we want both?

    What is the ultimate goal here. By the standards of other suburban towns, I think we could be stepping up our fields and get some foot patrol on dog owners who let their dogs run on the turf. Landscapers will tell you dogs kill grass. Bring your bags and train your dogs. No one wants to play ball on a health hazard.

  30. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    By the way, the dog parks are a disgrace. They are unclean and owners do not attend to their badly behaved dogs. We drive out to wooded areas in Medford, but even some are overpopulated with dogs which leave a real mess behind. If Joey wants to look into creating more fines, he should look there. Maybe the money created could keep the parks clean, trash barrels empty instead of overflowing and provide a turf that cleans easily with rain and weekly was down. The one on Bow is always unclean and too small for dogs to get a full workout. Fresh pond is a step up, but policies are not enforced.

  31. Villenous says:

    Missing, I was playing co-ed fall/spring soccer 40 years ago. Soccer has always been a two season youth sport. Just because you weren’t paying attention doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening (or perhaps you mistook the 1970s for the 1950s). The difference is more kids play it now and less play Little League/Pop Warner. Welcome to 2014. So, rather than Somerville shutting down what is by far its more popular youth sports program and being the only city/town in Massachusetts to ban youth soccer for half of its normal season, maybe it should step up with some actual solutions. Though your commitment to trying to make Somerville suck is appreciated. I suggest you and some like-minded folks make some signs and protest some youth soccer games. That’s sure to make you friends and influence people.

  32. Townie says:

    Villenous, you are wrong. There was no youth soccer at all in Somerville until the early 90’s. SHS did have a ‘club’ soccer team of sorts in the 70’s, though. My kids played soccer, and 2 seasons is not an official youth soccer schedule. The spring season is the ‘real’ season. For older players, the spring season is what counts toward your teams’ standing and it is the only time they hold championship games. Organizations have decided to hold a second season (fall), which helps to improve their players, and is their right, but not at the expense of our fields, or of pop warner. It is also documented that children should not play one sport exclusively. It is very bad for their development, and is the reason many kids suffer muscle and other injuries. One of the reasons there are a lot of soccer players in Somerville is because the yuppie doves see it as a safe, non-violent sport, when in fact it is as dangerous as football. The organization refuses to consider helmets although many doctors recommend it. There’s nothing so disturbing as watching a bunch of young kids playing soccer who are cheered by parents and coaches when they hit a hard ball, travelling at high speed, with their bare head.
    Pixie, the triangle field at Powderhouse, once used by baseball then by soccer is on Tufts property. Tufts also allowed soccer to use a field behind their baseball diamond, and another field on Professors’ Row for soccer games. However, all that was ended in the 90’s, by Tufts, the great benefactor, who does nothing for the city of Somerville, yet continues to reap the benefits. I used to often see them promoting a program for school-age kids…..from Medford.

  33. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Townie. I’m understanding more about the soccer debate between you and villenous.

    Tufts freeloading and exploitation of Somerville and their natives I know first hand. Mom made $7.00 hr. in housekeeping scrubbing dorms for over 15 years, then $12.00 until retirement. A total of 25 years then to receive meager pension of $200 a month. So, the next time you hear how much Tufts gives to the Somerville residents/employees, ask them what their working conditions and benefits are, compared to their admin and faculty.
    They talk the talk, all they do.

    Next question will be which of the 5 other developers are partnering up with the Medfa ivory tower.

  34. Matt C says:

    Not sure how many people reading this have been on a modern artificial turf those at danehy field in Cambridge. They are not the plastic fake grass that I grew up with, rather they are made with recycled tire grounds as “dirt” and threaded “grass” comes through it. This solution is broadly used and the recent superbowl at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey was played on the same surface.

    It doesn’t have to be watered or mowed and you don’t get the turf burn like you do on the plastic fields. It does however need to be groomed occasionally.

  35. Matt C says:

    Townie… I would bet the biggest reason why soccer is as popular as it is in the community is because so many of the kids in our community are first generation in the US and also soccer is also cheap – all you need is a ball and something to use as a goal – no need for expensive bats, gloves or pads. Im sure when the great white scourge of gentrification hits Somerville your beloved pop warner will have to compete with lacross, and ultimate frisbee, football will be reduced to flag football and heading the ball in soccer will be banned rather than using helmets. Until then, lets get some more robust playing surfaces and let the kids play what they want.

  36. Villenous says:

    Townie, I don’t know about Somerville in the ’70s, but most of the cities and towns in the greater Boston region had either rec or club soccer teams back in the ’70s, and they all played two seasons. Just because they hold the state tournament at the end of the spring season doesn’t erase the fact that club and rec programs throughout the entire state also play fall soccer (which is when the high school season occurs). Soccer has always been fall/spring. It’s played that way everywhere. Somerville isn’t choosing to play extra, it’s just playing the same amount as everyone else.

    Pop Warner isn’t suffering because of fall soccer. It’s suffering because kids play less football. Back when many of us were young, we were playing pickup football all the time all year long. Now you almost never see that. Kids play less football and parents aren’t pushing their kids into football programs. The whole split between Pop Warner and the AFL folks the Mayor is backing is ridiculous because youth football’s dying on the vine regardless of who runs the program. P.S. soccer isn’t nearly as dangerous as football, though it’s far from a soft, contact-free sport.

    Frankly I don’t care what sport kids choose to play. They’ll play what they like. Right now, they like soccer and could care less about football. Oh well. It’s good for kids to be active. If it’s one sport or ten sports, whatever. I’m not interested in running other people’s lives like you apparently are. Point is, soccer is and always has been a two season youth sport, it’s the runaway leader in terms of youth sport popularity, and the numbers of players are only going to rise in the future. If you want to start a townies vs. youth soccer fight, be my guest, but we both know who’s going to lose that one.

Leave a Reply