Open space plan calls for Parks and Rec Division | News
One of the many goals of Gloucester’s updated open space plan is the establishment of a Parks and Recreation Division within the city’s Community Development Department.
For the past year, the Open Space and Recreation Committee, Conservation Agent Adrienne Lennon, Planning Director Gregg Cademartori, Metropolitan Area Planning Council Regional Land Use Planner Courtney Lewis and others have been working to update the city’s seven-year Open Space and Recreation Plan which expired in 2017.
The update is important because it will help the city unlock future state grants to acquire or improve conservation or recreation land, Lewis said during a forum held via Zoom with 33 residents Wednesday night.
The draft plan was not made available during the forum; it will be made available May 12 in time for a public comment period that runs through June 2, officials said.
Much of the talk Wednesday night centered on the need to maintain Gloucester’s playgrounds and ball fields.
Officials presented a survey from last summer of 826 respondents that showed 69% of residents were satisfied, 16% of residents were very satisfied and 15% of residents were dissatisfied with the quality of their playground experience.
However, while the goal of creating a Parks and Recreation Division is within the draft open space plan, it won’t happen during the upcoming fiscal year.
“There is no proposal to create a Parks and Recreation Division in the upcoming city budget,” according to a statement from Mayor Greg Verga’s office on Thursday. “The mayor agrees that the Parks and Recreation Division is something that is missing, but understands it will be a long-term project and will take time to develop. We are looking forward to seeing what the updated Open Space and Recreation Plan recommends and will look to that as other plans evolve.”
Mary Ann Boucher of Mt. Pleasant Avenue said she’s an advocate for the Lt. Arthur Maxwell Parsons playground behind the East Gloucester Elementary School which she said has been encroached upon by parking spaces and modular classrooms. She said the plan is for the school to be demolished and the site turned into some sort of open space.
“I would like to know what the plan is for that,” Boucher said.
She said committee members are stewards of the city’s parks and playgrounds, and she has seen Mattos Field disappear with the city’s construction of a new elementary school on the site of demolished Veterans Memorial School on Webster Street.
Planning Director Gregg Cademartori said there was no specific design for the East Gloucester School site other than it would remain a playground and be used for passive recreation and parking.
Lennon pointed out for Boucher that the draft open space plan specifically mentions the Maxwell Parsons playground.
“The question I have is … why the city of Gloucester does not have a parks and recreation department?” asked Denise Goulart Pascucci of Birch Grove Heights. She said it would be an asset for the city to have someone taking care of the parks and beaches, as had been the case in the past.
Lennon said it was her understanding that city belt-tightening in the mid-1990s or early-2000s saw the Parks and Recreation Division absorbed into the Department of Public Works.
“So, we are all very much in support of the idea of a dedicated parks and recreation department,” Lennon said.
She said there has also been a call for city recreational programming for children and adults, such as a boating program.
“There is definitely an opportunity for the city to better organize the use of our open space and recreation lands around the umbrella of a city department.”
Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-675-2714, or email@example.com.