City Council ignored our petition and approved the mayors plan to take away our public use park land! We are raising money to challenge this decision in court. Please donate as soon as possible! Click here.
A Petition to Save Ward Park
NOTE: Total Number of petition signers is the online number shown above plus 112 hand written signatures obtained door to door.
This petition asks the Mayor and City Council of Marlborough, Massachusetts to reverse their decision to locate the proposed Senior Center in historic Ward Park. We, the undersigned, believe that the proposed Ward Park site is too small for the planned 22,000 sq ft building and parking spaces, did not undergo a rigorous evaluation process, destroys existing use of the area for ice skating, baseball, pickup cricket and softball, organized youth sports, dog walking and exercising, threatens use of the entire park for other youth activities, reduces the inventory for much needed park space, makes void the recently developed (fall 2011) Master Plan for revitalizing the park, forces a second displacement of the historic Artemas Ward Gateway, and reduces the park’s utility for large, community events that have always been part of its heritage.
The Marlborough Senior Center Feasibility Study
In 2002, a comprehensive Feasibility Study for the Senior Center was presented. This professionally produced study concluded that the minimum acreage required for a Senior Center was 2.25 acres. The present Ward Park site, at approximately 1.5 acres, wasn’t even on the radar. The then proposed building size was 23,000 sq. ft. The current proposal is 13,000 sq ft. If we are choosing to build a significantly smaller center with no room for expansion, we are robbing future generations of the ability to expand without further impacting the park.
Fifteen sites were closely investigated and evaluated for lot size and configuration, topography, wetlands, soils, micro-climate, utilities, public access and adjacent land use. There is no evidence that the Ward Park site was evaluated for any of these in any professional fashion. In addition, since the proposed plan is much smaller, it can be presumed that there are many more sites in the city which could be evaluated to compare against the Ward Park site.
Bigelow School, on the opposite side of Ward Park, was one of the 15 sites evaluated. It ranked only 10th among the 15. At 2.4 acres it was evaluated as ‘small’. A further comment noted “On site parking inadequate as is nearby lot in Artemas Ward Park.” This nearby lot is the very lot which will be the sole parking area for the proposed site.
Despite the existence of the Feasibility Study, the entire city government has acted as if they have not read the study. The Council on Aging, the Recreation Commission, and the City Council voted entirely without dissent.
How was the Ward Park Site Chosen?
When then City Council President Vigeant proposed the West Meeting House as a potential site in 2011, it triggered a Request for Proposals (RFP) and a second evaluation process. Four sites were evaluated and two of those sites, the DMV land on Maple St. and the West Meeting House on Pleasant St were evaluated as ‘Highly Advantageous’ by the Site Selection Committee. The evaluation report was released on April 2, 2012.
The recommendation of this committee was apparently rejected. The next announcement, on November 25, with much fanfare, was word from the Mayor of the chosen site within the bounds of Ward Park. Though a story on the Main Street Journal website (dated November 23, 2012) claims “A long and thorough site selection process”, there is no documented proof that the Ward Park site had any kind of rigorous evaluation as the other sites mentioned in either the 2002 Feasibility Study or the RFP process, particularly those rated as ‘Highly Advantageous’ by the Site Selection Committee of the RFP. Where is the study that proves that Ward Park is the best choice?
What is the Mayor’s Reasoning?
In his letter to the City Council, dated November 21, the Mayor gives four reasons for the choice. We repeat those here with our own comments:
- Provide a downtown location with an ease of access off Granger Boulevard
While we grant that a central location would be ideal, it has to make sense. There are other lots, including the Maple St. lot that was reviewed by the Site Selection Committee, that offer far more room, far better ease of access, and plenty of room for parking. The Maple St lot is a short drive from downtown. The Mayor’s contention that there is ‘ease of access off Granger Boulevard’ is an unsupported statement. We the residents seriously question the ease of turning from New St to Granger Blvd. In any case, an independent evaluation by public safety authorities should be made to properly assess this issue.
- Build on city owned property, allowing us to avoid costly land purchases
While this is true there is no indication that other city land was evaluated, nor that other city land might not offer engineering cost advantages to Ward Park. It might also be possible that land available for purchase might, in the end, be the most cost effective of all options. A Site Selection Committee, not the Mayor, should be the final evaluator of potential costs.
- Allow for at least 70-100 parking spaces
There are presently about 60 spaces that serve the east end of Ward Park. More spaces could be available near the building, but they will compete with interior space. In addition, ADA requirements will further limit parking, as the size of spaces will be larger for handicap vans. If the building design is forced into a corner (which is the strong likelihood), there won’t be room for parking near to the building on two sides. The current parking moves in a straight line away from the proposed site toward Granger Blvd. Many seniors will be forced to walk long distance in bad weather. None of these issues has been evaluated by a Site Selection Committee. A complicating factor is that the existing spaces are used for the park itself. Will these spaces now be dedicated to the Senior Center, and if so, where will people park for park activities? The entire parking situation is further complicated by the location of the Bigelow/Assabet Valley Collaborative School which sometimes has functions that fill the Bigelow/Ward Park parking lot.
- Conveniently located near field and track space, allowing our seniors the opportunity to have more recreational activities and events outdoors.
While this certainly appears to be a worthwhile goal, here are the unfortunate facts:
- The track at Ward Park is in such deplorable condition that the Seniors chose to locate their walking group at distant Ghiloni Park rather than at nearby Ward Park. There is no current plan to repair the track any time soon, nor is there any grant application to repair the track. The mayor would have us believe that the seniors will use the track. They will do so at their peril.
- The type of recreation mostly sought by seniors is the type played on small court areas such as tennis, shuffleboard, horseshoes and bocce. The latter three were in the Feasibility Study’s plans. While there are tennis courts at Ward Park, they have been both unusable and dangerous for many years. There is no current plan to repair the courts, nor is there any grant application to repair them. The proposed location is undersized for the building and parking and would never allow space for outdoor amenities or other expansion. A larger site would offer far greater opportunities for outside recreation.
- The Mayor’s contention that locating the Senior Center abutting Ward Park will enhance the opportunities for receiving grants is flawed for one simple reason: the current Senior Center has abutted Ward Park since its construction forty years ago. One would have expected that this supposed ‘advantage’ would have created at least one grant. It has not.
A Building Without Boundaries
When the Mayor requested a special meeting of the Recreation Commission to transfer control of the ‘Northeast’ section of the Park to the City Council, he provided no surveyed boundary information for their consideration. We’re inclined to believe that this transfer is improper. When we inquired, we were led to believe that the boundaries would be established based on the size requirements of the building. As of this date, 1/15/2013, the city won’t even tell its citizens how much of the Park it will be taking.
Consider the Following Facts:
On the Artemas Ward Gateway, the purpose of the park is clear: “Acquired by the City of Marlborough and dedicated to the better development of its youth. November 11, 1925”
The original land purchased by eminent domain for Ward Park amounted to over 19 acres in 1923. The Marlborough GIS system records the present Park area at around 12.5 acres. Where did it all go?
The present plan for the Senior Center subtracts approximately 1.5 more acres, including all of the east side parking.
The Northborough Senior Center measures 14,000 sq ft (the area requested by the Marlborough Council on Aging’s ‘wish list’). Just the building, entryway and parking areas for the Northborough Senior Center measure over 3 acres. We intend to ‘squeeze’ our Senior Center onto approximately 1.5 acres of land.
The Ward Park Master Plan, completed and unveiled last year with much anticipation and promise, has been made unworkable with this proposal.
Between the cell tower leases on Fairmount Hill and the Bigelow School lease, the Ward Park neighborhood generates large annual income for the city. Despite this, the park itself has been allowed to disintegrate.