Plans revised for recreation park

Fields would go behind Allen Brook School

May 22, 2008

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Plans for the proposed recreation park at Allen Brook School have completely changed since their initial release in February. Williston Recreation Director Kevin Finnegan presented the new design to the Williston School Board at last Wednesday's meeting.

The recreation park would be built on the former Mahan Farm fields and would encompass more than 20 acres. Finnegan told the board Williston needs the outdoor community space to curb overuse at the recreation fields behind Williston Central School.

"This is a much more community-oriented design right now," he said.

According to the plans, there will still be three all-purpose fields, which could be used for sports including soccer and lacrosse. There will be one little league baseball field, one softball field and one Babe Ruth league field. The first designs had three little league fields. The tennis and basketball courts have remained in the updated plans.

The original design for the field house had it closer to the school, but the building is now moved towards the multi-use fields. A playground and picnic area, complete with grills, has also been added to the mix.

"We have been working under a set of priorities that will address the needs of the town over the next 10 years," Finnegan said at the board meeting.

Finnegan said the change in field layout and added infrastructure could drive up the costs of the project, although he said there is no estimate as to what the cost would be. He said he hopes to put the request for a proposal out for contractors to bid on this summer.

The design drew praise from the School Board members and from community members gathered at the meeting.

"I think this is an amazing plan, not just for Allen Brook School, but for the whole community as well," said School Board member Holly Rouelle.

Redesigning the park

Doug Henson of Lamoureux & Dickinson Consulting Engineers helped to draw up the new conceptual plans along with Williston's Recreation Commission. Henson attended the board meeting and talked about some other additions to the park.

Henson said there was potential room for more than 50 extra parking spaces at Allen Brook School, and the possibility of an access road to the playground, with options for more parking and more handicap access. He added there were no defined parking requirements from the town as of yet.

Allen Brook School Principal John Terko said he isn't worried about possible parking issues.

"Most activities happen on the weekends or after school," he said.

The park is also being designed to take into account a possible completion of the long-delayed Circumferential Highway. Finnegan said the only aspect of the park that would be affected by the highway would be the town bike path. He said the path would have to be built as an overpass over the highway, gently sloping its way into the park.

Finnegan said he'd heard concerns from citizens not involved in town or school sports who were hoping for more community-based facilities. Those concerns were addressed with the addition of a picnic pavilion and grills, he said, adding the pavilion could be rented out to family groups and functions.

Finnegan said the money the recreation department has currently available is earmarked for development costs and the first stage of construction, which would be for a soccer field.

As the design process continues forward, construction may not begin for some time, Henson said.

"The shortest frame could have construction beginning in 2010," he said.

Finnegan added the design could still change completely after it goes through the permitting process with the Planning Board and Development Review Board, and receives input from the Selectboard and future construction engineers. The ultimate goal is to meet the needs of Williston, he said.

"If we can get it done as designed, it would be a huge boon for the community," Finnegan said.