The Bedford Recreation Commission, concerned about demand for playing fields exceeding supply, has authorized spending $26,000 from the recreation revolving fund for an analysis of whether additional synthetic turf is warranted, and where it would best be installed.
Commission Chair Robin Steele, acknowledging that an appropriation for a study lost at Town Meeting in March, told the Bedford Select Board this week that the commission intends this project to be much smaller in scope, at less than half the price.
Later, Recreation Director Josh Smith explained, “We simply do not have enough field space to accommodate all of the demand we have.”
“The DPW (Department of Public Works) does a great job to maintain all of our grass fields, but it is hard for them to keep up with them all, given the high use and weather issues,” he said. “So, the commission felt it was best to conduct a study to examine all of these factors.”
No one spoke at Town Meeting about the reason for the proposed $56,650 study, and the proposal lost on a hand vote after several speakers said synthetic turf is a health and environmental hazard. The sponsor of the plan was the Fields Partnership, a staff-level interdepartmental group.
Smith said that proposal, part of the fiscal 2024 capital article, “was going to look at all town land that is deeded for recreational use. The Recreation Commission discussed and approved funding a scaled-down and more focused study aimed at looking at three or four potential sites.”
He added, “This condensed study will provide the data needed for future discussion with the public about a possible second turf field in town.”
“We talked about the fact that we need comprehensive data if we are going to ask the town for another turf field,” Steele said. “The commission feels we need more fields, but we want the data to back it up to be sure.”
Smith said the consulting firm “will review available information from the town archives, town GIS (geographic information system), and state GIS for existing facilities.”
He said individual site evaluation will include “facility layout and size, orientation, site zoning to understand setbacks, height restrictions, potential permitting implications for future improvements, site and adjacent resource areas and buffer zones, site soil conditions using online soil mapping, environmental impacts, current athletic, recreational, site amenities, and proximity of neighboring properties to understand implications for future renovations.
“The firm will compile the existing conditions information into a draft graphic report to review with the town,” he added. “This report will lay out the findings and begin to make recommendations for the individual sites to consider. A recommendation will be made at this time which site merits further review for renovation with a synthetic turf field.”
A draft of this report will be provided to the town for review and public comment when complete, he said.
The director said users vying for spring field space play soccer, baseball, softball, and lacrosse at the recreation, high school, and adult levels.
When Town Meeting approved replacing natural grass with synthetic turf on Sabourin Field, one rationale was that the area could be used for multiple sports regardless of weather conditions. Lights also added to the options, relieving some of the demand for the natural fields.