The Bedford Recreation Commission on Wednesday approved seeking community preservation funds for a comprehensive professional study of Springs Brook Park’s potential.
And the commission, deciding to dream big, will include exploring whether the park could accommodate an indoor recreation complex.
The Community Preservation Committee will consider the request at its meeting in early December, and the expenditure will need an endorsement by Annual Town Meeting in five months. So, the Recreation Commission has time to develop criteria for the analysis.
Recreation Director Josh Smith told the commission he has spoken with representatives of several firms and said informal estimates were between $40,000 and $50,000.
Smith asked commission members whether they want to pursue a “master plan,” focusing on improving the current Springs Brook Park, or “a big-picture discussion” that includes undeveloped portions of the 85-acre site. The panel agreed on the latter.
“Either way, getting a professional look at all of the factors makes some sense,” Smith said. “We all have ideas on what we want, but engaging a company to solicit residents’ feedback and utilize expertise will give us something concrete to look at.” He noted that consideration of the park’s future has been a goal of the Select Board.
“We need to figure out what the potential is of that whole land,” said member Julie Halloran.
The magnitude of the study will engender more reactions from residents, she added, and “I don’t think the town would support our putting a substantial amount of money to keep Springs Brook Park what it is.”
The decision followed a brainstorming session, during which commission members suggested large and small improvements to the town’s recreation universe.
The most popular choice was also what Smtih called “the grand vision:” a recreation facility, complete with gymnasiums, fitness center, programming space, and perhaps even a pool.
“I don’t think it’s an unreasonable goal,” said commission Chair Robin Steele.
Members discussed potential locations; Halloran pointed out that this kind of a destination does not need to be centralized.
The consensus was that a recreation center could be opened in stages, aiming for completion in 10 years.
Consideration of other major improvements centered around increasing the inventory of outdoor and indoor recreation space.
“We have great programming right now that’s limited because of classroom and gym space,” Smith observed. “Last winter there wasn’t one minute of available gym time at any of the four (school) gyms. You wouldn’t believe the number of hoops we jump through just to use indoor space.”
Nikki Taylor, assistant recreation director, told the commission that the synthetic turf on lighted Sabourin Field “has been such a great resource for our town,” benefiting every age cohort. Smith and other members noted the increasing demands on the field inventory, some of which is compromised by water, and how that could be relieved by additional synthetic turf.
Replacement of the Sabourin Field turf will be part of the 2024 Town Meeting capital article.
Smith called for placement of accessible playground space throughout the town. He also said he is reviewing what he called “deeded recreation space in the town,” such as the storage garages at the southern end of the VA Hospital campus.
Other suggestions ranged from ice skating on the Common and establishing a community theater to a “Project Adventure” type outdoor activity and fully-equipped art program space or space for cooking programs.
Longtime commission member Ron Richter called for “building community” by increasing events that involve the whole town.
Several commission members pointed to a need for activity space, particularly for middle-school-age children, perhaps located at playing fields or Springs Brook Park.
“On a very basic level, when I look at this, Springs Brook Park makes a lot of sense for a lot of this stuff,” Smith commented. Taylor said the skate park behind Town Center could also accommodate some of the small improvements.
Richter stressed that, regardless of the size of the facility or program, the department must offer “100 percent accessible resources. Any person who wants to participate should be able to.”
Commission members ranked their ideas near the close of the meeting, and Steele said she will tally the choices. At the next commission meeting, “we have to discuss how we move forward.”