Pittsfield Parks Commission Sets Hearing on Deming Park Improvements

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city’s plan to redesign Deming Park to address parking concerns has been met with concerns from nearby residents.

They were heard at Tuesday’s Parks Commission meeting after the City Council referred a petition from residents requesting a public hearing on the proposed changes to the panel. The commission voted to hold a public meeting on the topic.

Abutters were upset because they did not receive a notification about the project. The commissioners clarified that there was no effort to exclude the neighbors and said they welcome their input.

Other concerns included the plan’s relocation of a Little League practice field to the southwest corner of the park, a reduction of open space, and traffic effects.

“I don’t believe we need to tear up everything we’ve done this far, throw it away, and start over at this point,” Commissioner Anthony A. DeMartino said.

“But I think getting some input from folks on what their concerns would be and try to come up with a plan that solves as many problems as possible, recognizing that it may not necessarily be in everybody’s favor.”

Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath explained that Deming Park, located at 80 Meadow Lane off Newell Street, has had a parking problem for 60 years. He added that the parking lot within the park is inadequate to service the needs of the Little League field, Babe Ruth field, and other park patrons.

“What we have found is that there’s often a chaotic arrangement of parking within the parking lots. There’s a small driveway which services both entering and egress from the park. There are two residences that are alongside that entry drive. That entry drive sits along a very tricky intersection where Meadow Lane and Newell Street come together,” he said.

“As a result of the parking situation we’ve had for years, we find folks parking on Newell Street, we find folks parking along Meadow Lane, we find folks parking behind the church on the street on Elm Street where there’s currently no arrangement for park patrons to be parking at that at that church.”

The city received funding from the Public Services Department this winter to hire engineers Fuss & O’Neill to survey the situation. Stakeholders within the park and representatives from the Parks Commission looked at a number of different concept ideas to increase internal parking and address other issues.

The final concept that was voted on last month by the commission includes a traffic pattern that goes one way in at the current driveway and the addition of a new exit on a city-owned right of way onto Newell Street that is across from Lyman Street.

“Traffic studies were done on Elm Street and on Meadow Lane and on Newell street,” McGrath said.

“The transportation side, Fuss & O’Neill looked very comprehensively at the traffic volumes and traffic studies and determined that the arrangement that we’ve landed on would work from an engineering and traffic flow standpoint.”

The new concept also includes a relocation of the Little League batting cage next to the existing batting cage and the relocation of the small Little League practice field to the southwest corner of the park.

McGrath said he believes the stakeholders and city staff think this is a responsible approach to addressing a long-standing parking concern.

The commission gave the city the OK to move forward with the project at its June meeting.

Elm Street resident Judi Clemons is in favor of the parking lot but opposes the practice field being behind her house because of possible noise disruptions and foul balls coming onto her property. She also has concerns about traffic on her street from the field.

“My concern with the practice field is individuals are going to be parking on Elm Street to access that practice field,” she said.

“There are two walkways into Deming Park, one next to Palmer’s and one next to my neighbor’s house, and that access is going to cause traffic problems.”

Clemons referenced a number of accidents that have happened at the intersection of Elm Street and Holmes Road, reporting that her house had been hit about four times and that the city had to put guard rails up to prevent another incident.

Ontario Street resident Henry Cadorette expressed concern about the practice field’s relocation taking up open space in the park.

“What they’re talking about is putting in another playfield, the practice field,” he said. “It’s going to eat up more of the land, there’s going to be no open space for the kids.”

Cadorette added that the residents were notified when remediation was going to be done on the park but not with this project.

Commissioner Simon Muil asked for a clarification of the opposition, explaining that the baseball fields have been there for many years and there is no plan to change that. Cadorette said he would like to see the practice field eliminated from the plan.

“The primary issue or bone of contention is that small practice field,” Muil observed.

“We’re agreeing that the parking needs to be modified, not exactly like this, this is our design, and then we’re open to ideas on that but the baseball fields and stuff, those are there, we’re not looking to change any of that, that is what it is.”

Ontario Street resident Edward Wrba suggested looking for a better area for the facilities with better utilities and that eliminates the parking issue.

Newell Street resident David Rizzardi said he does not want a parking lot behind his home and also said that there are other parcels of land that could be used.

Moving the field was identified as a “nonstarter.”

Daniel Miraglia, also a resident of Ontario Street, said the exit near Lyman Street is not safe because the street is “basically a one-way.”

DeMartino apologized for not suggesting to engage the neighbors and clarified a few points that were brought up.

“I will also clarify that there is not a shovel in the ground anywhere. We want to engage at this point. I apologize that you had to go through the city council to get to us but we want to hear from you, we are hearing from you,” he said.

“We want to work together on this. We want to solve a long-standing problem and make the park more accessible to everybody who uses it and I’m hearing the drumbeat that it is just baseball, baseball. It is not just baseball and baseball. It is a city park. Our parks program uses them, day-cares use them, the school across the street uses it, we want everybody to be able to use it.”

Currently, there is no funding secured for the project.

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