Good & Bad News on Turf Fields at Larchmont Village Board
by Judy Silberstein
(October 18, 2006) Members of the Mamaroneck High School girls field hockey team were among the latest advocates from Fields for Kids (FFK) to make a plea for better playing fields. The athletes and parent supporters brought visual aids to the Larchmont Village Board meeting on Monday, October 15: photos of distressed grass fields at the back of Flint Park where they practice and compete against teams that train mostly on artificial turf. This was the second FFK appearance before the Larchmont Board, and they’ve hit both the Mamaroneck School Board and the Mamaroneck Village Board.(See: More & Better Fields Urged at Mamk School & Village Boards.) On Wednesday night they were at the Mamaroneck Town Board. They’ve been getting a sympathetic reception in all venues, but the news in Larchmont this week was a mixed bag.
“We really are working,” said Mayor Liz Feld, who described meetings with Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe and Mamaroneck Village Mayor Phil Trifiletti in addition to three arranged by Westchester Legislator Judy Myers in White Plains. The focus is identifying the best spots “ between here and Harbor Island” to locate artificial turf.
Another New Field?
She had positive news on Flint Park, where it appears it may be possible to carve out a new extra varsity-sized playing field next to the American Legion Hall by “repurposing” a picnic area and two tennis courts. Preliminary studies by Larchmont’s Recreation Director Joyce Callahan suggest that school and community tennis programs might be accommodated elsewhere, including on the six main courts in Flint Park. There would still be room for picnicking in the summer, since sports programs run mainly in the spring and fall. Furthermore, with some development, the terrain might be suitable for artificial turf. Because this would be a new additional field, it would be eligible for funds from the Westchester County Legacy program.
The spot is not easy: though higher than other parts of Flint Park, it’s in a 100-year flood plain and development would require approvals from environmental agencies. Cooperation with the Town of Mamaroneck is vital, since the field straddles the line between the two municipalities. Cooperation – among as many municipal , school and sports groups as possible – will also be critical when it comes to lobbying Westchester County for Legacy funds, stressed Trustee Jim Millstein. He was told that $7 million remains in the county program, and with a “fully-thought through scheme, theoretically, it could be approved as early as March 2007.”
But, “let’s be honest,” said Trustee Marlene Kolbert, “everyone would like a piece of the county’s money.” Further, she warned, getting environmental approvals can be difficult. After four years of planning for field expansion in the back of Flint Park, Larchmont is still waiting for a final OK.
No Turf For Back of Flint Park.
There was further news - both disappointing and reassuring - about the back fields. Consultants have advised that the land there is both too low and too wet for artificial turf, reported Mayor Feld. However, despite delays, that section of the park is still on track to be renovated starting in March of 2007. As soon as Larchmont receives approval from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the bid process will begin. The good news there: the project will improve drainage (so weather-related closures should be fewer and shorter) and expand space for baseball. The bad news: those fields will be out of commission for at least a year during the renovation, putting additional pressure on remaining facilities.
What about the spot in the front of Flint Park, between fields A and B? “We don’t have the space,” said Mayor Feld. Moving the road? Out of the question due to all the plumbing and other infrastructure buried under the pavement but close to the surface.
No Turf for Lorenzen, Either
At Lorenzen, another hopeful spot the Board has been eyeing for artificial turf, park consultants determined the space was too small for a varsity field and too low and too wet for turf. Rehabilitation of the grass field would improve play, but must be paid for outside of the Legacy program.
Any other possibilities? Trustee McAndrews asked if it was time to reopen the Saxon Woods option. One location was ruled out two years ago– partly because Westchester was interested in preserving the natural environment there – but how about other sections? Trustee Mike Wiener directed the conversation back to the goal of netting new field space. “Turf is an extra, but we need more fields” and better maintenance, including a “rest program’ that takes fields out of rotation for reseeding and recuperation.
And then there’s the money issue.
“Reality is, we have some huge infrastructure expenses” said Mayor Feld. Her list included attending to Larchmont’s water tank and the water main at the Chatsworth Bridge. There’s also the purchase of a new fire truck.
“I really applaud the Fields for Kids – go out and raise money,” she told the group. “This is a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease,” she joked.