The playground at River Grove Park is popular but there's no place for adults to sit and watch their children.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Parks and Recreation Commission is open to benches at River Grove Park and a have a simple solution to prevent Kemp Park from going to the dogs.
The commission on Monday heard several updates and recommendations on the city's parks, including a request made through City Councilor Marie T. Harpin to install benches at the playground on Houghton Street.
"They would like some more benches over there at River Grove Park at the playground," said Commissioner Timothy Koperek. "I went over there, and there is one bench and then they've been sitting on the plastic that holds all the material inside. And it's not very comfortable and you're sitting close to the ground and if you have kids and grandparents and parents there, it would be nice to have several more benches."
Harpin said she had been contacted by a woman who liked to take her grandchild to the park. There is the one bench, she said, but it's on one side of the playground that is separated into to sections.
"I drove by the other day as well and all the parents were kind of standing over toward the trees where it was shady but there was nowhere for them to sit at all," she said. "It's a pretty popular spot. And so there's a lot of parents, grandparents that bring their kids and there's just nowhere for them to sit."
Commissioner David Willette said he wasn't against benches but thought people could bring their chairs with them. Administrative Officer Michael Canales explained that the numerous benches around the downtown and up at Windsor Lake had been donated.
"Benches" was something a of a dirty word for a time in North Adams but that changed in 2010 with the installation of 10 benches through Develop North Adams, the forerunner of the resurrected North Adams Chamber of Commerce. Donated benches, including memorial seating, has expanded the opportunity to take a seat at venues around the city — but not so far at the park at Houghton and River streets.
Canales said the city will do all the installation of the benches, including putting them together, pouring the concrete pad and bolting them in. The preference is for all-metal, weather-resistant slat benches that have held up well over the years.
"That's typically been the city's approach to benches not only downtown but parks and the rest," he said. "I know another person asked about putting one at Windsor Lake ... in honor of family member who used to go up to the lake."
Anyone who would like to donate toward a bench at River Grove Park can contact City Hall. The benches are generally Northgate style with an arched back and cost between $750 and $900, not including any memorial plaque.
The commission was also questioning when the walking path at the park will be reconfigured. A small dog park was installed several years ago right over the walking path around the field. The city has been intent on moving it for some time and Canales said it remains on the list.
The Department of Public Works is a little behind because of the excessively rainy weather this spring and because of priority projects at Historic Valley Campground, but he believed that it would be done this summer.
Canales also gave updates on the two major park overhauls at Noel Field Athletic Complex and Brayton Park. Both are being done through Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grants and city matches.
Permitting for Brayton is in hand and the design is complete and should be out to bid soon. Canales said the expectation is it will be completed next spring.
The newest phase of the Noel Field renovation should have a grand opening sometime in the next few weeks.
The new basketball and pickleball courts are already in use and the spray pad is getting some final tweaks before coming online. A test of the pad set off low water sensors, Canales said, so the technicians are making some changes to ensure that end of town doesn't suddenly lose pressure when the pad first comes on in the morning.
"They'll be establishing the hours that it's going to be operational and then inside those hours it's operational, it only runs as somebody activates the pads," he said. "So you basically put your hand over [the sensor] and then it activates but if no one's doing that, then it's not active."
Community Development Director Michael Nuvallie, who is overseeing the project, and Mayor Thomas Bernard were working on a grand opening date, he said, and they would notify the commission.
Between Joe Wolfe Field, Little League, the new courts, skate park, spray park, playground, concerts and events, Canales thought Noel Field could see a couple thousand people at a time. "It's going to get busy down there," he said.
Dogs, however, have been busy at Kemp Park. The ball field is fenced so people have been shutting the gates and letting their dogs roam — but not all of them are picking up after their pets. That's causing a problem at Little League practices, too.
Commissioner George Canales, a coach, said one of his players slid right into dog feces.
"If we just take the gates off in the outfield, then the dog park will go away," said Koperek.
Michael Canales said he would talk to DPW about taking off a couple gates.
In other business, the commission briefly discussed its role in taking over the Vietnam Veterans Skating Rink. The commission is expanding from five to seven members and a new member, Lisa Lescarbeau, has been sworn in. Lescarbeau was selected because of her involvement at the rink with youth hockey and Canales said the mayor was looking for a second person with rink involvement.
"There's going to be some real challenges coming up with the rink ... it's breaking even but that's not sustainable," he said. "We have to think about that ... how do we build a reserve?"
Use of the ice is down significantly — from seven hockey teams to three and from four hockey camps to one. If something major, such as the compressor, goes, the rink would have a difficult time staying open, Canales said.
• Canales reported that Steele Field should be ready for Little League play next summer. George Canales asked about moving the scoreboard at Kemp Park to Steele; Canales said it was owned by the league so the city would have to have approval first.
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