Smithfield filing application to fund controversial field at Deerfield park

Smithfield filing application to fund controversial field at Deerfield park

SMITHFIELD -The Town Council has authorized the Planning Department to apply for a state grant for half the cost of a $250,000 multi-purpose athletic field on the Black Hawk Trail side of Deerfield Park.

As with attempts earlier this year to fund development of a similar field on the opposite side of the park, the new proposal drew an immediate complaint that it would diminish the quality of life for nearby neighbors.

Council President Alberto LaGreco Jr. said that even if the grant is approved, there is no guarantee that the proposed field will be built. He said the council must strike a balance between accommodating the needs of neighborhood residents and the town's youth sports organizations.

"It's an emotional issue for both sides," he said.

Town Planner Michael Phillips said the field, north of the park's tennis courts, would be used by youngsters under 8 years old, and that the site is already used informally for tee ball and athletic practice.

Recreation Director T.J. Tullie told the council that the area is currently not suitable for formal competition.

The plan calls for 30 parking spaces in addition to street parking on Black Hawk Trail.

The council authorized Phillips to apply for a Department of Environmental Management grant under which the state would pay $125,000 and the town would contribute $100,000 in cash and $25,000 worth of in-kind labor and materials from the Public Works Department.

Voters at last June's Financial Town Meeting defeated a similar proposal for a field off the Austin Avenue side of the 98-acre park, after neighbors complained about potential traffic problems and noise.

At the council's Dec. 3 meeting, George Shackleton, who lives in the neighborhood near the newly proposed site, said Black Hawk Trail is a walking entrance to the park and that added parking and traffic would create a danger.

According to Phillips, the extent of any improvements there would depend on the size of the state grant, which he said could come in at less than the amount he is requesting.

LaGreca said "There will be plenty of time to discuss this" before any decision is made.