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Neighbors Up in Arms Over Lincoln Park Rehab Plans

The city wants more space for youth soccer, neighbors don't want to lose a grassy park to artificial turf.

City officials received an earful Wednesday evening from neighbors who oppose plans to rehabilitate , near Union Square.

"I'm ticked," said Jack Gonsalves, a landlord who originally comes from the neighborhood. "Tonight you saw a lot of blowback, and all it's going to do is build."

One woman pointed to the "whole cafeteria of people who are angry," saying that moving forward with the project "doesn't make sense."

"Are you now going to slow the process, stop the process?" Derek Brain, a neighbor, asked city planners, referring to vocal opposition from the crowd.

Around 100 attended the Wednesday's meeting, which was held in the cafeteria.

Plans to rehabilitate Lincoln Park include converting the grass field into a turf field. Eventually, the city might build basketball courts that could convert into a seasonal ice rink, put up a field house and conduct landscaping and drainage improvements. The whole project would cost about $2.5 million to $2.7 million.

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The current field is in bad shape and needs updating to accommodate a growing youth soccer program, according to Hayes Morrison, Somerville's director of transportation and infrastructure.

But neighbors weren't having it. Many spoke against plans for artificial turf and the loss of grassy space.

"A large public lawn offers a diversity of uses," said Alexander D'Hooghe, saying that, in addition to soccer games, families use Lincoln Park to hang out and children use it for unstructured play. If the city builds a turf field, "will it be possible to do our own thing in our own public park?" he asked.

"A good chunk of our park is being taken away," said Marian Berkowitz of the proposal.

Others complained about the lack of public process, suggesting the city already made up its mind about the rehab.

"It does feel like an executive decision's been made and we weren't involved in the process," said Ruth Ronen.

Not everyone was opposed to the park rehab. Julian Murphy, a junior at  who's on the school's soccer team, said of the turf field, "It's something we truly need."

"Right now the field is okay … but in a few years it's going to be dirt," said Jaime Keegan, a sophomore at Somerville High School who's also on the soccer team.

Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston, who represents the neighborhood, said the rehab plans seem to "be something bigger than the neighborhood bargained for," adding, "That's why there are so many people here tonight and there's so much concern."

john smith September 13, 2012 at 10:28 AM
The city can't seem to figure it out. All of our fields are turning to dirt wastelands because they are allowing them to be used year-round for soccer. They need to play one season of soccer, then let the fields rest and renew. We shouldn't be spending 2.5 million dollars to do this. This has never been a problem with football or baseball, because they only play one season. Grass needs time to re-grow without the pounding of cleats cutting it up. At least one of the neighbors has figured it out....the decision has already been made, and the public meeting is a dog and pony show. This is true of all city meeings whether it be to rehabilitate a park or to plan a new development.
kshugrue September 13, 2012 at 12:18 PM
It is only segment of the park that will be converted to turf--which is less expensive to maintain, safer, and looks and feels like real grass (the lush green grass variety that Argenziano hasn't seen in years). A revitalized park is good for the entire city--especially the neighborhood. And I don't understand why the neighbors are saying it's their park. It belongs to all the residents of the City. If we are really trying to do what's right for the kids, let's forget about our egos and let the Mayor get started on another great improvement.
Matt C September 13, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Turf fields are a huge improvement in quality with much lower upkeep than traditional (and often poorly maintained) fields. - Games don't get rained out because of the huge improvement in drainage. - Fields are all level - etc.
Joe Lynch September 13, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Chris - Can you let us know whether or not Community Preservation Act funds(assuming Somerville voters say yes in November) can be used for artificial turf projects? Just wondering. Joe Lynch
Ruby Harrington September 13, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Why do all of Somerville's parks have to be about sports? We need more beautiful green spaces for strolling, unstructured play, etc, which would be for the enjoyment of EVERYBODY, not just those who play organized sports!
Derek Brain September 13, 2012 at 04:04 PM
This plan is not good for the neighborhood or other Somerville residents, the plan is to create a LOCKED field on a large space that's now being actively used by both neighbors, Somerville residents and soccer players. Going forward, neighbors and others not playing a sport will no longer be able to use it, I won't be able to play with my three-year old on the field anymore. It would be like putting up a fence around the baseball field next to Hodgkins Park and forbidding the many uses people now have for that green space. With more effort, I think Somerville can think of something creative to let everyone be active and able to access our very limited space. -Derek Brain
Jay September 13, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Putting turf in is not good at all due to the fact that all the other parks in the city that have it you need a permit for. So this plan wouldn't be good due to the fact that no one would be allowed to use it with out paying for it.
Matt C September 13, 2012 at 07:27 PM
For most parks if you want to use it regularly at specified time you need to get a permit. This is the case for baseball diamonds and non-turf fields.
Chris Orchard (Editor) September 14, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Interesting question. My impression was that Somerville only became interested in the CPA once the program allowed funds to be used on "recreational" space. But I don't know that for sure. I'll try to get an answer.
Carol September 14, 2012 at 11:07 AM
Joe, even if the Community Preservation Act funds can be used for projects such as this, should only Somerville "property owners" be responsible for bearing the burden of this tax?
Tom Walsh September 14, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Pet peeve of mine: The word "turf" means "grass" -- the real stuff that has roots and dirt, and that you have to mow periodically. Argenziano has a turf field right now. Look it up in the dictionary if you don't believe me. It's hard to follow the discussion here... I can't figure out who's using the word "turf" to mean grass, and who's using the word "turf" to mean something that isn't grass.
Joe Lynch September 14, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Carol - Another interesting question. My asking the question about the CPA fund use does not imply my support of or opposition to the city plan to replace natural turf with artificial material. I'm just trying to figure out why this comes up now. My understanding is that the field has been in rough shape for some time. So it begs the question: Now that the city thinks they may have another source of funds(CPA) and they can use those funds to install artificial material without community input, is that the plan?
Chris Orchard (Editor) September 14, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Hey Tom, Thanks for the comment. I love your passion for words, and believe me, I've been known to use the wrong word on occasion. In this case the word "turf" adheres to definition 1b found in Merriam-Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/turf): "1a : the upper stratum of soil bound by grass and plant roots into a thick mat; also : a piece of this; b : an artificial substitute for this (as on a playing field)." I decided to use this definition for the sake of brevity. Writing "artificial" in front of the word "turf" over and over again would be tedious and unnecessary. Beyond that, it reflects the language used in the community meeting.
kshugrue September 15, 2012 at 11:35 AM
It's Pretty clear on this thread that people are using turf (shortened from artificaial turf) to mean the artificial variety and grass, the natural. But thanks for enlightening us.
jo September 16, 2012 at 10:06 AM
i think people are worried because their dogs can't crap on turf
pavlos protopapas April 26, 2013 at 01:08 PM
Argenziano is one of the main fields used by Somerville Youth Soccer League (SYSL), and it is heavily used during the Fall and the Spring seasons. Currently SYSL has about 850 kids participating. Because of the growth of the organization (5% per year), we are currently having difficulties scheduling games and practices. According to MYSL (our mother organization) and US-Soccer given the availability of the fields we should reduce the size of our programme by 30%. This will mean we will need to put a cap on the number of kids participating. If SYSL continues to grow, we will most likely have to turn away children that would otherwise be part of the game. The major issue is the fields. One of which is Argenziano. 1) Argenziano was not available 34% of the practice days last Fall because of the condition of the field. In comparison Capuano, an artificial turf field, was available all the time. 2) Some areas of the field are so bad that can not be used for safety reasons and therefore reducing the available practice area. 3) We see a great number of injuries which can be attributed to the poor condition of the fiels. I think it is worth thinking the big picture and how this affects kids in the whole Somerville. Obviously having more fields, great grass fields and nice parks should be the goal but given the space and financial constraints I think not improving Argenziano field hurts none but the young.

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