Harvard Parks and Rec Master Planning Response:
The Parks and Recreation Commission are accountable for the oversight of the town’s common lands, in addition to the beach and boat ramp areas at Bare Hill Pond. The commission also has responsibility for the town’s recreational programs including the scheduling of fields for Harvard Athletic Association programs and the administration of the programs managed by Park and Rec directly – the Hershey Track Program, the Ski Program and the Beach/Pond Programs. All of these programs are funded through revenue generated by registration fees and other usage fees such as Beach Parking Stickers, Canoe/Kayak Storage, Mooring/Slip Storage and Boat Launching Fees and Field Usage Fees.
Master Planning Steering Committee:
The Master Planning Steering Committee (MPSC) is putting together a plan for the direction of the town for the next decade. As an elected town board with responsibilities that encompass the entire town’s land use and citizens, Harvard Parks and Rec (P&R) will be impacted with the Master plan.
The MPSC has identified 5 ‘Priority Areas’ and are requesting what affect these areas will have on the P&R:
- Ayer Road Commercial District
- Town Center
The current situation is that Devens residents that live in the area of Devens that was part of Harvard have access to all the facilities and events that Parks and Rec provide. This includes access to Bare Hill Pond Beach, Beach Parking Stickers, Boat/Kayak lottery, McCurdy Track and playing fields. We treat the residents of Devens the same as any other resident of Harvard. If there is a charge to a town resident for their participation in a program or a use of the facility, the same charge applies to a resident of Devens provided they live within Harvard.
Conversely, however, residents of Harvard do not have access to any of the recreational facilities within Devens – including those that are within the Town of Harvard boundaries without paying an out of town usage fee . Examples of these are Mirror Lake, the Devens parade ground fields, conservation trails, etc.
The Parks and Rec Commission is currently looking at the need for additional playing fields as we are at the point where field demand is exceeding field supply. Although student population is on the decline, participation in recreational sports is increasing. In the event that Devens reverted back to Harvard, we should have access to all their recreational and park facilities as they are located within town boundaries. This would introduce higher maintenance costs for Park and Rec and the Highway Dept. but that could be offset by the additional recreational opportunities. If we had control of the Devens recreational facilities, we would be able to provide additional programs for the residents of the Town of Harvard as well as offering out of town tournaments/events which Devens currently offers. We would require a full time recreational director that would be able to plan, market, organize and supervise all recreational activities - including those utilizing the recreational facilities within Devens.
In summary, Devens in many ways solves a field availability problem currently facing the town. It also creates a challenge of managing the properties and related activities that would introduce more expense. Some of that could be offset by out of town fees for tournaments, etc.
Ayer Road Commercial District
The Ayer Road Commercial district would have little impact on Parks and Rec unless we could persuade a commercial developer to donate part of their land holdings to playing fields and/or recreational trails. As time passes, it will become more prevalent that comparable towns will have invested in a turf field. The location of such a facility would make sense for this commercially districted land. The commercial development itself should have little impact on the number of residents that would participate in the recreational programs sponsored by Park and Rec.
Housing will have a definite impact on Parks and Rec. We are at capacity in areas such as the Bare Hill Pond Beach and our capability to accommodate the requests for usage and boat storage space. We are also in short supply of fields during the Fall and Spring when we have usage by the high school and the in town athletic teams (HAA). The demographics of the new residents will have a major impact on the Town and may accelerate the need for additional playing fields.
Harvard Parks and Rec is responsible for the maintenance of the Town Common. The Town Common is used for a wide variety of activities from festivals to in town snow sledding. We have issues dealing with maintaining the area. We have done little or no maintenance on the grass area and we have a need to maintain the monuments. We are working to restore the WWI monument and have just recently cleaned the civil war monument. We are fortunate in that the Garden Club has taken on the responsibility of planting the flowers along the base of the Civil War monument.
The common area between the General and the Church are also under the maintenance of Parks and Rec. We have done little to maintain that area.
We are interested in developing a general walkway that would connect the Town Beach to McCurdy track. This should be part of the Town Common plan (walk way trail). We are also interested in completing the Pond trail to the elementary school. Another project that is part of the overall Town Center is the rebuilding of the wall in front of the Old Bromfield school.
Investment and general planning for the Town Common area is a key area of interest for the commission.
Harvard Parks and Rec maintains some trails as part of our Parks responsibility. Under the current jurisdiction, Harvard Parks and Rec has input into the 5 year Harvard Conservation Land Planning and Use. The commission has a strong alliance with the Conservation Commission as many of the projects we are involved with or proposing require support and approval from the Conservation Commission. The vision of Parks and Recreation to expand the walking and biking trails throughout the town will need to be integrated with the Conservation Commission plans.