Borough weighs athletic field options

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The borough-owned property at Fawn Meadow is an ideal candidate for athletic field development, according to Engineer Jim Stewart.
The borough-owned property at Fawn Meadow is an ideal candidate for athletic field development, according to Engineer Jim Stewart.

NAUGATUCK — Borough sports enthusiasts hoping for new fields have some new information about potential sites to chew on.

Municipal engineer Jim Stewart and his department, under the direction of Mayor Bob Mezzo, have come up with a system that ranks borough-owned and privately-owned sites in terms of their viability for development into much-sought-after athletic fields.

The sites were rated on a scale of one to five over 15 criteria, including availability, access, parking, environmental impact, neighborhood impact, and access to emergency services. A rating of five signifies optimum conditions for development in that category.

The unweighted rating is a sum of all 15 ratings, plus the number of fields for which there is space at that site. Stewart also provided his a recommended engineering rank based on the varying weights of different criteria.

The number one recommended borough-owned site, Fawn Meadow, located off the Mulberry Street cul-de-sac, scored poorly in only one category—neighborhood impact.  This criterion was judged based on how many houses are within a 250-foot radius of the site. In Fawn Meadow’s case, there are several properties directly bordering the site.

The ratings are summarized in the graphic above.

Due to the size of the original chart, the data is abridged and the nine best sites, according to Stewart, are shown. Note that although the Gunntown Road site is ranked number four among borough-owned sites, recent legislation has precluded its development into an active recreational facility.

Naugatuck organized sports have long felt the effects of a field shortage. Bill Brown, president of Naugatuck Youth Soccer, said the league needs at least three more full-sized fields to operate at optimum cost-efficiency.

Though the borough has more than two dozen athletic fields, they need resting, just as strikers, midfielders, quarterbacks and linebackers do. Without a sufficient rest period between uses, fields fall into disrepair—when a field reaches a certain point, it becomes unsafe to practice or play on and cannot be used—and when fields cannot be adequately rested, they cost more to maintain.

Mezzo intends to find a viable solution to Naugatuck’s field shortage problem—and Jim Stewart’s ranking of natural grass fields is only the first step in one approach. Stewart will meet with Mezzo and local sports leaders next month after examining four sites in greater detail—the Fawn Meadow site, Apple Estates, Cross Street School, and Country Hollow Estates. At that point, the borough will evaluate the required construction to see what could be kept in-house.

Mezzo has advocated artificial turf at both the high school and the Breen/Rotary fields. Funding has been a major stopping block to this approach—Mezzo said “sitting around waiting for turf funding wouldn’t be prudent when we could be exploring other avenues”—and through the natural grass site evaluation program, the borough is investigating other options.  Mezzo said the turf program and the natural grass evaluation program are working “concurrently” with one another.

“We want to make sure whatever we do about the fields meets long-term needs,” Mezzo said Thursday.