The playing fields at Brayton will be kept as grass so they can be used for different sports.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city hopes to begin construction on the makeover of Brayton Hill Park this summer.
The Parks & Recreation Commission reviewed the plans on Monday and made a couple of recommendations that will be brought back to Berkshire Design Group. The commission hopes to sign off on the final plans later this month.
The plans include a new playground, basketball court, youth baseball field, soccer-sized multi-use field, practice wall, walking path and parking area. Across Brayton Terrace on the Hoosic River side will be two pocket parks, picnic tables, information panels on the river and wildlife and a focal element that would be a replication of a waterwheel.
Replacing the playground equipment is part of Phase 1 and is being funded through the city's 2018 Community Development Block Grant; Phase 2, the rest of the project, is being funded through a $318,500 Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant with a match from the city's 2019 CDBG funds. The total cost is set at $455,000.
The commission's meeting Monday night was nearly two weeks earlier than usual and was specifically to review the plans drawn up by Berkshire Design Group.
"This needs to be under construction as soon as we can at this point now that winter is over," Commissioner Tim Koperek read from a communique from Michael Nuvallie, community development director. "Please be mindful that every placeholder for each element has been given careful consideration, especially for parking and the amount we can do in the greenbelt across the street."
The commissioners asked for a change in how the practice wall was positioned. The design plans had it up against the steep hill in front of the school, which would have created a situation they had already been concerned about: An area hidden from view.
"It's facing the wrong way ... it has to be perpendicular to Brayton Terrace," said Commissioner David Willette, who first brought the idea of a practice wall to the commission. "It's a public safety issue and we lose the ability to use the other side."
Plus, he said, the board was 15 feet too short. His and Koperek's recommendation was to lengthen it to 40 feet and place it between the basketball court and the soccer field.
The practice wall would be lined up for use as a backboard for a variety of sports. Willette suggested running the hard surface of the basketball court up to it on one side and leaving grass on the other. That way someone could practice tennis on the court side and soccer on the other, he said.
The commissioners also liked the idea of painting the practice wall green, the same green as Fenway's "Green Monster."
There was some concern about the space related to the soccer field but Administrative Officer Michael Canales said the field would be "moveable" because the entire area would be grass.
"I don't see the soccer league going down there," he said. "I don't see it used as a soccer field but rather as a multiuse field ... I think it should be all green. Put a backstop in [for the baseball area] but you leave enough room to play soccer or baseball."
The ballfield wouldn't have an infield or pitcher's mound but rather be a grassy area large enough for play. Maintaining infields are time-consuming, Canales said, especially if they're not used often.
Willette had also pushed for an outdoor exercise pad but Canales said it was really too late in the process.
There has been some internal discussion, he said, and it was decided that it would be better suited to the Noel Athletic Complex.
"We think this is a youth-centered area," Canales said of Brayton Hill Park, noting it's proximity to the Brayton School and Brayton Hill Apartments. "This is really the playground for the school so just knowing what the use is we're not convinced this is the best place."
Willette said the equipment can be geared to all ages and for use in cross-training. "I think teaching children a healthy lifestyle, to begin with, is important," he said.
Canales said if one was put into Brayton then it probably wouldn't be done at the more centrally located Noel Field, where the city is making a larger investment through the skate park, splash pad and other amenities and which also contains Joe Wolfe Field.
"We really think it's going to be the center point of the city," he said.
The commissioners also discussed the possibility of restoring sledding at Brayton or putting in a path up the hill before setting that aside. A path would be difficult because of the slope and sledding would require some thought, said Canales.
They did, however, ask that any fencing along the parking area be similar to the black fencing at Noel Field.
Koperek also inquired about the "historic element" waterwheel of which the commission had not been aware. Canales said the concept had been brought up by the engineers.
"It talks to the history of the city. These were in every mill going up and down the river," he said. "So it's just creating that conversation point, something people can look at. ... It's trying to create this as more of an attraction for people to come to and draw people in driving by."
The waterwheel would be accompanied by informational boards on the history of the area, the wildlife and ecology along the river.
Canales said he would take the recommendations back to the designers and bring the final plans back for approval. Once approved, the project can be put out to bid. He said it likely would be done in pieces to allow at least partial use of the fields.
"We're hoping with this facelift this park gets more well used," he said.
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