More improvements on the way at Glocester Memorial & Winsor Parks; 331 residents submit feedback

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GLOCESTER – Final plans for Glocester parks are underway, including major changes and improvements for both Glocester Memorial Park in Chepachet and Winsor Park in Harmony.

Parks in Glocester continue to be upgraded and improved with more additions coming, thanks to a $400,000 grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and a $150,000 grant from Commerce Rhode Island, along with local funds. Now, more grants are being sought through the RIDEM Recreations Development Grant Program to help complete the projects. The deadline for submissions is December 6.

“We will apply for a large grant – $400,000 with a $100,000 match, and a small grant – $100,000 with a $25,000 match,” said Town Planner Karen Scott.

Scott outlined possible final alterations to both parks, based on input over the last five months from 331 residents’ responses and meetings with various organizations in town, such as Little League, senior citizens groups, the recreation commission and more, as well as input from the Planning Board and field research by Beta Group Corporation.

“The amount of respondents, 331, may not seem like a lot, but it is,” Scott told the council. “We are really happy with that.”

She explained that 55 percent of those responding to the online survey had children less than 18 years old and 65 percent of the respondents were ages 35-55. The survey also showed that most people, 55 percent, use Glocester Memorial more than once a week, while most people who used Winsor only use it once a week.

“We recognized that that facility got a lot of love in general,” said Scott regarding Glocester Memorial.

“I go to Glocester Memorial Park all the time,” responded Council Vice President Stephen Arnold. “It’s incredible how well used it is right now.”

Major suggestions included more improved playgrounds at both parks. At Glocester Memorial, basketball courts and pickleball courts, as well as a bocce court were at the top of the list, along with pedestrian trails. Splash pads were suggested at both parks. At Winsor Park, walking trails along with other upgrades were major suggestions.

“People want somewhere to walk,” said Scott.

Other suggestions included disc golf, enclosed dog parks, skate parks and BMX areas. Scott presented two major outline plans for both parks developed by the Planning Board based on respondents’ suggestions. She said the council could pick and choose from both and combine suggestions, or eliminate and/or add their own. But, time is of the essence in order to be able to submit the plans to the state by the December deadline, she said.

Arnold said parking should be a priority at Glocester Memorial because of the amount of use it gets. Councilor Walter Steere agreed, adding that he wasn’t sure splash pads should be a priority, based on upkeep and cost.

“I have no idea what kind of maintenance is involved in that or how much water, but anything we do, we have to realize that we are going to have to maintain it, and that is resources from the DPW,” said Steere.

“I understand the whole thing,” responded Gary Treml, DPW director. “You cannot suck all of that up without increasing this department if you’re going to handle all that stuff.”

Treml added that the department is already overloaded taking care of the ice rink and other features of both parks.

“That is something to keep in mind as we prioritize what takes less to fund,” agreed Arnold. “It’s all going to take maintenance to keep them where they need to be after this big investment.”

He suggested investing in features that will serve the most people at the least cost to the town.

“I would think that either bocce or pickleball or even an ice rink/skate park would probably serve more than a splash pad, when people who are using the splash pad the most are probably enjoying the big playground across the street,” he added. “I’m guessing the splash pad is just going to be more expensive.”

Councilor Cheryl Greathouse advocated for the splash pad. She said she visited a splash pad in Killingly, Conn., which was operated by pushing a button on a timer in order to save water. Some splash pads recycled water, while others use fresh water, she added, noting that could be done at Glocester Memorial.

“I know that they have a really fun time in the playground,” she said. “They play in the playground and then they run to the splash pad. It’s a really enjoyable feeling.”

Arnold said the bocce courts were a good addition, based on the input from senior citizens, many of whom make use of the nearby senior center located adjacent to Glocester Memorial.

Scott explained that the walking trails would provide a safe, secure area for people to walk at Glocester Memorial. She outlined a proposed trail, which would amount to a quarter mile trek around the park’s perimeter.

“It’s something where you are not by yourself. It’s a smooth surface,” she said. “People could come walk in an area that is not secluded.”

Not everyone feels comfortable walking at Winsor, which is much more secluded, she added.

Steere questioned what was going to be done regarding security at both parks, noting there have been a number of problems with vandalism in both areas. Scott said that security cameras would be installed at both sites.

“I don’t think we could do anything without security cameras,” agreed Scott. “If we build it, they will wreck it, is what we have seen.”

She added that using security cameras at Glocester Memorial has enabled them to discover and identify vandals in the past, prosecute them and make them pay for necessary repairs.

Other concerns at Winsor included the poor condition of the softball fields, which are not being used, partly because of their poor condition. Though the park used to be the site of multiple softball games on any given weekend, they have fallen into disrepair. Councilors Steere, Arnold and Jonathan Burlingame all suggested keeping the fields open for potential future use as ball fields. Steere added that his grandfather, also Walter Steere, built the original park, which had a similar design to the new proposal. Option one for the renovation, he said, was very similar to the original plan created by his grandfather.

“Sooner or later someone is going to want to play (ball),” said Steere. “If you build it, they will come. People will use it. I hate to just lose another resource.”

Scott agreed. She said the Planning Board would go back and revise the plans based on the council’s input and present it at the next meeting for final approval so the grant could be submitted in time. Scott explained that although the grant request is due in December, the project itself would be done in phases over several years.

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