By Mary Macedo, Neighb News Correspondent
At its 5/21 meeting, the Fairhaven Board of Public Works heard from residents about their concerns with the new BMX bike track slated to be installed at Macomber Pimental Field (MPF) on Bernese Street.
BPW Chairperson Brian Wotton prefaced the discussion by saying he did not want to hear any arguments regarding issues to do with police and security at the park, as well as things to do with the Conservation Commission because neither involves the BPW. He said that ConCom is holding its own meeting in regards to the track.
Last November, Mike Rotundo and a few other parents appeared in front of the board to pitch the idea of a BMX park somewhere in town. BPW board members suggested using MPF, because it has fewer events and activities than other Fairhaven parks, and it has a pump station that could be helpful in creating and maintaining the dirt/clay of the bike tracks.
MPF neighbor Gilly Vieira told the board that he had a lot of concerns regarding the track. He said he was not against having a BMX track in town, but he does not believe that MPF is the right location for it.
“It is a small field,” Mr. Vieira explained. “The property is not conducive for a BMX track.”
He noted that there is limited parking at the park and it is in a very small, quiet neighborhood.
Mr. Vieira explained that the other BMX parks that he has seen are quite large and the activity goes on from morning until night. He also noted that ages from young kids to adult are at these parks until 10 o’clock at night in some places, which is not something they want in their neighborhood.
The most activity the park sees now is during youth baseball games or an occasional basketball game, and those only go on for two hours at a time. He said BMX goes on constantly.
Mr. Vieira also said that no neighbors of Macomber Park were informed of the BMX track being built there. They have seen no plans of what the track will look like, or where it will be.
Mr. Wotton explained that the bylaws stated the BPW did not have to inform the abutters individually, and the news about the track had been in the newspaper, as well as on Facebook.
The idea of the track is not new and has been on the BPW agenda several times since November of 2017. The BPW has not been “sneaky” about the track because it has been discussed for nine months and the area of the track has been staked at Macomber for three months.
Mr. Vieira said that the abutters did not find out until one or two weeks ago, and he feels that they should have been notified to give their opinions.
“We just found out and everything’s been approved already,” Mr. Vieira said.
Mr. Wotton said that he understood where Mr. Vieira was coming from, but there are parks in a lot of neighborhoods in town and sports activities are something all residents who live near parks have to deal with. He said every single night there is a baseball game in his neighborhood.
Board member Mike Ristuccia said that he understood some of Mr. Vieira’s concerns, and asked what is the problem with the BMX activity compared to baseball or basketball that take place at Macomber now.
Mr. Vieira explained that the BMX activity could take place all day and all night with no supervision. He said the kids would loiter and do whatever they want, including liquor or drugs; no one knows how many kids BMX could attract, there could be 100; other sports are supervised and only have a few kids for a few hours at scheduled times.
Mr. Wotton asked if teen and adult basketball players are better at following the laws than people who ride bikes. Mr. Wotton answered that people who play sports or ride bikes are no different.
Mr. Wotton questioned that Mr. Vieira can call people who ride bikes loiterers and alcoholics but not baseball or basketball players.
“I never said that,” Mr. Vieira said, adding that he just does not think that Macomber is conducive to BMX.
Mr. Wotton explained that the track will only be open from dawn to dusk, and that the track is a pump track, which is only made for little dirt hills and turns, has no big jumps or half pipes, and there will be nothing higher than four feet tall.
Board member Robert “Hoppy” Hobson said he agreed that it would have been good to notify the neighbors, but the topic had been discussed at BPW meetings for over six months and no one came forward to give their opinions. He said the BMX track is a great way for kids and parents to ride bikes together.
“But it could be bad in a small park,” Mr. Hobson admitted.
Board member Keith Silvia said that the BPW gave Mr. Rotundo the idea to put the bike track at MPF because the board agreed that the park is underutilized.
“Every park should be used to its fullest potential,” Board member Cameron Durant said, adding that all the issues about breaking laws, supervision, loitering etc., are police issues.
He said the real issue everyone should be focusing on is if MPF is truly the best location for the track. The issue should not be that there are changes to the neighborhood because all parks cause changes.
Jason and Jennifer Williams also voiced concerns about the track.
Mr. Williams started off by saying that he thought the BMX track was a “fantastic idea” and that he would love to try it out himself, however, he just did not believe that Macomber is the best location for it. He said he did not believe that MPF was underutilized and that the park is used weekly for little league games, basketball, and people going for daily walks.
His main argument, he said, is parking. He said 13 cars and the street is jam-packed and that is just for a two-hour little league game.
Mr. Williams said he was worried that the BMX activity will attract a lot more people to the park and will just add to the existing parking problem.
He also noted that BMX activity could be all day, every day, not the occasional two-hour game. The BMX Facebook page already has 300 likes and just 5% of those people would equal about 15 cars. Macomber Pimental Field is half the size of Livesey or Cushman Parks, he said.
Both Mr. and Ms. Williams said they think there are other locations in Fairhaven that would be better and are more underutilized.
Mr. Wotton said that there are already too many activities at Livesey and Cushman parks.
Ms. Williams showed the board a petition with 101 signatures of people who do not want the BMX track at Macomber. She also suggested a few other places for the BMX track such as Little Bay and Anthony Field.
BPW Superintendent Vinnie Furtado said that petitions may follow the BMX track wherever it goes if other residents do not agree with it, too.
Mr. Ristuccia asked that if there are issues with space, parking, loitering, and supervision etc, do the residents really think the BPW would not go and fix the issue?
Mr. Williams explained that they would just like to see if there is a better location and discuss the options before making it permanent at MPF. He said that he and the other residents are just looking at possible issues before they arise.
Mr. Durant said that regardless of the BMX track being there it sounds like there is a parking issue already that the board should look into fixing.
Realtor and neighbor Sandy Martin said that the BMX track has too many unknowns and is going to be an eyesore for neighbors and future home buyers. She said there is a $400,000 two-story house for sale right near the park and its view would be of ugly dirt mounds rather than seaside views.
Mr. Rotundo said that he placed the track behind the pump station to avoid that exact problem. He said the views would be of the pump station with or without the track.
Ms. Martin explained that a view from a two story house is quite different from a one story and the view would look right into the dirt mounds rather than the ocean.
“This was not what I was expecting when I proposed this,” Mr. Rotundo said, adding that he wanted it to be a positive project for the town and it was disheartening to hear all the negativity surrounding the stereotypes of BMX bikers.
“It hurts to hear the reputation,” Mr. Rotundo said. “We are no different (than baseball or basketball players.)”
He said a sign of all the rules has been made already and breaking those rules will not be tolerated.
“It’s respected, because if not it’s gone,” Mr. Rotundo said, and if something goes on that should not, then people need to speak up.
He noted that BMX is popping up all over the country and the track that he wants to create is based on small tracks he has been to in Providence. He said he thought it would be good for the community and stop kids from staring at their screens.
The BPW steered him to MPF and it was ideal to place it right behind the pump station because it will help keep the dirt/clay maintained and not allow it to blow around.
Mr. Rotundo also said that baseball games are louder than the BMX track will be. In the beginning, he said, there might be a lot of people going to the track because of the hype, but once the hype dies down it will be a few people at a time.
“This is nowhere close to what you are all thinking,” Mr. Rotundo said, adding that the track is tiny and could probably fit inside the meeting room.
“I could have put it in my back yard, but I wanted to share it with the community,” Mr. Rotundo said.
As for traffic, Mr. Rotundo said that he could not say if there will be a lot of cars.
“It’s new, I get it,” Mr. Rotundo said. “You don’t know what to expect.”
Mr. Ristuccia said that although the BMX track is approved for MPF he would be open to hearing about other locations. He asked Mr. Williams if he would like to sit down and discuss ideas. Mr. Ristuccia said residents should not get their hopes up that the location will change, but he was willing to hear about other locations.
Mr. Wotton said that the neighbors should work with the BMX Committee, so they can better understand the plans because the track has been approved. He dismissed the discussion and the crowd in the room left, but their chatter could still be heard outside the building.
The BMX park is on the agenda of at Conservation Commission meeting on 6/11 to work out wetlands issues.
In another matter, the BPW briefly discussed the hiring process, continuing a discussion from the last meeting while filling an administrative position. Mr. Hobson had said he wanted someone from the board to help screen applicants.
Mr. Furtado had said it was not necessary. Since that meeting, he looked into the regulations and informed Mr. Hobson that no one on the board needs to be present to screen applicants.
Mr. Hobson said he wanted to see more than one candidate, and reiterated an often stated complaint that the Selectboard gave up their power to Town Administrator Mark Rees and now he runs the town.
“I never give up,” Mr. Hobson laughed.
Mr. Wotton said that Mr. Furtado should bring at least two candidates for interviews by the board and the board will have the final say, just as they have always done. •••
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