UPDATED, Dec. 1: After 14 years of hope, an ambitious plan to improve Robbins Farm Park is picking up the pace. It's walking, but not yet running.
Ask an estimated 25 people who were on hand Saturday, Nov. 5, for a meetup and listening tour that rambled from one of the steep park to the other. Leading and taking notes were key reps from Weston & Sampson of Peabody -- Cheri Ruane, vice president; and Cassidy Chroust, both landscape architects, from its Boston office.
All were there to offer advice and advance upgrades for Arlington's signature location with views of Boston -- the first Park and Recreation Commission project supported by funding from Community Preservation Act of $636,749.
The mission is to "improve the infrastructure you have," but not totally change the basic functions of the park, Ruane said during the hour-and-a-half "brainstorming" walk, over the parks highs and lows.
Officials expect to include the feedback gathered from residents and include them in a plan to be presented at a public meeting set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, in the Brackett School cafeteria.
'Write on the plan'
Present at the Robbins Farm playground before the tour got underway were Park & Recreation members Jen Rothenberg, Elena Bartholomew, Don Vitters and Lesley Mayer as well as the new head of town recreation, Jon Marshall. Munching doughnuts and sipping coffee on a chilly, sunny day, the group saw large photos of existing conditions, one an aerial of the baseball field. See some of those involved here >>
Participants were invited to "write on the plan" -- that is, the drawings or photos -- with sharpies provided. One on an aerial photo was written "bocci."
The plan to improve Robbins Farm has been in the works since 2002, but official called the process still "very early." The project does not include the park, which has been improved twice since it was built in 1990.
Mayer said the changes will not include installing field turf or erecting an athletics complex. "The town is excited to support this project with CPA funds," she said.
Audience members made these suggestions -- pickle ball for seniors, a racquet sport, and adding ice skating, as has been done at Fletcher Park in Lexington. See photos here >> Both would be discussed.
General observations during tour
From a conversational walk along the farm's entire park bounds, these general points emerged:
-- A key part of the upgrade is to make the recreational space comply with the Americans with Disability Act.
-- The basketball court: Now with one basket and a rumpled surface, the court's location is "up for conversation" and could be relocated. Its orientation now puts sun in players' eyes.
-- The baseball field, used by 12- to 17-year-olds: Moving the backstop could prove difficult, and planners would consider adding spectator seating. The ball field is expected to be offline for two growing seasons (fall, spring); that could be one year. The field work will emphasize grading and drainage.
-- Robbins house site and dog statue, near the top of steepest hill, to the right of teh sundial (CPA funds do not pay for the statue or plaque, which are to be funded by Friends of Robbins Farm Park).
-- Community garden: Planned is a wider gate and providing ADA access. Asked whether the plot should be larger, Elizabth Carr-Jones said, "This is the space we can handle." For most of the garden proposal, click here >>
Among the comments
As 10 to 15 people walked, the made these varied comments:
-- Wheelchair access at various points in the park included the top of the hill, behind where sledders start, Ruane pointed to a spot near Eastern that would enter at a fairly flat area. Whether there would be a curb cut or a ramp was not yet known. "I don't know if path needs to be paved," Carr-Jones said.
-- at the ballfield, a guy who heads a town baseball group said of the backstop: "If it's working, there's no need to change it." The key piece is safety, he said, suggesting perhaps adding padding. Fencing was discussed. It might be Would be black, vinyl-coated chain link, about 6 feet high and placed in front of the players' benches.
-- The hike included the steep downhill push all the way to the farm's lower left corner, where some asphalt had been put down at some point to keep the hillside from sliding into Longfellow Road. Discussions indicated the entryway may be where people have long established it, above this rounded mound of asphalt.
-- Passing decaying hay bales, used in previous winters to forestall careening sledders, walkers ambled over to the community garden, a cooperative venture, instead of each person having a spot, and has no waiting list. "We want this to fit in" to the overall Robbins plan, Alan Jones said.
Tony Vogel, an architect who has long been a leader among the Friends of Robins Farm Park, expects to post more extensive history, background, research and design of the project on the Friends' website and its Facebook site.
CPA application, Robbins Farm Park project
Community Garden proposal, October 2015
Oct. 31, 2013: Guard dog project at Robbins Farm breaks into a trot
This news summary was published Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, and updated Dec. 1.