In what was an unprecedented meeting held inside a local park, Town Manager James McKenna brought the issue of Coughlin Park renovations directly to Point Shirley residents Tuesday night.
The end result was a very productive and orderly session during which McKenna, DPW Director Steve Calla, Parks and Recreation Director Sean Driscoll, and Council Vice President/Precinct 6 Councilor Nick DelVento articulated well the extent of the renovations and answered questions about traffic congestion on the street (Bayview Avenue). Residents said they have seen an increase in traffic when sports teams are holding practices at the park.
Councilor-at-Large Philip Boncore, Parks Committee Chair Linda Bressard, and Assistant to the Town Manager Joseph Domelowicz Jr. also attended the outdoor meeting.
While there was some disagreement about the ending of the tradition of having an “official” baseball field at the new park, Point Shirley residents seemed genuinely pleased when McKenna said that the town would be spending $325,000 to renovate the park, exceeding the amount of funding for other park renovations in the town, including Pico Park that was transformed into a neighborhood gem.
The town had received a $200,000 grant from the state to help fund renovations at the park. The funds for the grant have to be used by the end of the year, meaning that a new Coughlin Park will be ready for full use by next spring.
Well-known and longtime resident Tom McNiff expressed his concerns about public safety in the areas near the park.
“There’s a curb [here] that’s probably the most dangerous curb in the town,” said McNiff. “People are courteous. That’s the only reason they get around here. You get a lot of these folks who are coming over here watching the football practices and they park both sides of the street. There’s no crosswalk down there.”
McKenna asked McNiff, “Do you think we should put a crosswalk in down there?”
“I certainly do,” said McNiff, whose opinion about the crosswalk was affirmed by a show of hands.
McKenna told the gathering that he will ask the Traffic and Safety Advisory Committee (that includes Police Chief Terence Delehanty and Fire Chief Paul Flanagan) to give an advisory opinion on traffic issues in relation to the park and its prime use periods.
McKenna said the meeting was held in response to the concerns expressed by Point Shirley residents that they were not involved in the planning of the project.
“All I know is that I heard you the other night [at the Aug. 19 town council meeting] and I said, ‘I have to have a meeting,’ so that’s why we’re here. So perhaps going forward we can continue to communicate.”
The residents expressed appreciation to McKenna and town officials for the TSAC’s attention to the matter and the improved communications and public relations pledged by McKenna for future meetings and announcements about the park.
To the residents credit, the meeting drew a substantial turnout coming one day after the Labor Day holiday. Two residents reported distributed flyers about the meeting throughout the neighborhood while the town manager announced the meeting on his widely popular blog.