, Salem, MA

March 19, 2014

City seeks public comments on draft of open space plan

By John Castelluccio
Staff Writer

---- — PEABODY — Now is your chance to have a say in the future of Peabody’s parks and recreational spots.

The Recreation and Open Space Advisory Group is holding a public forum tonight at Torigian Community Life Center to seek comments on the draft of a new open space plan. The document was last updated in 2006.

The five-year plan maps out open space and recreational areas in the city and serves as a guide for future use or acquisition of parcels, according to Community Development Director Karen Sawyer.

Sawyer said the draft plan portrays changes since 2006, as well as projects now in the pipeline.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt calls it a “game plan for the future,” which not only addresses ongoing issues and projects, such as cleanup of Crystal Lake and access to city athletic fields during construction of the new middle school, but also allows the city to pursue certain state and federal grants.

City officials talked of seeking a $500,000 state grant to help pay for a new turf field at the high school, but that effort was benched in 2011 because the city’s open space plan was outdated and there was no immediate plan to update it.

Sawyer said this plan includes a timeline to renew the process in 2017 or 2018.

Bettencourt said the group spent several months drafting the revised plan and should have a final version this spring. That will be presented to the City Council and School Committee, but neither board has to sign off on it, he said.

Tonight’s forum will also review results of a recent community survey, which asked residents what they liked, what they didn’t and what they’d like to see in the future.

“Excitement” over the city’s bike trail and how it connects with different recreational areas was a common sentiment among the 475 responses the city received, Sawyer said. In fact, it was a “gigantic hit.”

She said many of the comments also expressed a desire to maintain the city’s existing open space, rather than “amassing” new parcels.

The forum will be held from 6 to 8 p.m.

John Castelluccio can be reached at 978-338-2527, or via Twitter at @SNjcastelluccio.