by Judy Silberstein
(April 3, 2008) Shivering in the surprisingly icy winds, sports supporters and local officials gathered at the Flint Park flag pole on Saturday, March 29 as representatives from Fields for Kids presented Larchmont Mayor Liz Feld with an outsized check for $800,000. The donation will help pay for the new artificial turf field that was under construction across the road. The group will also be contributing $700,000 for renovations at Lorenzen Park and has raised $1,480,000 towards their goal of $1.5 million for Larchmont field projects.
Fields for Kids presented the Larchmont Village Board with a symbolic "check" for $800,000 for the Flint Park renovations. (L-R): Trustees Anne McAndrews and Jim Millstein along with Mayor Liz Feld accepted the check from Kevin Mullaney, Suzanne Despins, Brian Denehy and Paige Denehy.
For many who braved the unseasonal temperatures, the burning question was: When can you play on the new facility? Larchmont Mayor Liz Feld and Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe had some welcome news: the turf field will be available for some sports activities as early as mid-May. There had been concerns that a Town project to replace a leaking pipe would delay completion of the field for another month, but the old pipe that runs under a corner of the turf will be filled with concrete and left in place to allow the field to open as planned.
“The Town has been great in speeding up its schedule,” said Mayor Feld.
The grass baseball and soccer fields in the eastern quadrant of the park, having undergone months of renovations, will be seeded in a few weeks and will open with new grass, drainage and irrigation in April of 2009.
Mayor Feld hailed the Flint Park project as “a fantastic public-private partnership like you’ve never seen.” She praised Fields for Kids president Jim Hanley for dragging the board to Rye Country Day School to visit “the gold standard” artificial turf fields there and credited Larchmont Village Trustee Jim Millstein for finding the spot to shoe-horn a new field into the park.
The overhaul of the park is expected to run $4.5 million, with funds coming from federal, state and county grants along with donations from Fields for Kids, the Flint Park Conservancy and the sports leagues. (See: County Approves $2.55 Million Grant for Flint Park.) Larchmont taxpayers are kicking in their share, with much of the money coming from bonds authorized in 2004. (See: Larchmont Prepares for $3.2 Million Makeover: Bonds Will Fund 6 Major Capital Improvements.)
Mayor Feld said the project is on schedule and on budget, despite having incurred an additional $330K to remove tons of debris and detritus found under the grass fields, which had once been used as a dump.
The artificial field will have pipes running along its perimeter to channel storm water away from the playing surface and into drainage running to the Long Island Sound.
Anthony Catalano, Larchmont’s consultant with Woodard and Curran, led a tour through the renovations and provided further progress reports: “We are on schedule, we are pleased to say.”
Except for a “few punch list items” and some benches and signage, the nature walk along the water at the back of the park is essentially constructed and planted. New permeable asphalt walkways are almost ready and will allow pedestrian access around the perimeter of the grass fields while also letting water drain into the ground below. Also underway are renovations to the parking lot at Birch Lane (which is also getting a porous asphalt surface). Installation of the new trees, bushes and other landscaping is set for the fall along with work on the parking lot near the American Legion hall.
Anthony Catalano of Woodward and Curran points out the native plantings in the environmental area and the permeable asphalt path that circumnavigates grass fields under renovation.
The current projects expanded on earlier plans for an environmental area and renovated grass fields. The most significant addition is the artificial turf field (which required removal of some tennis courts along with a grove of old trees and a colony of feral cats that has been cared for by community volunteers). Mr. Catalano pointed out how a rethinking of Larchmont’s leaf composting area provided additional open space for the environmental area. The road that runs through the park is being rerouted and partly removed, making room for a picnic area near the American Legion Hall and an expanded grassy area beside the turf field.
Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe and Mayor Liz Feld, who both grew up in Larchmont, were amazed at the water views that were hidden during their childhoods.
For many on the tour, this was their first sight of the water behind Flint Park, an inlet of the Long Island Sound which for years has been hidden behind chain link fences, dirt berms and mounds of leaves. A combination of crushed rock paths and “wooden” boardwalks (made of recycled plastic) winds along the water, connecting on one side to trails into the Hommocks environmental area and on the other to the asphalt paths that circle Flint Park’s grass ball fields. Two observation decks rise above the marsh and provide further views of the cove and its water birds.
On the way to the environmental area, Mayor Feld pointed out the tall poles and netting that rise behind home base at the grass fields that are still being worked on. “We all realize they’re not a thing of beauty, she commented, “but for safety reasons, we believe we should keep them for now.” She mentioned that more people than ever are expected to be walking behind the fields as they go towards the water or the artificial field. The only parking in that area will be for handicap access. “One of Anthony’s biggest contributions is to make the park as pedestrian friendly and kid friendly as possible,” said Mayor Feld.
In addition to water views, the tour took in the expanded vista from Flint Park towards the Hommocks fields and beyond, which has not been universally applauded. Some park neighbors have complained about losing privacy and forest scenery. Supervisor O’Keeffe observed that she could now see the cupola of Mamaroneck High School rising in the distance like the spires in a picturesque New England village. She also took note of the drab back wall of the Hommocks Ice Rink and suggested some of the new landscaping might be positioned to soften that part of the view. Mayor Feld has said she expects the new plantings, in time, will address many of the esthetic and privacy issues.