Editorial: Take a swing at softball opportunity

Among the many significant items on next week's Representative Town Meeting (RTM) agenda is the matter of what should be done at the Parsell's property on Hoyden's Lane in Greenfield Hill. The Parks and Recreation department would like to remove the house on the 9-acre Parsell's property and create a softball field, parking lot and restrooms, at a cost of$350,000.

This Little League softball field would give Fairfield girls a definite spot to play and practice, since their current options are to schedule field time after the high school and middle school games and practices, or to work around the boys Little League teams. Right now, the girls Little League softball teams travel all over town like nomadic tribes in search of a place to play each week.

It seems like a no-brainer to want to offer the girls softball teams facilities equal opportunities,, but the sticking point has been the project's price tag. Last year, the project cost about $400,000. In April 2009, the RTM turned down the request, saying that during a time of economic uncertainty, it just wouldn't be a prudent use of town funds.

Not willing to give up, the Parks and Rec department searched for ways to cut costs. A few months ago, one local business offered to remove the house, and the Parks and Rec department has decided to do the remainder of the work in-house, which has brought down the cost to $350,000.

In the scheme of things, $350K isn't really a lot to ask, considering the tremendous use that this field would surely get -- drive around town any given weekend, and take note of how many Fairfielders use this town's parks -- either with organized teams or privately. A lot more townspeople would get enjoyment out of a ball field compared to any other use for that property.

In fact, adding another field would alleviate some of the traffic at the other fields in town. Just try to maneuver around the intersection of Melville and Greenlawn, or travel past Gould Manor during Little League games -- while kids unexpectedly dart across the road and cars blindly pull out into the street.

Another point of contention is whether the property would be better used as an organic teaching farm, softball field, or whether it could accommodate both.

Compromise was approached earlier this month when Director of Parks and Recreation Gerry Lombardo and Ellery Plotkin, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission, asked that the Board of Finance table its decision for another couple months while the softball group looks at ways to share the property with the organic farm. Surely there is plenty of room on that property for both, and Parks and Rec hopes to offer 1 acre of space to the organic farm.

In the meantime, the Conservation Commission and the RTM can weigh in on whether the property should be considered open space for active or for passive use.

That distinction right there should be enough to allay the fears of people who are terrified that the field will take away from the town's dwindling open space. The fact is, either option is technically open space. It just comes down to how it would be used.

This week and last, the paper has received letters from residents claiming that the field will urbanize the Greenfield Hill area, one of the more rural parts of town. How would a ball field take away from the beauty of Greenfield Hill? The image of kids running around and having fun outside evokes Norman Rockwell -- as opposed to scary images of overweight zombies huddled around televisions and computer screens. Let's give our youth more incentives to get out and exercise.

We're talking about 9 acres of land, surrounded by 58 acres of open space. This project is not paving over too much paradise -- some of the McMansions in Greenfield Hill are just about that size.

Plus, of the town's roughly 1,200 acres of open space, only about 50 acres is used for playing fields.

Other uses for the entire Hoyden's Lane property right now include a police shooting range and a golf driving range -- yet neighbors are afraid of what will happen when 7- to 13-year-old girls are unleashed into the area?

Objections to the project seem to be more from NIMBY mentality (Not In My Back Yard) than anything else.

Environmentally speaking, the property used to be a residence with a manicured lawn -- it was not a wildlife refuge.

Economically, we're still not back on top yet. But who knows how long it will be -- if ever -- that we're back in the black. This project is worth the expense, which, compared to building a turf field or a gymnasium, is pretty cheap, especially considering the years of enjoyment it can bring.

Back in December, Parks and Recreation Commission member Dante Gallucci, told the Fairfield Citizen: "It's time for [the girls] to have their own field. And I can't think of a more mellow use than a girls softball field."

We couldn't say it any better.