Donovan Park Update
For the past year and a half the Town, through the work of the Donovan Fields ad hoc Committee, has been pursuing how best to respond to Mr. Donovan’s offer to donate land to the Town for the purpose of creating new athletic fields as well as conservation lands. At last year’s Annual Town Meeting, a majority of voters approved accepting the gift, raising the Community Preservation tax surcharge to fund the project and borrowing funds for the project. However, the two thirds majority required to approve the $4.5 million borrowing was not reached thus the project has not gone forward.
Given that a majority of voters expressed a desire for the project, the Selectmen asked the ad hoc committee to investigate lower cost alternatives to moving the project forward. The Committee has worked through the summer and fall researching alternatives, finally settling on a $1.6 million proposal to develop a multi-purpose field and track.
The scaled back proposal was presented to the Community Preservation Committee for funding consideration. The CPC further scaled back the proposal to $1.35 million and voted to recommend that it go back before the voters at the upcoming Annual Town Meeting in April as well as the ballot elections in May.
The Committee, in consultation with the donor, concluded that the process leaves too much uncertainty in light of the challenges of raising the necessary funds. Understandably, the donor has a strong need to have closure on this sooner rather than later. Knowing that there can be no guarantees when it comes to voter outcomes and wanting to respect the needs of the donor, the ad hoc committee, recommended that the Selectmen drop the pursuit of the project all together. As has been the case throughout the process, the amicable relationship between the Committee and Mr. Donovan has remained in place. The Selectmen accepted this recommendation at their meeting this week.
While this means the athletic field component of the original proposal will not go forward, the generous offer John Donovan has made for a gift of conservation land will proceed. Mr. Donovan is going to gift outright a large portion of the original Park proposal to a land conservation group, and to this end he is actively working with The Trustees of Reservations who own adjoining lands, known as Agassiz Rock Reservation. The new area includes a spectacular summit from which the ocean can be seen.
As the Donovan ad hoc Committee concludes their work, the Selectmen extended their appreciation for their hard work. Both the Selectmen and the members of the Committee thank Mr. Donovan for his support and generosity as well as the support that many residents of the Town have provided. It has been an exciting project to work on and members of both groups are pleased that the public will be enjoying the newly conserved lands. Members also remain hopeful that other opportunities in the future will allow for needed additional athletic fields for the Town.