What is the Donovan Park and what is the Donovan Field Ad-Hoc Study Committee?
- In June 2013, John Donovan, owner of the Manchester Athletic Club, very generously offered to donate land located off Atwater Avenue to the Town of Manchester-by-the-Sea. The donation of land, with an estimated fair market value of $2 million, is contingent on the Town approving and developing, within a reasonable period of time, the land into athletic fields for the benefit and enjoyment of Manchester’s residents, particularly our youth. Upon receiving the offer, the Manchester Board of Selectmen formed the Donovan Field Ad-Hoc Study Committee (“Donovan Park Committee”). Its mission is to develop a proposal for Town Meeting in April 2014 asking the voters to accept the donation of land and to develop the land in the manner and spirit requested by Mr. Donovan.
- In addition, contingent on the Town’s acceptance and development of the athletic fields, Mr. Donovan is offering to place a permanent conservation easement on an additional 40+ acres of land to the east and north of the proposed athletic fields to be used only as conservation lands open to the public for hiking, biking, cross country skiing and dog walking. These lands abut lands already permanently protected by the Trustees of Reservations and add significant value to the donation being made.
- The Donovan Park Committee includes 11 members: two Manchester Selectmen, a Planning Board representative, a Parks & Recreation Commission representative, a Finance Committee representative, two Playing Fields Committee representatives, a Community Preservation Committee representative, and three community members. The Town’s Director of Parks and Recreation and the Town Administrator serve as advisors to the Committee.
Why is the Donovan Park important to Manchester-By-The-Sea?
- The Donovan Park project addresses three long-term needs of the Town: (i) the establishment of additional conservation land, (ii) the development of more athletic fields, and (iii) the expansion of the use of Community Preservation Act (“CPA”) funds including a higher state match to further address the Town’s, CPA eligible, infrastructure needs.
- With limited available open space in Town, this gift from John Donovan is a one-time, unique and rare opportunity.
Why does Manchester-By-The-Sea need more conservation land?
- As quoted in the Manchester Cricket from March 7, 2014, Helen Bethell of the Manchester Essex Conservation Trust said “The Town’s Open Space Plan first identified the woodlands north of the ‘playing fields’ as worthy of preservation in the 1980s. Two reasons: They are in the watershed for the Town’s Lincoln Street well, and in times of low rainfall, contribute to the aquifer from which the well draws. Secondly, they are part of the large Manchester-Essex Woods, an area identified by the state’s Natural Heritage Program as especially worth of protection for wildlife habitat.”
Why does Manchester-By-The-Sea need more athletic fields?
- In December 2009, the Playing Fields Committee presented to the Manchester Board of Selectmen the results of a study to determine if additional athletic fields were needed in Town and to analyze all existing open space options. The diverse and growing requirements of the existing programs were dramatically outpacing the current field resources. Several youth programs operate outside of Manchester due to unavailable field space within the Town. The study determined that there were pressing needs for one new multi-purpose field, one new full-sized baseball field, and a regulation softball field (recently completed at the back-field at Sweeney Park). The Playing Fields Committee hired consultants to study seven possible sites in Manchester. The Donovan property was deemed the best option for the new fields if the land could be acquired in some manner. Over the last few years, the Town has reviewed the feasibility of buying land at the Donovan property, which makes this opportunity and donation even more meaningful and welcome.
- Baseball Field: There used to be two full-sized baseball fields in Manchester and now there is none. This new field would be available to support the following:
- Babe Ruth teams: 13-16 year olds
- Men’s “Mariners” Town Team
- AAU baseball programs and men’s softball leagues
- There is ongoing discussion if an artificial turf (infield only or full field) would be more ideal because of lower maintenance costs and its ability to modify the size of the baseball diamond from a full-sized field to a 50/70 league (50 foot pitching distance and 70 foot base path) that spans the jump from Little League to the full-sized diamond.
- Multi-Purpose Turf Field: The current turf fields at the High School (Hyland Field) and at Brook Street (Coach Ed Field Playground) are overloaded and overscheduled. Many teams are forced to practice late into the night or in other towns. This new field would be available to support the following:
- Youth soccer: Fall and Spring
- Youth lacrosse: Fall and Spring
- Youth field hockey: Fall
- Jr. Hornets football & Flag football: Fall season
- Eight Lane Track: This new eight lane oval track would become a valuable resource for adults and youth in Town who wish to walk, run, or train on a safe surface.
What Town By-laws would affect the permitting process for the Fields?
- The land in question is located in the Town’s designated Limited Commercial District. A site plan review and permit will be needed from the Planning Board as well as possible reviews by other town boards. Several by-laws within this area may apply. They are and may not be limited to: a) Drainage Re-charge (126.96.36.199), b) Designated amount of parking spaces (6.2.2), Parking lot plantings (6.2.6), Site Plan (6.5), as well as others determined by the Town’s appropriate Boards. Leasing the land means the permitting process does not need to include going through the subdivision process. If and when it becomes desirable to subdivide the parcel this additional permitting step will be undertaken.
Who will control the use of the fields and what are the possible uses by the public for use of the track for running or walking or family events?
- The Donovan Park will be a recreational asset of the Town and will be managed by the Town’s Department of Parks and Recreation in a similar manner to other Town recreational assets such as Masconomo Park, Sweeney Park, Coach Ed Field Playground, Tucks Point, Town Tennis Courts, etc. In addition to the times that athletic teams, groups or families may reserve the fields for use, the fields and conservation park will be open for general use by all Town residents to enjoy. If an athletic team, group or family would like to use some or all of the facility on certain days during the year, they would reserve that time with the Parks and Recreation in a manner to be determined by that department.
Why are we leasing the land for Donovan Park and not taking ownership of the land?
- John Donovan originally offered the land as a gift of full ownership in the property, but given the time frame involved with the subdivision which would be required, both the Town and Mr. Donovan agreed a 99 year lease with an option for the Town to purchase the land for a nominal fee would be the best way to expedite the transaction. Before the Town can take ownership in the land, the land must be formally subdivided. There are various zoning requirements that need to be complied with to subdivide the land which are not required under a lease arrangement.
- John Donovan will place a conservation restriction on the additional 33 acres permanently preserving this land for passive recreational uses for the public. The Town will have the option to own the 33 acres for a nominal fee once it can be subdivided from the remaining lands similar to the playing fields.
Why is the field development cost the responsibility of Manchester alone and not Manchester along with the MERSD?
- The offer of the donation of the land in Manchester from Mr. John Donovan was made to the Town of Manchester-by-the-Sea. There was no offer of the donation to the Manchester Essex Regional School District or the Town of Essex. After the fields/facilities are developed, the MERSD will be able to pay a user fee and use the fields/facilities. This is the system presently in use between the Town and the regional school district for other athletic fields and facilities.
Why is John Donovan doing this?
- John has stated: “I want to have a positive, lasting impact on the community. Sports and open space have had an enormously positive impact on my life. I hope to provide a special place for residents to enjoy sports and nature, and I hope to protect an important part of Manchester.”