State Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat, said he’s setting up a meeting soon with state Department of Environmental Protection officials to talk about prospects for the move.
A city councilor, Republican Mike Rimcoski, has pushed the idea for many years as a way to open recreational options for the 50-acre open field off Burlington Avenue.
The state and city split the cost of purchasing the field in 1988 under the Recreation & National Heritage Trust Program with the understanding it would be left as open space.
It is used these days mostly by sledders in the winter and kite enthusiasts in warmer weather.
Mayor Art Ward said Wednesday he’s not against the idea – and supports the concept – but is worried that taking possession of the property might mean higher costs for the city during a tough economic time.
“Anything’s worse considering,” Ward said, but the details of the arrangement are crucial.
He said he would want to know more about who would maintain the property and whether the city would have any increased liability if it owned the land completely.
As it is, there is not much done to maintain the property by anyone.
The city constructed a 15-space parking lot for the field in 1996 after much prodding by two councilors at the time, Stretch Norton and Gerard Couture.
They said that without better parking, someone would get killed darting among cars parked along the busy road.
That lot doesn’t require much effort to keep up.
Ward said he believes that a private contractor mows the field for hay each fall, but that’s probably about it for routine matters.
Some years ago, bluebird houses were erected along the edge of the field, which is apparently a good habitat for the birds. That had the DEP’s backing but was done privately.
Rimcoski said he has heard that as part of the original land deal, the state was supposed to chip in $10,000 annually for maintenance of the property. But nobody seems to know whether that’s true. City lawyers are investigating.
Nicastro said that at this point, he’s merely looking into the prospects for the city’s takeover of the property. Nothing’s likely to happen quickly.
Given the city and state’s commitment to preserving open space, it is highly unlikely that any change would result in the development of the land.
At most, officials have said, it would remain part of the park system and perhaps ultimately have some recreational improvements.
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