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Lakeshore is future home for Winslow fields
Warwick Beacon photo
FORMER HOUSE LOTS: Cleared of houses under the airport voluntary acquisition program, land abutting the airport off Lakeshore Drive is the future site for softball and soccer fields to be relocated from Winslow Park off Main Avenue.

Chuck McCaughey is relieved. Peter Frazier is ready to start working with the city and the leagues, and Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson believes it will be another “gem” in the crown of city parks.

All three are talking about the future home of softball and soccer fields that currently make up Winslow Park in the shadow of Green Airport’s main runway. If all goes according to plan, replacement fields will be ready in the spring of 2015 and without the hundreds of youths who use them missing as much as a day of play.

The new fields will be on airport property and accessible from the service road off Airport Road that goes to the airport maintenance garage and fire station.

Relocation of the fields was once a contentious issue and consensus seemed remote, but the plan appears to meet the approval of many.

For McCaughey, the Apponaug Girls Fast Pitch Softball League president, it’s the end to uncertainty and anxiety over the organization’s future.

“It’s been hanging over our head for quite some time,” McCaughey said Tuesday.

That’s somewhat of an understatement.

Where the fields would go, regardless of whether the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) extended Runway 5-23 or not, have been a hot button for years. Among the suggested sites, were RIAC land off Strawberry Field Road, the city-owned Barton Farm, an expansion of the Mickey Stevens Sports Complex and, more recently, the CCRI Knight Campus and then the RIAC land to the west of Warwick Pond off Lakeshore Drive. At one point, even Rocky Point was mentioned as a possibility.

The Lakeshore Drive neighborhood fought a proposal two years ago to build corporate hangars on the land that had been cleared of houses. The City Council shot down a request to rezone the land, even though RIAC would have buffered residents from traffic and lights and the corporations would have paid taxes on hangars little used, according to RIAC.

The area was then suggested for the playing fields, but that didn’t get much support. Concerns were traffic and the loss of an open treed area now used for walking, or just hanging out to watch the airport.

CCRI seemed like the logical solution, as it would give the college added fields while satisfying the leagues. The college was the preferred site as the City Council and RIAC worked out a memorandum of understanding that ended the council’s resistance to the extended runway in exchange for several guarantees, including relocation of the fields.

But CCRI couldn’t accommodate more than two fields, conditions were less than ideal and there were real issues over who would control facilities.

Faced with a deadline to choose a site other than Lakeshore this month, Lakeshore became the spot.

“I think the neighborhood will be pleased with the layout and the walking trails,” Vella-Wilkinson said Tuesday. She said RIAC is “sensitive to the environment” and is looking to save as many trees as possible. In addition, evergreens would be planted to shield areas from the neighbors. She said the fields would be a wonderful recreation area for the city.“We worked with Kevin Dillon [former RIAC CEO] extensively and thought that [location] was a win,” Mayor Scott Avedisian said. “The most important thing is to get some closure so we and the leagues can move forward.” Officials from the Apponaug League and Warwick Fire Fighters Soccer are scheduled to meet today with the city and RIAC to view a preliminary layout.

Frazier, acting RIAC president, said the agency is moving ahead with the design, which he described as complex and requiring delicate balance. On the one hand, he said, the neighborhood should have easy access to the site, yet he does not want to create a situation where outsiders would park on neighboring streets rather than the access road.

“We want to make sure there’s no disruption to the neighborhood,” he said.

City Planner William DePasquale agrees.

“We want the neighborhood to have access, but we don’t want it to become a parking lot,” he said.

Plans include four regulation softball fields and two smaller instructional fields; one standard soccer field and two instructional fields; a new clubhouse with meeting room and restrooms and concessions. The complex will also require work on Airport Road, including traffic signals and possibly a left turn lane for westbound traffic. All the improvements would be paid for by RIAC. The estimated cost is about $3 million.

DePasquale is encouraged by RIAC’s cooperative posture.

“Working with the community can be much better than litigating with the community,” he said.

Frazier wants to ensure the leagues won’t be left without a place to play.

“We will not bring down Winslow Park until it [the new field] is up and operating,” he said.

As outgoing Apponaug league president after eight years, McCaughey has two major concerns.

“We’re going right next to the airport and what happens in 20 years when it [the airport] wants to expand again?” he asks.

Secondly, as the softball fields host tournament play spectators, McCaughey questions whether there will be enough parking. That isn’t a problem at Winslow Park, which is in the midst of an area cleared of houses with lots of off-road parking.

In addition to the league, with about 400 girls registered for spring, the Winslow fields are also used by CCRI and Johnson & Wales and about a half-dozen tournaments are played on the fields annually.

Vella-Wilkinson is confident the fields will be a good addition to the city but she has reservations, as well.

“I don’t want the neighborhood inundated by outside traffic,” she said.


Comments
4 comments on this item

THIS IS MORE GREAT NEWS !! EVERYTHING IS MOVING FORWARD NICELY ! LASTLY LETS SEE IF RIAC UPHOLDS ITS PROMISE TO THE CITY AND GIVE OUT THE DATES TO THE REST OF THE RESIDENTS WAITING TO MOVE. SEPT 30 TH IS THE DEAD LINE. HOWEVER, RUMOR HAS IT THEY WILL SEEK FOR AN EXTENSION OF THAT DATE. RIAC HAS MADE GREAT GAINS IN THE PROGRESS OF THE AIRPORT EXPANSION..... DON'T STOP NOW !! KEEP THINGS MOVING. GIVE THE PEOPLE THEIR DATES SO THEY CAN PLAN AHEAD TO MOVE IF THEY CHOOSE..... RIAC NEEDS TO KEEP THE THROTTLE OPEN ON THIS PROJECT... CANNOT LET UP.

"As outgoing Apponaug league president after eight years, McCaughey has two major concerns."

"“We’re going right next to the airport and what happens in 20 years when it [the airport] wants to expand again?” he asks."

I should think Mr. McCaughey would be more concerned about the fine particulate carbon dust collecting in the players' lungs. The airport is not going to build a runway across the new ballfields ever. But, if Green becomes the larger freight hub projected in the EIS documentation --- then the ball fields - in their new location - would become unfit for human assembly.

The answer is simple. Since RIAC needs to come up with millions to build the glycol plant and millions to solve the safety problems associated with the crosswinds runway, this moving of the ball fields will suck up some of what little cash RIAC has left as its parent EDC is thrown into the garbage heap due to the 38 Studios fiasco. EDC can't even get the relatively small Interstate 195 land buyout bond together - how is what is left of it going to borrow any money for RIAC? By this time (approaching September 30th) EDC/RIAC should be floating the bonds for the glycol plant and the crosswinds runway project. That does not seem to be happening. Hey instead of doing that why not blow some cash on the ball fields?

So, is the moving of the ball fields good news? I think so. It will suck up scarce RIAC cash and put the players in harms way if the wildly optimistic airplane departure counts make the ball fields all but useless. Put the ball fields there. Then protect the players from the pollution associated with increased operations - especially smoke belching freight takeoffs.

BEWARE! THIS IS LENGTHY! ... Please ignore if not interested.

My comments are primarily directed to the Wilbur Avenue residents who will have the re-located Winslow Park at their doors and my comments are no reflection against the current or past AGS board members. Good job people!

First of all, I have been at my current residence for over 59 years. Please... don't tell me... Why not sell your home? I'm not someone who re-located to this area AFTER Winslow Park was constructed. My parents lived here prior to me since 1948 and finally, the house was built in 1929 which was 2 years before an airport ever existed.

Things I would consider when RIAC is ready to break ground at Lake Shore Drive.

First things first...

I believe Camille Vella-Wilkinson and Peter Frazier and anyone else who will be overseeing this project please, first visit the existing Winslow Park (softball fields) during one of the six tournaments the league holds. NOTE: Three of the tournaments are non-sponsored tournaments by AGS.

These three are sponsored by Apponaug Girls Softball and are posted on their website at: http://www.agsoftball.com/2012_Tournaments.html:

1. Summer Slam"

2. Durning Memorial

3. Ocean State Invitational

A good time to come would be on Saturday in the late morning and early afternoon. This will give you a "flavor" of what to expect at the new location regarding:

1. The number of teams present.

2. The number of people, AND

3. Lack of sufficient parking space available.

My list of things that should be considered when developing this new complex:

A. As a minimum, double the number of parking spaces as proposed by the FAA in the FEIS July 2011 statement from 177 to 354. Believe me, you'll need it.

B. Add "oodles" and "oodles" of stop signs and no parking signs and consider adding speed bumps.

C. During tournaments, the AGS board members should designate specific areas for "softball practice only" instead of practicing behind someone's property on vacant airport property as such is my case. It's so bad I had to buy a sign this past season and clamp it to my backyard fence post with RIAC's authority.

The sign reads: “NO SOTBALL” “Please Respect Homeowner’s Property”

B.T.W., this wasn’t effective. They still came.

D1. Regarding the current location of field 5 which is the smallest of the 6 fields (90 feet down the lines and 112 feet straight away center), The AGS board members SHOULD NOT ALLOW tournament teams (16U and up) to use this field for practice especially with their batting nets. Why I say this is because an incident occurred at my home a couple of years ago which Chuck is fully aware of. There should be designated areas established by the league board for this during tournaments.

D2. Continuing with regard to field 5, over the something 20 years or so since they have been here, I pushed for signage to be posted on this field reading "Hard Ball (or Baseball) Playing Is Strictly Prohibited By All Ages" (since the outfield fence is about forty some odd feet from my front door) AND POSTED ON THE INSIDE OF THE BACKSTOP and not on the outside like it is today! The closest thing they've done a while ago (which has now since been removed) was post a sign saying something to the effect "Instructional Field Only. Please Be Courteous To Our Neighbors". THANK YOU Gerry Iadeluca (past AGS president). Today they DO HAVE A SIGN posted on the outside of the backstop and facing away from the field saying “This Field For Instructional And Minor League Use Only”. It seems to me why would they have it facing in the opposite direction especially with the parking lot located along Bedford Ave. where most of the families park when using field 5. How can they see it??? Weird!

Another suggestion I would like to make to the board members (similar to what Bryant University does) is twofold:

A. Send or mail flyers to those people who live in the Lake Shore Drive area and letting them know approximately the length of the season the softball fields are used. For example, the CCRI Lady Knights softball team began this past season on Sunday, March 18th with the AGS Charity Classic tournament ending this year on Sunday, October 21st.

B. Again, send or mail flyers to those people who live in the Lake Shore Drive area well of the upcoming tournament season and let them know the upcoming AGS Tournament schedule including the 3 non-sponsored tournaments so they at least know why people are arriving so early around 6 AM or 6:30 AM on Saturday morning.

Regarding the Airport Road access road, these people must take a hard look at this one. In my opinion, the only way they’ll use this effectively if you deny them access from Lake Shore Drive to allow to get to Winslow Park. It will be nightmare during tournaments. Better have plenty of speed bumps!

Regarding Vella-Wilkinson’s last comment: “I don’t want the neighborhood inundated by outside traffic,” she said. From my over 20 years’ experience with Winslow Park, during the night time or “after hours”, there is unfortunately many vehicles entering the park at all hours. I’ll leave it at that.

Finally, the overall 2 major differences I see from my perspective regarding the current Winslow Park and the proposed Winslow Park are:

1. Location. That is after looking at the FEIS proposed layout of the new complex, it appears to be secluded from any major road (Airport Rd. and Warwick Ave.) unlike the current Winslow Park and:

2. Now, you will HAVE BOTH the soccer fields and softball fields combined into one area (unlike it is now).

Let’s not forget the soccer league(s) traffic also.

NOTE:

For those interested in the Site Of The Cedar Swamp Road Site Plan (artist’s rendering of the new Winslow Park) proposed location please send me an email at: nitch6@gmail.com attn.: RAC.

As a neighbor living on Wilbur Avenue (for 25 years now), I have never been a proponent of this project. I have voiced my concerns at meetings alongside my fellow neighbors. Mr. Frazier (RIAC president) has stated " we want to make sure there is no disruption to the neighborhood." City Planner William DePasquale agreed saying " we want the neighborhood to have access , but we don't want it to become a parking lot." Councilwoman Vella-Wilkinson has also stated "I don't want the neighborhood inundated by outside traffic." How nice to say what you "want" and "don't want." I have learned, through the years of living here in Warwick, that what I want and don't want is nowhere near what ACTUALLY HAPPENS. I certainly don't begrudge the children of Warwick a wonderful place to play soccer, baseball, etc. My husband and I have 2 grown children that have both played various sports right here in Warwick. I just "don't want" my neighborhood to be used as a cut-through from Airport Rd to Warwick Ave. The houses (and friends) on Cedar Swamp Rd., Pembroke Ave., and Gayton Ave. are gone. The very large pieces of (de)construction equipment are working loudly outside my windows. The wonderfully old oak trees are being cut down as I type this. Is it really too much to ask that when this project is complete, I can enjoy the park without the added traffic - as so many of our elected and non-elected officials have promised. Let's see if what "I want" will be what "I get." In regards to the airport, Warwick's batting average is not so good. (and the PUN WAS INTENDED)

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