On Wednesday, Jan. 26, during a special meeting of the Cheshire Town Council, Weston & Sampson design firm presented a $14.87 million plan for the Bartlem Park South project, complete with a synthetic turf field, Town green, and “great lawn.”
The proposal, presented by Ryan Chmielewski, a representative from Weston & Sampson, laid out what Weston envisions for the site—the former Chapman property purchased by the Town of Cheshire in 2016 for $3 million. In addition to the turf field and “great lawn”—circular in design with trees acting as a border—the plan calls for softball and baseball fields, a Town pavillion, an outdoor entertainment venue, a splash pad, and a playground.
The area will also include walking trails and a “memorial walk.”
The plan comes after Ryan Chmielewski, along with John Gawlak, Park and Recreation Department director, held multiple information gathering sessions with the public to gauge interest in the project and take suggestions from residents as to how to further develop the land.
“This plan is really a result of what we heard at our community engagement meetings,” Chmielewski stated. “We tried to make sure everyone’s voices were heard. We heard from the environmentalists who wanted a ‘do-nothing’ plan—we (listened to) neighbors who showed great concern (about) the backfield and lights, so they are not right up against bordering properties.”
“There was a strong desire to keep the community gardens in this location,” he added, “and also...sports and rec people, to address some of their needs as well.”
The proposal calls for the project to be completed in stages, the first of which would cost approximately $6 million, and would include the synthetic turf field, the “great lawn,” as well as expanded parking, field lighting, and installing the memorial walk.
“One of the biggest components of this is giving the town something that it's lacking right now, which is a dedicated Town Green,” Chmielewski explained. “(The Town) can program and run functions that fits (the Town’s) needs without having to get permission from the (First Congregational Church).”
Currently, the community uses the area in front of First Congregational as a defacto Town Green, where everything from the holiday tree lighting event and different fundraisers are held.
While the plan features many new items that had been requested during the public planning stage, Councilor David Borowy expressed concern over the recommendation to remove a softball field—Bartlem currently has two and the plan calls for the elimination of one.
“We tried to assess the need and we learned that Cheshire already has enough softball fields for their current enrollment,” Chmielewski answered.
“And there is more of a need to have an additional football and lacrosse field than a softball one,” added Gawlak.
Councilor Don Walsh questioned whether there would be some additional costs associated with the ampitheater section.
“For the ampitheater, do we have appropriate PA systems and music set up for something like that?” he asked.
While Chmielewski explained that additional items such as a PA system and speakers are not included in the initial plan, Town Manager Sean Kimball added that it would be a good idea to consider such additions given the lack of electrical power access at the park.
“For things like the Fall Festival, we have had issues accessing power out there,” said Kimball. “It would make sense if, when we do get to that phase, that we look in to where we can access power over there”
Chairman Rob Oris expressed his overall excitement for the plan, despite the daunting costs associated with it.
“It does initially look like a big number,” Oris admitted. “But the fact that we can phase it over a period of time is what's important. I think it’s important that we have a road map knowing where we’re going and that each phase fits into the next.”