WESTFORD – After voters commissioned a recreation center feasibility study in 2017, a final report was released ahead of Tuesday night’s Select Board meeting.
Recreation Center discussion gains momentum
Discussions of a recreation facility in Westford date back to 2003, but remained dormant until the release of a 2016 Recreation Master Plan, which encouraged the town to study the feasibility of a recreation center.
“As far as the primary goals of the feasibility study, it was to determine if it makes sense from a financial perspective. [Also] where we could site this facility,” Parks and Recreation Commission Vice Chair Chris Barrett told WestfordCAT in a May 24 interview.
“Dire need” for programming in Westford
Barrett cites a need for a recreation center, noting a “dire need” for an aquatics center in town.
“Our WA swim team has struggled to find a home for years,” he said. “After COVID hit, UMass Lowell couldn’t take them back. They looked at 12 or 13 facilities and they didn’t have swimming time.”
He continued, “we have quite a few people in this community who aren’t getting the access to aquatics safety that they need.”
Barrett believes that a full-fledge recreation center would provide new opportunities for indoor and outdoor recreation programming.
“What kind of cool summer camp could you run out of this area [on Farmer Way], they can swim inside, do hiking outside,” he said. “The sky’s the limit with what you can do.”
Potential sites for proposed center
The report notes seven potential sites in town with two concept sites. These sites are located near the Abbot School and on Farmer Way. According to the report, both sites are preferred for development, and a received favorable response from the School Committee in a May 23 meeting.
Other potential sites include areas near Nabnasset School, near Jack Walsh Fields and near the Veterans of Foreign Wars Field. Additional sites are listed in Westford Center and on Chamberlain Road.
Development costs and proposed business model
The report details methods for future development and operation of a recreation center. These options include either full public development or a private-public partnership. The report estimates that a privately developed, funded and managed center on town-owned land as the most cost effective strategy for the proposed center.
Construction costs for a town-developed center are estimated to range between approximately $39 million and $60 million.
The report anticipates membership and drop-in fees to be an “important part” of the center’s business model. The report anticipates that members of the proposed center may pay a first-time registration fee in addition to a membership.
Residents express support for proposed center
Hundreds of residents have expressed support for a potential center, with a June 23 change.org petition having reached over 500 signatures at the time of reporting.
Supporters noted savings on travel, additional business in town and inclusive programming as to why they supported a recreation center.
The Parks and Recreation Commission is slated to appear before the Select Board on Tuesday, June 28 to present its findings. The board may consider support for sites located near Abbot School or Farmer Way.
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