LETTER: Casual Recreation Opportunities at Victory Field Should Not be Lost

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The renovation of Victory’s Field’s track area is up again for discussion. The Town Council has appointed an ad hoc committee to study proposed plans and make recommendations in September. These plans, basically identical to those put forward three years ago, would rob the area of much of its grass surface while introducing several intrusive and heavy-handed innovations which would go far toward destroying the open feeling which has made it so inviting and attractive a playground for generations of Watertown residents.

Among the changes proposed are a parking lot, additional lighting for night games, rubber hardening of the eastern part of the ‘oval’ to concentrate track and field events, and a concrete pad just outside for the two equipment storage containers owned by the schools. A bocce court and long rows of black metal poles and netting at both ends of the field have not been approved by the committee. Conversion of the area to artificial turf, though central to the original plan, has been withdrawn by the Town Council from discussion but continues to have many outspoken advocates among school officials, coaches, and recreation personnel.

Most of the proposals were drawn up by paid professionals to serve their own interests, which are paid school, Recreation Department, and youth sports programs which yearly generate considerable revenue for school and recreation revolving funds, an unfortunate necessity of modern community athletics. While the majority of people using the field – for informal sports, practice, exercise, and a myriad of casual recreational activities – who pay taxes but no additional program or permit fees – were neither consulted nor included in the initial planning.

Three-hundred-sixty-five (365) days a year the area is used by the people of Watertown for casual and informal recreation. In Fall and Spring often up to 350 persons per day come to throw or kick a ball around, get up games, go one on one with friends. Families play on the field, fly kites, or get together for picnics. Students rendezvous after classes to hang out or lounge on the grass and talk. Runners, joggers, and walkers circle the track, and the tennis and basketball courts are always popular. Groups of adult women arrive for Pilates and other exercises on the lawn or to socialize. Older residents relax on the bench under the shady tree and just enjoy the show. In one part of the oval, a high-spirited game of tag continues while in another a stately Tai Chi class is in progress, and not far away a father coaches his enthusiastic daughter in some of the finer points of field hockey. In a parked car a young woman peruses her tablet while two cars away lovers meet. Nearby, inside the fence, a lone birdwatcher scans the trees. During the coldest, snowiest times of winter there might be only 20 or 30 visitors a day but skis and sleds are brought in, parts of the track cleared for hockey, and always walkers. From counts made at all times of the day for almost a year I would estimate almost 60,000 visits per year for casual and informal recreation.

The popularity of these six acres comprising the eastern portion of Victory Field is not hard to understand. Thick with grass, luscious with white clover, and dotted with trees in proximity to the wooded hillside and all under a dome of sky, they constitute one of our most beautiful natural areas, and their openness and greenness have lent themselves to a wide variety of sports and play for almost 90 years.

Yet some are keen to alter and even destroy this great resource for the sake of heavier scheduling of local as well as outside teams and organizations to increase revenues from program and permit fees.

Six years ago artificial turf was installed in the historic football and baseball areas of Victory Field and, though we hope it has been successful and enjoyed by the athletes who play there, it has become, even when open to the public, rather a vast wasteland as far as the casual and informal recreation of our citizens is concerned. Why? Because artificial turf has very limited and specific, mostly athletic uses while a grass field, like the one at the track, may be used by everyone.

Our schools, town recreation programs, and youth sports vendors have every right and good reason to use the track field as they always have. But when their use encroaches upon, abridges, denies, or discourages the traditional rights of the town at large, then the people of Watertown must firmly stand in opposition.


Dick O’Connor
Channing Road

{Note: The next meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Victory Field Phase 2 will be Tuesday, July 25 at 7 p.m. in the Lower Hearing Room at Town Hall.}

6 thoughts on “LETTER: Casual Recreation Opportunities at Victory Field Should Not be Lost

  1. What if we don’t do anything with this space, save it for the coming future so the new high school can be built there. Then, tear down the old high school and put a field there….

  2. This is a wonderful park in Watertown which is used by many residents of all ages. We should do all we can to keep it natural while balancing the needs of our athletes. A real gem along with the newish Library, Police Station and Fire Station.

  3. Well said, Dick O’Connor. Thank you. Every time I have been to the track for a walk there is someone else there, too, in rain, fog, evening, morning. The ice makes it really difficult, but the snow is walkable. My father was a baseball and basketball coach and I was a high school team athlete. But let’s not forget unorganized sports and the regular citizens who love the space at Vic. I look forward to further discussions.

    • Barbara,
      You should come out and advocate for the track walkers! At the last meeting there was a motion to put up a 10′ safety net to protect walkers during HS lacrosse practice. Abutters argued that instead of protecting walkers that they be banned from the track area during lacrosse practice/games. This motion was approved. Abutters also object to lights which would allow track walkers to safely walk during the short days of fall, winter, and spring. Basically, walkers will have little to no access to the track in the spring after 3pm unless we add lights.

  4. Well written letter that speaks for many previously unheard voices.
    Thank you for taking the time to write that Mr. O’Connor

  5. I strongly oppose any change to the Victory field track or central grass area. The track is always in use by joggers and walkers of all ages, many of whom have been advised by their doctors to excercise regularly. I have walked there as early as 5.30am and there are always people on the track.
    The central green area is used by many groups for soccer, baseball and for families to have fun together. The adjacent field was fitted at great expense with artificial turf for more organized sports. Enough is enough!
    Leave Vicory field alone for the many residents, who also pay their taxes and want a more casual area for excercise and relaxation

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