Plans for New London Calkins Park continue; Bates Woods tower issue on agenda

New London - The city is continuing its plans for extensive renovations to Calkins Park, announcing Monday that the park off Riverview Avenue will be closed through the spring of 2014.

Plans call for creating four soccer fields and a softball field in the park, and a 5-foot wide, nearly half-mile long track, that will encircle the park. The soccer fields will be three sizes and accommodate youth programs. The softball field could also be used for high school level games or practices.

The $750,000 project, which is part of a larger bond package, was approved last year by the City Council. The Public Works Department expects to seeks bids on the project next January and have construction start in the spring.

A portion of wetlands in the northwest corner of the park, near Riverview Avenue and Alger Street, will be reclaimed and turned into two smaller areas filled with native, noninvasive plants. Edges of the park, which are steeply sloped, will be landscaped with wildflowers.

No lighting will be installed, and there will be no irrigation system. The fields will be hydroseeded.

Parks & Recreation Director Tommy Major said when the fields are completed, groups affiliated with the city will have first preference for use. He is meeting with youth sports organizations to make sure they have playing time on other fields in the city during construction.

Also Monday, the council's Finance Committee and Education and Parks & Recreation Committee forwarded a proposal to the full council for its Jan. 7 meeting to consider approving a cell tower at Bates Woods Park.

Message Center Management Inc. has proposed putting the tower in right field at Cannamela Field. AT&T will lease a spot on the tower, and there will be space for other wireless providers as well. Message Center estimates that the city will receive an average income of about $40,000 a year over the next 20 years.

Message Center officials estimate that the tower would enhance mobile phone service south of Interstate 95, from Fogg Plain Road in Waterford to Broad Street, Jefferson Avenue and Route 1.

The proposed tower would replace a 100-foot light pole near the field. It would include an 11-by-20-foot equipment shelter for a backup generator. The Parks and Recreation Commission endorsed the project last January.

Last year, Message Center Management pulled its proposal for a similar tower at Ocean Beach Park after residents opposed the location of the structure. That tower, which would have been 140 feet tall, was estimated to likely generate about $24,000 a year in rental fees for the city and an additional 30 percent of gross revenue from up to six tenants on the pole.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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