Groton gets explanation on how priorities are set for playing fields

Groton - Parks and Recreation Director Mark Berry told the Town Council Tuesday that groups are given priority to use playing fields in this order: Parks and Recreation first, then Robert E. Fitch High School, Groton youth sports leagues, resident adult sports and outside groups.

"Not everybody gets everything they want," Berry said. "We try to split it up so that everybody gets a portion of the field space."

Berry spoke to the council Tuesday because Groton doesn't have enough playing field space and Councilor Bruce Flax asked him to explain how the town decides who gets what.

The demand for fields is rising because many sports are no longer seasonal, Berry said. Soccer and baseball have become three-season sports and lacrosse and field hockey have become more popular. In addition, the recreation department competes with summer all-star and traveling leagues for space.

Based on the number of field hours booked from April until October 2013, Groton youth sports leagues had them 53 percent of the time, Berry said. Adult sports had the fields 25 percent of the time, Fitch High School had them 6 percent of the time, Groton Parks and Recreation had them 2 percent of the time and outside groups booked them 2 percent of the time, he said.

The remaining time was set aside for maintenance and for families using the fields for games like Frisbee or just pick-up games.

The recreation department oversees fields at Poquonnock Plains Park, Sutton Park, Calvin Burrows, Farquahar, Library field and Spicer field.

Jerry Lokken, manager of recreation services, said there may be an opportunity for the town to work with Ella T. Grasso Southeastern Technical High School to fix up and use its fields, which have become overgrown.

Town Manager Mark Oefinger said the town had extensive discussions with Grasso Tech years ago about taking over the fields, but those talks were unsuccessful. However, he said the town may want to revisit it again.

Flax said it might help to get the town, school board and city together and talk about coordinating use of the playing fields.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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