Milford plans for new athletic fields


Staff Writer

MILFORD – Like its bordering town of Amherst, Milford has a shortage of playing fields for youth sports.

But unlike Amherst, where the shortage is becoming acute and there are no solutions in sight, Milford owns property where new recreation fields are likely to be built soon.

On April 1, the Milford Planning Board reviewed an updated version of plans for the southern half of the Brox property, which the town purchased 15 years ago with an eye toward meeting future community needs and having tax-ratable industrial property.

The Community Lands Needs report notes that recreation fields are the town’s most urgent need and development of fields on the Brox property should begin in 2015.

“We are not like Amherst yet,” said Tim Finan, a member of the Recreation Commission and the group that revised the 2005 report. “We’re not going to turn kids away,” he said, but Milford fields “are used almost 100 percent of the time with no time to rest.”

Most are planned several years out

Most of the community facilities, including a new school, public works building and a fire department substation, might not be needed for many years. A school is on the plan for 2035.

“Lord knows we don’t want anyone to think the Planning Board is trying to build a new school in the town of Milford,” said Chairman Janet Langdell, but the board needs to consider future community needs.

The report recommends 25 acres south of a proposed extension of Heron Pond Road for playing fields for soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, baseball and softball, with parking and buildings for concessions, maintenance, storage and restrooms. It says recreation fields are an “immediate need” based on the 2013 Milford Community Athletic Association Needs Analysis.

It also recommends saving 16 or 17 acres in the eastern portion for cemetery space that might be needed by 2035 and two acres for a fire department substation, which is listed on the town’s capital improvement plan for 2022.

The only feedback to the revision came from the Brox Environmental Citizens, a small group lead by Suzanne Fournier that has been pushing for more conservation.

Consequentially, all the feedback was about environmental considerations, said Finan.

“I don’t necessarily disagree with many of the comments,” he told the Planning Board on April 1, but the committee’s charge was to look at other things as well, and “if the environment and conservation trump all else, it’s a different question.”

The Master Plan for the community lands part of Brox – 145 acres out of 320 of the original property – calls for conservation, but also for land to be put aside for municipal, school and recreation uses.

The Planning Board is in the process of finalizing the report so it can make a formal recommendation to the Board of Selectmen.

Audrey Fraizer, chairwoman of the Conservation Commission, indicated her committee will work with Brox Environmental Citizens on the environmental aspects and said a natural resource inventory for Brox would be a good thing. Beaver Brook Association conservation land abuts Brox to the east, and Fraizer said that is something to consider in the planning. The group talked about the possibility of expanding the buffer requirement for wetlands, and Fournier told the Planning Board that in 2000, the Board of Selectmen said no to a Conservation Commission request to manage Brox trails and to the idea of a 100-foot wetlands buffer, rather than 50-foot.

Langdell asked Fournier to send her information about what happened in 2000.

According to the Brox Environmental Citizens report, the Brox property contains an important wetlands complex, a peat bog that should be studied, and two reptile species that need protection, the Blandings turtle and the eastern hog-nosed snake.

The 320-acre Brox property was purchased in 2000 with an eye toward turning residentially zoned land into land that could be used for future community facilities and owning industrial land that could be sold and turned into tax ratables.