Town plans bigger park

Committee: Tear down the old building

MILFORD – A commit­tee charged with exam­ining the future of Keyes Memorial Park has recom­mended the town eventu­ally tear down the indus­trial building at 127 Elm St. and build a community recreation center.

The committee of resi­dents and town employees was charged with develop­ing short- and long-term recommendations for Keyes and the town-owned property to the west.

Milford bought the 6 acres a few years ago to give access to Keyes dur­ing the Fletcher Paint Su­perfund cleanup and to give the town more recre­ation space.

The committee recom­mends fully integrating the property into the park. A major question is what to do with the 33,000-square-foot building, the former Permattach Diamond Tool Corp. facility.

The steel structure is essentially sound, but its roof, HVAC, electric and plumbing need replace­ment. Renovation costs are estimated to be $2.85 mil­lion. Demolition and new construction costs would be about $3.8 million, ac­cording to the report.

"Essentially, the build­ing would have to be gut­ted," Community Devel­opment Director Lincoln Daley said.

It also would need mold abatement and replace­ment of the windows and doors.

In a recent survey that asked Milford residents to name their top priori­ties for Keyes, fixing and maintaining the current park was the first choice. The second choice was creating a path for walk­ing, biking and cross-country skiing around the perimeter. Survey respon­dents also asked for more shaded areas, more pub­lic restrooms and more parking.

The committee came up with a 10-year master plan for an integrated park.

Phase one includes a handicap-accessible path around the park, a relo­cated ballfield and a new multipurpose field.

Phase two, estimated to take two to five years, includes building a rec­reation center that has space for future expan­sion and demolishing the big building at 127 Elm St.

A new street hockey/ basketball court, a mul­tipurpose field and more parking are also in phase two, as well as removal of the old basketball court to create a large picnic area.

Phase three, in eight to 10 years, includes build­ing a bridge to the North River Road sports fields.

The community recre­ation center would cen­tralize recreation planning and activities, and help relieve downtown conges­tion, according to the plan.

What to do about the building "was the el­ephant on the table," Ja­net Langdell, a commit­tee member and Planning Board vice chairwoman, told selectmen on Nov. 14.

She also said one park feature that keeps coming up is a pedestrian bridge over the Souhegan River connecting Keyes to the North River Road sports fields.

"Low-hanging fruit," she said would be the path around the park and a gravel road connecting the parking lots at Keyes to the new parking lot at 127 Elm.

The committee is ask­ing selectmen for a ballot item in March for a capi­tal reserve fund for Keyes improvements.

Committee members said they considered ret­rofitting the old building to lease to the state for a Department of Motor Vehicles building, but it would be an expensive renovation for a relatively short-term use.

The report is on the town website.