Survey seeks Taunton residents’ enter for recreation, open areas plan

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TAUNTON – What kind of recreational opportunities should there be in city parks and along the waterfront? Citizens can contribute via an online survey.

In the survey, respondents are asked to indicate what should be done to preserve open spaces and use them for walking or hiking.

Mayor Shauna O’Connell said the Office of Economic Development, Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of Planning and Conservation hope to expand recreational opportunities and wise use of open spaces.

“Our team has made it a priority to improve and create outdoor spaces for our Taunton families,” said O’Connell. “Recreational spaces encourage activities that increase health and fitness. Over the past two years we have focused on renovating Flannery Park, Weir Riverfront Park and Hopewell Pool.”

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O’Connell said the city governments are working with the Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District to improve recreational and open space uses.

Southeast Regional Planning and Economic Development Comprehensive Planner Benjamin Myers said surveying residents would help set goals for recreational and open space use.

“It helps ensure that the plan’s final recommendations reflect the true needs and wants of the people who live, play and work in Taunton, rather than guessing what residents need or want,” he said.

The survey can be completed online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RRSD68Y and the survey is available in Spanish at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/J5WBGDF and Portuguese at https://surveymonkey. com/r/J2QZFBX

Upgrades required at Taunton Parks

Myers said plans are being developed to create a water management plan to eliminate invasive weed species at Lake Sabbatia.

This weed can endanger recreation seekers by wrapping itself around motor boat propellers, rowing boats, and people who accidentally fall into the water.

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Danica Belknap, senior environmental planner for the Southeast Regional Planning and Economic Development District, said Lake Sabbatia is a very popular recreational area for water-related activities.

“Watson Pond…requires upgrades in the form of additional parking for residents and visitors alike,” she said.

Belknap said survey participants indicated that Watson Park is “a very popular site for residents and visitors that can be used as a boat ride and scenic pond-based site.”

“However, parking at this location is often confusing, and parking overall is limited in volume and numbers,” she said. “Consequently, public access to the pond is somewhat restricted.”

Belknap said Memorial Park was also identified as another location that should have “additional playgrounds, swings, and other recreational activities suitable for families and children.”

Resident Clay Santos said his four children, ages 7 to 11, enjoy visiting Hopewell Park, which has a playground, swimming pool, baseball/softball fields, basketball court, splash guard and soccer field.

“I’d like to see some upgrades here for other sports,” he said while at the park with his kids. “It would be nice to have other sports like football here.”

Concerns about vandalism, littering

Santos said the “only complaint” he had about Hopewell was seeing trash on parts of the park grounds.

“They take good care of the landscape of the park,” he said.

Myers said some survey respondents highlighted the need to address “vandalism and the increasing regularity of garbage collection.”

“Hopewell Park has been identified as an area that would particularly benefit from more consistent trash removal and that needs more regular lighting,” he said.

Dezaniya Reaves, 9, has fun on the swings at Hopewell Park in Taunton on Monday April 26, 2021.

Santos said he has lived in Taunton for four years and initially did not take his children to Hopewell because of “drug activity” on a regular basis.

“Things have gotten a lot better because the city and the police have stepped up,” he said.

Park improvements:Check out the improvements to Taunton Parks like Hopewell and Memorial

More cinemas and performing arts venues?

The survey asks residents to indicate what types of businesses would promote recreation and a good quality of life in Taunton.

Myers said nearly 70% of respondents would like more cinemas and performing arts facilities.

“City services supporting the opening of these businesses could fill an important leisure activity, particularly in relation to arts and culture,” he said. “While we typically think of more outdoor recreation, a broader spectrum allows us to be more inclusive.”

Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund said a $6 million upgrade at the community’s Lovell Field encouraged the opening of The Venetian, an Italian restaurant in Jackson Square.

“Park improvements affect cities in different ways,” he said. “In the case of Weymouth, it was a spear that reignited interest in Jackson Square’s redevelopment. Eric Papa Christos cited his investment in Jackson Square because of the amazing job the city has done in transforming a devastated area into a world-class football facility.”

The soccer field’s $6 million upgrades were among nearly a dozen park renovations that cost $11.4 million to complete from 2017-2019.

Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund (left) gets help unveiling a replica plaque outside Pingree Primary School as students show their support during a rededication of Lovell Memorial Field in September 2018.  {Patriot Ledger File Photo}

Hedlund said Weymouth recently received an award for its park and field upgrades from the Massachusetts Recreation and Park Association.

“They cited us for going from worst to first with the quality of our city parks,” he said. “They have cited our track record for what we have done with the parks and our programs.”