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Scarborough park remains closed a year after controversy over construction

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Scarborough park remains closed a year after controversy over construction

SCARBOROUGH — A new parking lot and open space at a Black Point neighborhood park sit empty, gated from traffic more than a year after the town began work to turn it into a flat, grassy field.

Nestled between Fogg Road, Lancaster Lane and Highland Avenue, Black Point Park is quiet and deserted, shut off by a double swing-arm gate which remains closed even though the mounds of dirt and the construction vehicles have all disappeared.

Three years ago, the town was criticized by some residents for appropriating $350,000 to begin work on the park, which at that time included plans for ball-field lighting and a sound system. Neighbors first found out about the town's plans when trucks began unloading piles of dirt, excavated from preparation for the new artificial turf field at the high school.

A meeting between the neighbors and town officials resulted in town councilors admitting there was a lack of communication with the public. They pledged to listen and keep them informed in the future.

After Scarborough voters in November 2007 rejected borrowing an additional $975,000 to construct a multi-generational park at the site, the decision was made to use the previously appropriated money to grade the surface, install a gravel parking lot and plant a buffer of trees and shrubs. Work began on the project last summer.

Now, more than a year later, the gravel parking lot for up to 50 cars is finished, the buffer of trees and shrubs is installed and the field is graded and mostly grassed. But the park is closed, and some neighbors may be wondering why.

Community Services Director Bruce Gullifer said it's all about the grass.

"It was seeded last November and it takes three growing seasons – usually fall, spring, fall or spring, fall, spring," he said."You can get on it too early and ruin it."

But Gullifer predicted the park won't be opened until next fall because last fall's seeding "didn't take too well." As a result, the contractor reseeded it this past spring, pushing back the opening date.

In another section of the park, an irrigation system is being installed and the area is still being seeded.

Though the town has not offered up any particular plan for playing fields that might receive the kind of use requiring a well-established turf, Gullifer said it is still vital that people stay off the surface.

"We don't know what type of open space it's going to be; it's going to be determined down the road by supply and demand," he said. "We're just trying to clean up that whole area."

When asked why there was no sign near the gate to explain why it continues to remain closed, Gullifer said a sign might attract the public.

"Signs tend to invite people and they get curious and we just left it," he said.

He indicated the town would install signs identifying the park when it opens.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.