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WORCESTER - The Parks and Recreation Commission has approved master plans for Burncoat Park and Holland Rink Playground that call for creating much-needed rectangular fields as well as other park improvements.
In another matter, the commission approved proposed upgrades to Rockwood Field, including lighting for the Jesse Burkett Little League's main baseball field, now known as Coghlin Field.
The lighting will be at no expense to the city. The Jesse Burkett Little League is raising the money for the installation, as well as for all other field upgrades.
The master plans developed for Burncoat Park and Holland Rink Playground were the result of input parks officials received from residents at three previous public hearings, according to Robert C. Antonelli, assistant commissioner of public works and parks.
Burncoat Park is north of Interstate 290 and west of the Hanover Insurance Group Inc. campus on Lincoln Street. Holland Rink is on the south side of Lincoln Street, across the street from Hanover Insurance.
The master plan for Holland Rink calls for the elimination of the under-utilized Little League baseball field, relocation of the basketball courts and the addition of two handball courts, a new playground and a parking lot, Mr. Antonelli said.
He said rectangular open-space field will also be created there.
While no issues were raised by residents at Thursday night's Parks and Recreation Commission meeting regarding the master plan for Holland Rink, the same was not true of the plan for Burncoat Park.
Perhaps the most significant change proposed for Burncoat Park is the elimination of the full-size baseball diamond and the smaller softball diamond that have long been there.
Mr. Antonelli said they will be replaced by two rectangular athletic fields, both of which will be lighted.
He said other improvements to Burncoat Park call for the construction of a new playground adjacent to Wawecus Road School, a skate park, improvements to the two ponds in the park and a small parking lot off North Parkway.
He added that the sledding hill in the park will be retained, and repairs will be made to the stone bridge.
But the proposed elimination of the baseball and softball fields drew some criticism.
John Desrosiers of 37 Davidson Road, which abuts Burncoat Park, questioned why the baseball fields are being eliminated when they seem to be frequently used.
"These fields are being used a lot by kids playing baseball," Mr. Desrosiers said. "Isn't that what parks are for, so kids can play baseball?"
Brian McCarthy of Marsh Avenue voiced similar concerns, saying the general area will be left without any baseball fields with the elimination of those in Burncoat Park and Holland Rink.
He said the closest field will be the Little League diamond at Green Hill Park, but he pointed out that it is locked up a lot of the time.
"I'm concerned that there won't be a place for neighborhood kids where they can walk and play baseball," Mr. McCarthy said.
Mr. Antonelli said the decision to eliminate the baseball diamonds was based on utilization and public need.
"We are finding that there is more need for rectangular fields at this time," he said.
Mr. Antonelli added, however, he is willing to see if a baseball diamond can be fit into the new design of Burncoat Park.
"We'll see if we can make that work," he said.
The Parks and Recreation Commission's approval will advance both master plans to the City Council for consideration.
In addition to lighting for Rockwood Field, other improvements there include various field and streetscape upgrades.
Edwin "Ted" Coghlin Jr. said the budget for the lighting and improvements is expected to be about $100,000. He said $60,000 in private funds has already been pledged for the project.
The Jesse Burkett Little League's main baseball diamond was recently named after Mr. Coghlin's father, who was one of the league's founding sponsors when it was established 60 years ago.
Contact Nick Kotsopoulos at email@example.com Follow him on Twitter @NCKotsopoulos.