Parks & Recreation Commission suspends pool plans for Weed Beach Expansion

The final concept for the Weed Beach expansion project

The final concept for the Weed Beach expansion project

A proposal for the expansion of Weed Beach will move forward without including a pool following a vote from the Parks & Recreation Commission on Wednesday night. An indoor pool had been included in final concept designs for the expansion, but became a major point of contention as residents debated the feasibility of constructing it on the beach front.

After carrying the pool debate through multiple public hearings, town officials opted to delay pool plans for future consideration. A public pool was one of the most requested amenities for the expansion based on surveys and public testimony, but concerns were expressed over the location and potential cost.

In response to the ongoing discussion, Commission Chairman Mary Flynn announced that the pool would be excluded from the expansion proposal so the town could further explore its options. Flynn said she would ask the Board of Selectmen to create a committee for the development of an open space master plan. Through the planning process, the committee would review all of the town’s available open space and determine potential locations for a pool.

Weed Beach could still be one of those potential locations, but the expansion will move forward without a pool for now.

Concept designs for the expansion were developed by a subcommittee of the Parks & Recreation Committee, but in the end the members were essentially split over the pool’s inclusion. The committee was asked to create designs, irrespective of costs, based on feedback from the town with the help of consultant Weston & Sampson. After rounds of surveys and public hearings, the pool remained in the final concept design, despite its derisiveness.

A non-binding vote from the expansion subcommittee went against the final concept by a count of 4 to 3 but the design was moved forward to the commission with the structure still in place. The commission was expected deliberate and potentially vote on the amenities in the final design on Wednesday, prior to announcing that the pool would be excluded.

The commission approved nearly all of the other amenities in the concept design with unanimous votes; the exception being the SplashPad, which was deemed unnecessary without the pool. Approved features for the expansion include a new waterfront center for boating and kayaks, a picnic area, extended boardwalk, and revised landscaping in the area.

Commissioners said public feedback dictated their decisions regarding the expansion, both in the concept phase and in their votes. Still, some advocated for continuing to pursue active uses for the space rather than letting it sit dormant.

Susan Daly, the commission’s longest serving member, said that many of the approved amenities for the expansion had been included in the original plans for Weed Beach, but removed due to a lack of funding. She said she was excited to see Weed Beach continue to grow and was proud of what had been accomplished at the beach since 2006, when it was initially renovated and expanded.

The approved amenities will go before the Board of Selectmen for further consideration. Should they be approved, the Board of Selectmen will establish a building committee to oversee the Weed Beach expansion project. Flynn said that plans for the open space master plan should move forward in June.

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