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Select Board Discusses New Blair Square Park

by Matt Ristaino
June 18, 2019

Members of the Blair Square Committee presented their preliminary plan for a new park at the Blair Square site on Central St. to the Select Board during the Board’s meeting Monday night. The Committee wanted to get the Board’s feedback on a number of issues with the plan before finalizing it and bringing it to the public for more input.

The plan would re-develop Blair Square into an open, town green-type space that could also be used for a variety of programs and events. Right now, the initial plan includes a large paved area, a small amphitheater area, and space to hold community events such as a small concert or farmers market. The park will be along the rail trail in between Railroad St. and Front St., stretching from Central St. down to Exchange St.

The preliminary plan for the new park at Blair Square.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to address the community’s needs,” said Board chair Mark Ahronian about the park. “This park will eventually become our town green. Now is the time to think broadly.”

The main issue discussed at the meeting was the possibility of building a permanent public restroom at the new park. It has not been determined exactly where the restroom facility would be built, or even the type of structure. Two of the possibilities that are being considered are a traditional cement building, and re-purposing an old train carriage or caboose into a restroom.

Ahronian seemed to be in favor of a permanent restroom, saying that it would not be fair to not have a permanent facility and then expect local businesses in the area to allow the public to use their restrooms. Vice-chair John Cronin also expressed his support for a permanent facility of some kind.

Members of the Blair Square Committee presenting their design to the Select Board.

However, there was significant push-back to the idea. Finance Committee chairman Ken Szajda said he strongly opposed a permanent restroom, citing concerns about maintenance and security.

Cronin responded to those concerns by offering a couple of possible solutions, including electronic locks on the restroom doors and regular police patrols of the area.

Ed Daniels, who is a member of Friends of Holliston Trails and owns property in the area, also voiced concern over the impact on property values and the lives of residents in the area that this park would have. The Committee said that they will seek input from residents once they have a set plan and design in place.

If it is determined that a permanent public restroom facility is not viable, then the design for the park could be changed to include a designated spot for portable toilets to be brought in for larger events at the site.

No final determination on the issue was made at the meeting, and the Committee said that they would continue to develop their design and come up with a more concrete master plan.

Left to right: Town Administrator Jeff Ritter, Board Members John Cronin, Mark Ahronian, and Tina Hein.

In other business, the Board discussed the possibility of re-locating the driver speed feedback sign located on Washington St. near School St. to Norfolk St. at the request of a resident. Tina Hein had reservations about the idea, citing the high amount of traffic and pedestrians in the area. The Board agreed to get input from the department of public works and police department before deciding whether or not to grant the request.

In his report, Town Administrator Jeff Ritter said that the library construction project is officially complete, and the library is fully open and operational. He also said that security cameras have been installed at Stoddard Park in the wake of reports of indecent behavior at the site around Memorial Day.

The Board also made several appointments to various town committees and positions, and voted to officially sign the contract for the new trash and recycling pick-up service, which will go into effect next month.

 

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Comments (6)

Re: public bathrooms. The need for them is inevitable, and cannot always be planned. (I recently had to interrupt and leave the lecture platform to avoid a more embarrassing situation, obvious as my excuse was. It happens.) In less sensitive days, people found private corners to help themselves in an emergency, but our culture has evolved to the point where practical relief is not easily found, and is sometimes even illegal. As a community, Holliston has some responsibility to acknowledge human needs. During the day the Town Hall is open, and use of the facilities should be open to all, as I believe they are. Day and night the police station is open, and although I don't want to P. O. the police, the station should be available to anyone in need. I don't know if it is. I don't know if the fire station is also available for human emergencies. The cost of maintaining and cleaning these facilities is significantly less than would be the cost of providing separate or special facilities for public use. Some local businesses have been generous in allowing use of their facilities, but the town should not depend on their kindness as a remedy for human needs. I don't think we need more public facilities as much as we need to make the ones available better known and easily accessible. The Town Hall, the fire station, and the police station are all reasonably close to Blair Square.

- John Losch | 6/20/19 8:23 PM

Good morning Folks, My comment about Blair park becoming a new town owned green meeting place is just that. We are very much aware of the generosity of the Congregational church green space down town and appreciate the church letting there be community events when there able to. The two areas however are very different from one another, one being town owned, the other not being town owned. Hope this clarifies for you. Mark Ahronian

- Mark Ahronian | 6/20/19 10:44 AM

What does Mark Aronian mean that this park "will become the new town green"? The existing green has been owned by First Congregational Church for centuries and is not going anywhere....

- Bruce D Wood | 6/19/19 10:49 AM

I would clarify that the reservation is not adding a speed feedback sign to Norfolk but rather removing one of the two signs from Washington. Both the Washington Street sign locations are very near frequently used pedestrian crosswalks and high density residential and commercial areas.

- Tina Hein | 6/18/19 4:13 PM

As nice as Coffee Haven is, a permanent bathroom at the trail is a must. Would be such a great addition for users and the town. A permanent water fountain is a requirement as well. Most other rail/trails have this.

- Aaron Ladd | 6/18/19 10:51 AM

Matt, Very nice summary of a wide ranging discussion.

Residents are invited to attend future meetings to share and discuss ideas. Meeting dates and agenda are posted on the Town's website a week before each meeting.

- Shaw Lively | 6/18/19 8:00 AM

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