RecCom supports active lifestyle for all residents
Members of the Recreation Commission include (left to right) Chair Drew McMorrow, Recreation Director Holly Mansfield, Courtney Bittelari and Amy Smack; missing are Peter Best and Mark Spears. (Photo by Sarah Hart)
For 55 years, the Carlisle Recreation Commission (RecCom) has been providing recreation programs for all ages in the community as well as maintaining the recreation facilities in town. The group looks to the future in terms of what the town wants and needs for programs and facilities. In their role as stewards of the town’s recreation programs and facilities, members answer the questions:
What recreation facilities do residents want and need?
What programs will help engage citizens of all ages in sports and recreation?
How can the town balance keeping the playing fields in top condition with the health and safety of the field users?
The RecCom works closely with Holly Mansfield, who has been the Recreation Director since 2007. She runs the day-to-day aspects of the department with a focus on developing classes and activities, managing enrollment and running the Summer Fun program. She also hires the contractors to maintain the fields, tennis courts and other facilities. She attends the RecCom meetings and implements decisions made by the group.
The RecCom came into existence in 1964 when Town Meeting voters authorized the Board of Selectmen to appoint a Recreation Commission with three commissioners with three-year terms. In 1970, the number was increased to five members. Since that time, the RecCom has supervised the town’s recreation needs.
In 1965 they built the tennis courts by the school, using volunteer labor. In 1969 they organized swim lessons at private pools in town, which was the precursor to today’s Summer Fun program.
In 1994 the Commission constructed a new regulation little league field at Banta-Davis. In 1999, they built soccer, baseball and softball fields at Banta-Davis. In 2006 they proposed an expansion of Banta-Davis that included a new multipurpose turf field, new tennis courts, two new little league fields, walking paths, additional parking and a pavilion, but the plan failed to pass at Town Meeting by only two votes. Since that time, they have not proposed any new fields but, in 2013, they hired consultants to assess the recreation needs for the town. The results indicated that Carlisle has a shortfall of multipurpose playing fields, the existing fields are overused and the facilities are not compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifications.
Today’s members at a glance
The five commission members, Chair Drew McMorrow, Mark Spears, Peter Best, Amy Smack and Courtney Bittelari, all volunteer because they have an interest in promoting recreation in town. It is a relatively new group of people, Spears is the only one who has been on the committee for more than three years, starting his tenure in 1992. He has two grown children and has lived in Carlisle for 34 years. Professionally he is a Multi-Disciplined System Engineer for the MITRE Corporation but, as a volunteer, he has been heavily involved with softball, baseball and hockey programs in Concord, Carlisle, Lowell and throughout eastern Massachusetts. Spears was on the RecCom when the Banta-Davis fields were built and when the proposed expansion did not get Town Meeting approval. He said that he would like to see the project finished before he retires.
McMorrow, the CEO of a wealth management company, has three children between the ages of 11 and 18. He said that he joined the Commission three years ago because he loves Carlisle, sports and the outdoors. He added that he would like to see the playing fields revitalized and become top quality.
Smack, the mother of three children ages 13, 11 and eight, works at the Carlisle Public School. Growing up, she was very involved in the recreation programs in her town and she went on to be a collegiate rower. She volunteered to be on the RecCom in 2016 because she wants to provide recreation programs for all ages and she wants to ensure the town has playing fields to meet the needs of the athletic programs.
After growing up in a town near Carlisle, Best for many decades resided in other “distant parts of the world.” His professional background lies within the travel industry. He has two children in fourth and seventh grade. He joined the commission because he wants to see short and long-term improvement in the recreation facilities.
The newest member, Bittelari, with a three-year-old daughter, represents the youngest families in town. She has lived in town for almost three years and works as a data analyst for an ad agency. She said that she wants to help the RecCom enrich the lives of residents by providing opportunities to learn, relax, play, socialize, promote personal growth and overall well being.
All members of the RecCom agree that improving the recreation facilities in town is a high priority. Best said, “For such a well-heeled town, Carlisle’s recreation facilities are poor at best when compared to other areas and towns.” He added that he joined the commission because he wanted to stop hearing complaints and do something to solve the problem. Smack specifically suggested revitalizing the 2006 proposal to build out the Banta-Davis recreational area. She said, “We need to re-assess the needs of our town and our townspeople and put a new plan on the table.”
According to McMorrow, the current state of the playing fields is a significant issue facing the RecCom. The committee, stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place, continuously struggles to find the balance between keeping the fields in good condition without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The organic approach they have been using has not been effective; consequently they are getting feedback that they need to take steps to improve the condition of the fields. After two seasons of unsuccessfully using beneficial nematodes to treat the grubs which are damaging the grass, they are researching other more effective solutions.
Since 2015, the RecCom has realized a significant list of accomplishments including:
• Built a beach volleyball court at the Banta-Davis property
• Completed a bridge connecting the Banta-Davis and Spalding Fields
• Significantly increased the field mowing budget from $25,575 in 2015 to $45,740 which allows baseball and softball to be played for three seasons
• Sponsored an Eagle Scout project to clean up Diment Park; RecCom members worked on the project for about eight hours each
• Made the decision to limit dog access to the Banta-Davis soccer field in order to reduce dog waste and improve conditions for players
• Tried alternatives to pesticides to improve field conditions
• Repaired the tennis courts
• Acquired a new temporary ice-skating rink. Installed and maintained the rink each winter, when conditions allowed
• Secured Community Preservation Act funds to rebuild the baseball field at Banta-Davis
• Implemented long-term planning to determine facilities and programs that will best serve the community in the future, including working with the Conservation Commission on the Open Space and Recreation Plan.
Mansfield and the RecCom are currently working with the Caring4Carlisle committee to assess the options for a new community center. In addition, McMorrow added a Warrant Article to the spring Town Meeting for a feasibility study to improve Spalding Field and possibly add a turf field. The group is reviewing the former plans to expand the Banta-Davis facility to determine what might be applicable going forward.
When asked about the biggest challenge the committee faces, the consensus was finances. Spears said, “Finances are always a challenge, especially in the age of competing requests for limited tax dollars.” He added that it can be difficult to gauge what residents want and what projects they are willing to pay for. ∆