The Gilford football team will see an improvement to its playing field under the new Meadows project. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
December 03, 2012GILFORD – A project that has been years in the making finally has a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
Plans to begin fundraising on the Meadows project have been announced, with a brochure distributed during the Gilford High School fall sports banquet two weeks ago by The Meadows Committee. While the plan to develop the land at the site has changed over the years, the current proposal will call for three fields to be designed. The current football field will remain, while two others surrounding it will serve as multi-purpose fields for a variety of sports to utilize.
"We've been studying this as a committee for several years now," said chairman Tim Drew, who joined the committee in 2004. "We first looked at a full build-out alternative but have since condensed the plan to three new fields. We've been focusing on the playing fields first then later on, we're going to look at the buildings as well."
While the permitting is all in place for the project to move forward according to Drew, the fields will offer more options for a crowded Gilford sports scene.
"Our plans are for the existing football field to stay, we'll just resod it to make it safer and of higher quality," explained Drew. "The other plans are two create two other fields. One will be brand new, the other we'll be creating out of the area already there. We aren't going to change the grade, we're just going to make it safer. We'll sod both of those as well, and any other surrounding vegetation will be left to grow naturally. We're going to irrigate them for the quality of the sod."
Gilford recreation director Herb Greene has been on the committee since 2006, and while the town doesn't have any direct plans to use the fields as of yet, he's excited to see the potential addition of new space for the community.
"I'm certainly exciting that a plan has been approved," said Greene. "The impact from the town side…I don't think we'll see direct impact per se. We're not going to run our youth soccer program there. But we'll see a very positive indirect impact. Field availability at the Village Fields is very tight. You've got youth baseball, softball, soccer, all competing for those same fields and it's tough to find space for everywhere."
Greene noted that from the time varsity baseball gets on the diamond at the Village Fields in the spring, that area doesn't get a break until the end of the soccer season in the fall.
"That field never gets its chance to recover so our hope is that some of the teams will be able to use some of that space," Greene said of the Meadows. "That's probably the biggest advantage from our aspect."
Things have changed for the project over the years, with the current plan looking differently than the initial design. But the committee, which met monthly throughout the lengthy process, is pleased to be moving forward after many years involved.
"It's very much simplified compared to the past but I think it will satisfy the needs of our community and school district for the time being," said Drew. "We have a trust fund set up at the school. That's where the money will all go. And we'll hopefully get a fundraiser going next year, use several of them to generate the money."
Greene confirmed the condensing of the plan.
"The plan from when I began has been scaled back a little bit but probably more simplified than anything else," he explained. "The other fields went from maybe earmarked for specific activities to maybe more broad views."
While Drew hopes construction on the project will begin in 2013, that all depends on how quickly funds are raised.
"It's very satisfying," he said. "The whole purpose of this is to create a wonderful facility for Gilmanton and Gilford children to enjoy. We can envision a little boy playing football, running free through the fields. That's sort of been our vision from the beginning.
"So it's very gratifying to see it coming together now," he continued. "We're going to pay very close attention to not impact the environment in any way. We're going to be in conjunction and concert with the environment. And also take into account the concerns and wishes of the people living in the area."
After six years watching the process, Greene is looking forward to seeing the space utilized properly.
"Personally and from a community standpoint, I think it's great," he said. "The committee put a lot of work in and dealt with some small roadblocks but it's nice to see. I think a lot of people probably thought not much was getting accomplished but we were working hard and it's very nice to see this progress."
Drew said the first airing of the new plan publicly came at the GHS fall sports banquet, where he made a presentation to student-athletes and their parents.
"People seemed very appreciative," he explained. "We had oversized plans in the hall, brochures available. More than 200 brochures were taken that one night. We hope to do a little more marketing going forward. One person exclaimed that they were so happy that something's going to take place there."
It's indeed been a long road to reach this point for the committee members. Drew hopes the wait will be worth it in the end, however.
"I think the logjam has been broken now," he said. "We met monthly for eight years, stayed in contact with the necessary boards. We've been very, very open with this. It's been a long and arduous process, but I think we finally broke through and we're ready to make it a wonderful asset."