Letter to the Editor on the ORR renovation project

May 15, 2019

To the Editor: 

As a member of the Old Rochester Regional School Committee’s Facilities Subcommittee, I feel compelled to provide information regarding the proposal presently before voters of Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester to renovate the main field, track and auditorium at Old Rochester Regional High School.

I’ve been involved in the effort to address the unsafe field and the broken track at ORR since Tri-town citizens came together 4 years ago to talk about how to fix the worn out athletic
facilities. It was decided early on that the best path forward was to have the problems evaluated by professionals with experience in such matters, who could then propose options for improved facilities. Concerned citizens donated the funds to hire a firm with experience in such matters, and a number of engineering firms were interviewed, with the group ultimately choosing Kaestle Boos Associates, Inc.

Kaestle Boos is not only experienced in athletic facility analysis and site planning, but they brought the benefit of having done work at ORR in the past. Kaestle Boos undertook a comprehensive evaluation of not only the school’s outdoor athletic facilities, but also reviewed the overall usage of the facilities to fully understand the amount of wear and tear they’re subjected to. Based on that evaluation, it was determined that a safe, playable natural grass main field was simply not achievable based not only on the field’s usage, but also on the lack of other field space available at ORR.

This was no surprise to those of us familiar with the fields at ORR and the amount of use they get and confirmed what we knew from previous efforts to rehabilitate the main field. Simply
put, this field suffers from excessive use by not only ORR students, but by local youth sports organizations and adults who use it for sports and recreation. It is the only field in the entire Tri-town suitable for playing football, soccer and lacrosse.

With regard to the track, it is 18 years old, beyond the 15-year expected lifespan of a track. It is cracked, worn out and slippery, making it unsafe for runners. One of the area’s leading track and tennis court construction companies recently evaluated the track and stated that if it is not resurfaced within a year or two, it likely will be beyond the point of resurfacing and will need to be completely torn out and rebuilt, doubling the current cost of repair.

Contrary to what some have alleged, no amount of additional fertilizer, additional aeration, irrigation or seeding will create a safe grass field. The ORR facilities staff does everything humanly possible to try to make the main field safe for our kids to play on, but it is simply not possible. The school district even hired an outside professional landscaping company to try to rehabilitate the field last year, but within weeks of the start of the fall sports season, the field again was a mess. This point must be made clear to all: the problem with the field stems not from a lack of maintenance; it is a matter of not having enough recreational spaces to accommodate all of the sports and recreational activity that takes place in our community.

Our family moved to the tri-town 20 years ago because it is a wonderful place to raise a family. Our three children benefitted greatly from attending Sippican School, ORRJHS and ORRHS. ORR is an exceptional school with an amazingly dedicated and caring staff, excellent academic programs, and music, arts and athletics departments that are among the best in the state. We’re fortunate to have such a tremendous school system serving our community, and I sincerely thank the generation of taxpayers who made the decision to spend their tax dollars to build a district school and civic center that the entire tri-town uses.

Now it’s our turn to re-invest in these facilities to ensure that the children who will walk the halls of ORR next year and in years to come will have safe, playable, functioning facilities to
help them reach their fullest potential and become contributing members of our special community.

Please join me in voting “yes” to restore ORR’s field, track and auditorium.

Shaun P. Walsh
44 Joanne Drive