The City of Malden is in the process of making renovations to Roosevelt Park. The Malden Redevelopment Authority (MRA) is starting to reconstruct it, as it has been over 100 years the park has served the city. The park has been in need of renovations since 1910 due to the amount of lead found in the soil, the park’s low-lying location, its grading, drainage and soil conditions. 

Though the park is in need of renovations, it has also caused a lot of controversy among the residents that live around the Salemwood area about the type of grass they are using because it is not natural grass and can be very harmful to the environment.

An outline of the planned renovations at Roosevelt Park. Photo via the Malden Community Preservation Committee.

The MRA plans to tear up the current grass and turn it into an artificial turf sports complex. Some feel that this will not benefit the 1,200 kids at Salemwood. “[The turf is] not like grass; it gets very hot and can raise the temperature up to 30-40 degrees above the air temperature,” stated Kathy Sullivan, a Salemwood fifth-grade science teacher. Sullivan opposes the renovations that are being made. She added that “artificial turf fields only last 8-10 years; they’re supposed to be recyclable but they’re really not, which is a huge amount of plastic.” 

This opposition has been going on since 2009. Those in support of the renovations would like to turn the park into a sports complex that can be used for multiple sports such as soccer, lacrosse and youth soccer. The project has been planned for decades and has even been in forums and meetings for the past couple of years. 

Charlie Conefrey, the Director of K-12 Athletics and Physical Education, “sees this as an investment in our children, in our youth, in our city. As an employee of the Malden Public Schools [he] has and always will continue to make decisions based on what is best for our children.” The renovations are planned to start this fall but will most likely start in 2022 in the summer so it will not distract the kids and the project team. The renovations of the park will include:

A picture of Roosevelt Park. Photo taken by Liam O'Toole.
  • Reconstruction of the existing athletic field.
  • A new synthetic turf field with an organic infill and resilient shock pad underlayment. 
  • 2 softball fields with a multi-use rectangular field overlay for soccer, lacrosse, football, and other sports requiring a rectangular playing surface.
  • Portable pitching mounds that will allow the field to be used for Little League Baseball as well as softball.
  • Inlaid 50-yard dash lines.
  • New backstops, field fencing, and barrier netting systems.
  • New player benches and dugout fencing.
  • Four (4) basketball shooting areas; one is a more formal shooting area with a painted partial court and basketball hoop; the other three are more casual shooting areas with 3 basketball hoops that will overhang the synthetic turf field.
  • An improved outdoor classroom.
  • Improved field drainage.
  • Earthwork including removal and proper disposal of urban fill beneath the athletic field and replacement with clean material to provide proper separation from the ground surface to the urban fill layer and to improve site drainage.
  • Site grading will improve surface runoff to the site and field drainage systems and protect against the loss of any flood storage.  The proposed site grading will in fact result in a modest increase in flood storage available on the site.
  • Site drainage improvements that will effectively collect, convey, detain and discharge stormwater runoff to the municipal drainage system or into the ground and mitigate any increases in stormwater runoff from the site that may adversely impact the downstream municipal drainage system.
  • The replacement of portions of the municipal storm drains systems that run under the field.
  • Other miscellaneous site improvements including new ADA compliant walks, site fencing, seat walls, shade trees, and landscaping.

Some neighbors are not happy with what they plan on doing. Stefanie Alberto, a neighbor within the Salemwood school district, says “[she] feels the plan to remove a 3-acre cooling natural grass field in a congested urban neighborhood and replace it with a heat magnifying plastic carpet shows a reckless disregard for the neighborhood.” 

Some feel that constructing a multi-million-dollar sports facility in a flood zone is reckless mismanagement of the taxpayers' hard-earned money. They feel that if the renovations do succeed, it will disenfranchise the residents who use the park informally as the park will be unavailable and reserved for organized sports use, increase air pollution and asthma rates in the neighborhood and decrease quality of life and mental health. 

A picture of Roosevelt Park. Photo taken by Liam O'Toole.

Alberto thinks the City “is being more than inconsiderate towards the kids. The city is being exploitative and unjust.” She said that the neighbors of the park and the parents and students of Salemwood were never included in the planning and design of the park; their voices were ignored and in some cases silenced when they had objected. 

Just under 75% of the kids at Salemwood are non-English speaking or limited English speaking and the families tend to be non-English speaking or limited English speaking they never had input. “The city did not do a good job of reaching out to our Salemwood community,” Sullivan said. 

A picture of Roosevelt Park. Photo taken by Liam O'Toole.

The design team does not believe they are being inconsiderate because they have been telling people about the renovations for a long time now. “Flyers were translated into multiple languages and distributed to the school, circulated in the neighborhood and posted to both the City of Malden and Malden Redevelopment Authority websites,” said Deborah Burke, an Executive Director of the Malden Redevelopment Authority. 

If the renovations of the park do succeed, some believe it could be detrimental to the neighborhood. It could also cause an increase in energy use as people turn on their air conditioners more and raise the risk of heatwave mortality for people who can't afford air conditioning or in the case of a power outage.

At a recent public forum, eighty-nine percent of the attending parents opposed the plan for synthetic turf. 

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