Sunderland Recreation looks to restore softball field as Merritt Field

SUNDERLAND — With its overgrown brush and uneven field, the Sunderland Elementary School ball field has traditionally been avoided by softball teams, who opt for the baseball field or other towns’ fields.

That could change this spring with the townspeople’s blessing.

The Sunderland Recreation Committee is asking for $20,458 from Community Preservation Act money to fund the restoration of the softball field in honor of Timothy Merritt, former school principal who died unexpectedly last September. The refurbished field would be called Merritt Field.

“(Merritt) loved this project. He was supportive,” said Shana Deane, chair of the Recreation Committee. “When he passed, there was a need for us to do something in his memory.”

The field improvements are a community effort. A total $27,242 of the $47,700 cost is being donated as in-kind labor and materials.

In addition, school Superintendent Martha Barrett approached Deane to help the committee get funding. She appointed Deb Lane, the director of out-of-time school programs, as a liaison to the project.

If townspeople approve the request at the April 25 town meeting, private contractors are ready to break ground. The goal is to restore the field as soon as late spring and summer.

The project involves excavation and skinning of the infield, drainage, and an extension of fencing along the first and third baseline. There will also be new masonry dugouts, an enclosed on-deck cage and a new 12-by-18-foot storage shed.

The improvements would allow the girls’ softball recreation league to play in Sunderland. In the past, the softball recreation program — a blended program with Deerfield, Whately and Conway residents — played on the baseball field at the school or used the two fields in South Deerfield by the Deerfield Elementary School and Mount Sugarloaf and the field in Whately by the Frontier superintendent’s office building.

It is the biggest year for CPA requests since the town joined the program three years ago, Community Preservation Committee Chairman Richard Lopatka said.

Other CPA requests

The project is one of six CPA requests recommended by the Community Preservation Committee. The town has a 3 percent surcharge that the state matches to support historical, community housing, open space reservation and recreation projects.

The town had a CPA fund of $149,074 last year. With state matching funds and the surcharge being collected now, the town expects to bring that fund back up to $350,000 to fund this year’s projects.

The estimated cost of the six projects is $178,355.

The most costly project is the resurfacing and remodelling of a playground at the Sunderland Elementary School for $95,578.

Another $7,200 would support the second phase of the Town Clerk’s project for preservation of historic records.

As much as $43,650 would fund the design and restoration of the town office front entry and $10,000 would support the first phase of a design and feasibility study for a pedestrian and bicycle pathway system connecting Sunderland’s public properties and natural assets.

Lastly, $8,451 would support the town’s share of the Frontier tennis court restoration project. The total project costs $33,000. The School Committee is requesting $4,455 from Conway, $15,345 from Deerfield, $4,748 from Whately.

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