Community center gains momentum

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By JASON STARR

Consulting architect Chuck Musgrave discusses survey results Monday at the Colchester Meeting House in a needs assessment for a new community center. (Photo by Jason Starr)

Consulting architect Chuck Musgrave discusses survey results Monday at the Colchester Meeting House in a needs assessment for a new community center. (Photo by Jason Starr)

A survey indicates the majority of Colchester residents surveyed about a new community center are neutral on the idea or think it’s unimportant.

Yet the same survey showed 56 percent listed indoor fitness classes like yoga, martial arts and spinning as needed. GreenPlay, the consultant conducting the survey for Colchester Parks and Recreation, read that as a sign of overall local support for building a center.

“It will be up to the will of the community to make this happen,” said Chuck Musgrave, a consulting architect on the study. “Our goal is to gain momentum to have something happen.”

The survey was sent randomly to 3,200 homes. It was completed and returned by 360 residents. The survey is also available online through the town website, www.colchestervt.gov.

Respondents ranked open spaces, trails, public water access and parks highest in recreational importance.

The survey is part of a community health and wellness center needs assessment and master plan the town initiated earlier this year. A master plan for Bayside Park is also part of the project. The goal is to determine the need, location and feasibility of building a community center, as well as plan for the future of Bayside Park.

The study is due to wrap up with final recommendations in August.

As part of its preliminary analysis, GreenPlay chose Bayside Park as the best site for a community center. Four other sites were considered: Severance Corners, the undeveloped town-owned parcel off East Lakeshore Drive, the site of the current high school ballfields and school district-owned land off Laker Lane.

Musgrave said the recommendation of Bayside Park is subject to change as more citizen input is received.

“Site selection is part gut as to what we really feel as designers makes the most sense and why,” Musgrave said. “We also evaluate each site on the same criteria so we can see which one rises to the top. Sometimes you go with your heart rather than the arithmetic you have.”

Dozens of criteria were considered for each site, categorized under “usability, site features and anticipated cost.” Each was given a weight of importance between 1 and 4. The consultants said they relied on parks and recreation staff to weigh each criterion.

After running the numbers, Bayside Park came out as the best location. The high school ballfields ranked second and would require moving the fields. Severance Corners was third, the Laker Lane property was fourth, and the East Lakeshore Drive property was last.

Resident Mo Germain questioned the results, saying the weight for each criterion should be reevaluated with more public input. Any system that identifies Severance Corners as a better location for a community center than the town-owned East Lakeshore Drive parcel is flawed, Germain said.