Friday, September 23, 2016

Let’s Build a New Senior Center

This opinion column was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Betsy Port, a Longmeadow town resident.
[click image to enlarge]
Yes, we need a new building for The Longmeadow Senior Center – that is a fact! I do not know when or if it will ever be built since I do not own a crystal ball. I do know this; creating a building of 12,000 square feet within a 3.5-acre part of Bliss Parkland would be a mistake. Perhaps you can change my mind, but creating a structure on park-like land seems like an obvious problem. Traffic flow has increased over the years and Bliss Road and Laurel Street will only become busier when the construction ends at the shopping center and cars full of shoppers shop!

A Committee has been working hard all summer, holding seven meetings and discussing several sites across town. Our family received a snail-mail invitation to a September 1st meeting for neighborhood homes. We live near the wooded side of Bliss Park, but could not attend a meeting right before a long weekend. I wish we had been given more notice, but they were on deadline.

If built, the new center would be located in the southeast corner of Bliss near Oakwood. A total of 100 parking spaces would be needed and I fear over 30 trees would be cut down. These trees may not be that healthy or that green but I am a true tree hugger so I hate to loose them. If possible, I think the committee’s choice should be modified. They came up with only one option. People like to have choices. What is their second choice? Are they any other options for the residents to consider? Laurel Park is not an option in my humble opinion.

Some might say that to upgrade the structure at Greenwood Park would be costly and ill advised. Maybe the whole thing should be razed and we might build something better if we can afford to start over. It is my understanding that both Greenwood Park and Turner Park are not preferable options. The DPW project seems more urgent right now, but when can we really have room in the budget for the Senior Center? I have called the tree warden, the Park and Rec Department and some other leaders but I still have more questions than answers. Maybe I am just too crazy to think that a large structure inside a designated park is horrible to contemplate. What to me is short sighted is the way the process has moved ahead. Where are we getting the money for anything if the town has serious fiscal concerns? We need to be realists! Can we please keep the big picture in mind?

Maybe we need to rethink the whole long range plan set forth in 2001-2002. Saving our open space and green landscape was a top priority at that time, about fifteen years ago. Have our priorities changed? Do we need a Community Center instead of a Senior Center? The Community House is in the Historic District and not practical for our growing needs. As far as I’m concerned it is for voting, offices and dance classes. Should children have an opportunity to learn and share with their elders? Read the recommendations in other magazines and papers. This is the wave of the future. Where can we meet and come together as a community? Is it possible to redefine what is needed? Let’s find a peaceful and practical solution for everyone to agree on, if that is possible. I just don’t want to loose something that we can never get back!

As Joni Mitchell wrote in 1969:

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a (Senior Center), a boutique and a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got Till it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
They took all the trees and put ‘em in a tree museums
And charged the people a dollar and a half to see ‘em
Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got Till it’s gone
They paved (Bliss Park) and put up a parking lot”

Betsy Port/ Farmington Avenue

1 comment:

C.van der Leeden said...

As a resident of Longmeadow I feel the Adult Center should be rebuilt at it's current location. Dietz and Co Architects has already presented a comprehensive design which addresses all their needs. Why would anyone consider adding a 100 car parking lot in the heart of town? We have three schools in the area, children walking and riding bicycles, parents dropping off and picking up. Steady traffic coming and going to the shops, do we really want to add more to the traffic woes?
Please, hands off our green spaces. They should never be an option,ever.