It hasn’t come easily or without a lot of rhetoric, but Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson tells us that a draft plan for the relocation of Winslow Park playing fields is nearing completion and that in the near future it will be shared with leagues and the new neighbors of the fields.
For those who haven’t followed the issue, the Winslow Park fields on Rhode Island Airport Corporation property are within the glide path zone for the runway off Main Avenue. Many years ago, the area was cleared of homes and the city was given permission to allow development of the fields, some of the best softball fields, we would add, in the state.
That was fine, even though landing jets seemed to be in danger of fly balls – a bit of hyperbole – until the Federal Aviation Administration told RIAC they wanted the playing fields out of there.
That direction coincided with RIAC plans to lengthen the main runway. The two thus became connected with RIAC pledging in a memorandum of agreement that it would relocate the fields as part of the City Council’s agreement not to bring legal action that would stall or halt the runway project.
The question, however, was where to relocate the fields.
For a time it looked like the Knight Campus of CCRI would be a good place, as the fields could serve multiple groups. But when an analysis was conducted, the fields turned out to be too costly because of ledge and there wouldn’t have been enough of them either.
RIAC’s fallback plan was land cleared of homes in the neighborhood sandwiched between Warwick Pond and the airport. The Lakeshore area has become somewhat of a neighborhood park, offering residents a convenient place to walk their dogs or bike and jog on what were once residential streets.
Understandably, residents were aggravated when RIAC sought city approval – the land required a change in zone since it would have been used commercially – to build private jet hangars on the property. The hangar plan was shot down.
Now the area is to become a locus for soccer and softball games.
Vella-Wilkinson is concerned that the playing fields don’t become a neighborhood nuisance. She told us that she wants to ensure all access is from the maintenance road off Airport Road – not via the neighborhood – and that there is no parking on neighborhood streets.
We look forward to seeing the proposed plan. After many years of talks about where the fields might go, RIAC and Vella-Wilkinson are to be commended for working out the details and affording the leagues and the neighbors the opportunity to fine-tune the plan.