April 24, 2024

The Needham Channel

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Claxton’s Past May Mean Uncertain Future

Select Board will host a Joint Meeting with other town boards next Wednesday (2/15) to discuss the site’s future.

Visions of a renovated Claxton Field may be put on hold, as the long-anticipated project hit new roadblocks this winter. At issue are contamination concerns that derive from the location’s past use as a burn site for the town’s waste disposal operations. Before the current Recycling and Transfer Station was built, the town incinerated trash at that location. Approximately sixty years ago, the site was capped and the current playing fields were established.

The town had targeted the site for a complete overhaul, a project that started to move forward when the Park and Recreation Department placed the proposal in front of the Community Preservation Committee in 2019. The project gained town meeting approval in the October 2020 Special Town Meeting, and site borings were conducted in December 2021 as part of the design process. Weston and Sampson performed a visual inspection of the borings and stated that there were between six and twelve inches of topsoil, with ash and solid waste material below, consistent with the past use of the area.

The decision was made to alter the designs for the field to prevent further excavation of the property, limiting the changes made in order to avoid unearthing likely contaminated material. Mitigating measures were also incorporated into the design in order to further protect the new fields and their users. However, those plans were further complicated when, in the spring of 2022, a second set of borings revealed the top soil layer under the field’s playground was only four to seven inches deep. The town removed the playground, fenced off the area and put additional soil over the area.

Later in the summer a contractor working on a town water main project excavated and piled ground from Claxton Field on-site without first securing permission from the town to do so. A resident reported the incident to the Board of Health. Immediate work was done and further strategies outlined to safeguard the site. However, the town was notified of a complaint to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in December of 2022. The D.E.P. informed the town of their opinion that Claxton field’s past history obligates the town to conduct further sampling and analysis of the subsurface and surface-level soil to clarify its contamination status. If the town’s sampling plan is approved by the DEP, Weston and Sampson would execute it in late February, with the goal of having preliminary results by mid-March. These findings would determine the future course and costs of any renovation efforts at Claxton Field. In the meantime, spring activities typically scheduled for Claxton Field may be moved to other locations throughout town.

The Select Board will hold a special meeting with representatives from the Park and Recreation Commission, Board of Health, School Committee, Finance Committee and the Community Preservation Committee. The meeting will include a presentation updating the boards on the matter, and provide an opportunity for questions from the public. The meeting will be held at 5:30pm on February 15th at Power’s Hall in the NEEDHAM TOWN HALL. It will also be on Zoom, and air on the Needham Municipal Channel, the Needham Channel HD Channel, and stream live through our new Roku app.

For more information on Claxton Field and the upcoming meeting, click here for the town’s informational packet.