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Next Door News: Youth Sports Lead to Traffic, Safety Concerns

Shrewsbury's athletic fields are used for as many as a dozen games some weekend days.

The Shrewsbury park is located at the rear of a cul-de-sac on a dead end street with available parking, it appears, for no more than a half-dozen vehicles. During most weekdays, Sickles field is empty. On the weekends, however, the park regularly plays host to numerous youth sports games, sometimes more than a dozen scheduled one after the other, residents complain.

The problem with the overuse and poor scheduling of the fields is that it creates a safety hazard for everyone from the children on the sports teams and those living in the neighborhood to drivers who have to navigate the congested streets and even the parents who drive in excess of the posted speed limit just to get to the fields in time.

“I don’t mind people playing there,” Shrewsbury resident Tim Thomas said. “I am concerned about safety.”

Sickles Park is at the end of Sickles Place, a narrow residential road off of White Street. Often during weekends, cars are lined up along both streets, parked along side every available inch of curbing. Residents say children dart in and out of the roadway as they try to get to the field, back to their parents cars, and just play with their friends. The posted speed limit on both streets is 25 miles per hour, and while some, including Councilman Jeff DeSalvo, think that might be too high to begin with, out-of-town drivers often drive well over the limit.

At a recent council meeting, residents and members of the council discussed ways to help curb the safety issue. Already electronic speed monitors have been turned on both Sickles and White as a way to slow drivers down, but it will take time to determine whether or not drivers are regularly blowing past the posted speed limit. And while the town can’t make any permanent changes to the road via extra signage or speed bumps per state law, it can erect temporary signs, like those often seen in the middle of roads that inform drivers to stop for pedestrians.

Other possibilities floated were permitting parking only on one side of the street or turning local parking into permit-only parking.

Councilman Bill Dodge said the solution might be simpler than adding signs, changing parking rules, or having a police presence around the time the park is being used. Start at the root of the problem, he said, start at scheduling.

“A lot of the rec teams have warm-up times and they’re itching to get out their on the field,” he said. “Without a break in scheduling the place gets packed.

“There’s an opportunity to relieve that pressure through scheduling.”

Schedules are often handled by sports organizations outside of the town, council President Thomas Menapace said, usually by volunteers who don’t understand the problem they’re setting in motion by scheduling so many games back to back. But, as a condition of using Shrewsbury’s fields, it may be possible to require schedules to go through added layers of oversight to make sure overcrowding doesn’t happen.

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