Keep Lowell Park Green

An important part of any decent baseball park isthe “batter’s eye” — a blank segment of the outfield, unpopulated by bleacher seats or billboards — a dark backdrop behind the pitcher hat lets the batter see the ball against a solid backdrop. Baseball is full of legends, and one has it that the fans of one home team, before the advent of the batter’s eye, would conspire to wear white t-shirts to make it difficult for the visiting team’s batters to see the ball come off of the pitcher’s hand, and then change to black shirts when the home team came up to bat. Given that sportswriters have declared in a poll that the hardest thing to do in all of sports is to hit a major league fastball, the batters need all the help they can get.

Cotuit’s Elizabeth Lowell Memorial Park is unique among all of the Cape Cod Baseball League’s ten ballparks in that its batter’s eye is an uninterrupted wall of green pine and scrub oaks, a stretch of green that embraces the park on all sides. No houses are visible. No signs. Nothing. Just a big piece of green that is part of one of Cotuit’s best green spaces. The scoreboard, the flag pole, a few fans in lawn chairs, kids optimistically waiting around to shag home runs, and occasional dog walker are all there is out there to break out the perfect green expanse. Spend some time following the Kettleers to other ball fields and you’ll quickly learn how blessed we are in Cotuit to have the best park on the Cape. According to the Kettleers coach Mike Roberts: “The still, green backdrop makes Lowell Park the best field for hitters in the Cape League. What a shame it would be to lose that.”

outfield

Lowell Park is undeniably one of the most unique ball fields in America, and readers of a certain vintage will remember when Sports Illustrated made the park famous with an aerial view that put the little green gem in context with the blue waters of Cotuit Bay and the golden strand of Sampson’s Island in the background. I’ve got a framed copy of an aerial shot by my neighbor Paul Rifkin on the wall of my office.

I was at a dinner in San Diego last week with some colleagues and discussion eventually turned to sports. Of course everyone wanted to ask me, the Boston guy about the Red Sox but I told them the story of Cotuit baseball instead: of watching games for free in barefeet as the best college ball players in the country showed off their skills  to pro scouts in the most competitive and prestigious summer wooden-bat league in the nation. I used my phone to bring up from Flickr one of those of iconic aerial photos of the perfect park buried in a sea of green trees with the harbor and Nantucket Sound in the background and then passed it around. That picture said it all.

Thanks to the generosity of the Lowell family, one of Cotuit’s stalwart summer families, the forest behind the baseball park has been offered to the Barnstable Land Trust for the very reasonable price of $1.8 million. The BLT has a year to raise the money and I write today to urge my fellow Cotusions to dig deep and do their financial best to help preserve not only the Kettleer’s batter’s eye, but to keep one of the village’s best green spaces green. This land is near the village well fields, backs up to the western half of Mosswood Cemetary (where a recent proposal to build a solar array was thankfully thwarted), and is part of the great stretch of green that welcomes a person arriving in Cotuit on Putnam Avenue, a nearly uninterrupted piece of forest filled with deer, turtles and foxes that includes Eagle Pond, the Bell Farm, the cemetery and the wonderful field at the curve of Putnam and Maple where the yacht club stows its Cotuit Skiffs during hurricanes.

The Lowell family could doubtlessly make some developer happy at two or three times the price and nine starter castles and McMansions could get shoved into the 19 acress of woods. But not if we dig deep and give ourselves and Cotuit baseball a gift of green. A couple things about the fundraiser. While the ballpark is owned by the town, some of it intrudes onto private property (the visitor’s bullpen allegedly). This not only makes for great baseball and will help keep the Kettleers the best team in the league, but is a huge step to preserve Cotuit’s green space and keep another subdivision from further eroding the charm of the village.

Here’s a link to the donation page for the Lowell Park fund on the Barnstable Land Trust’s website.

2 thoughts on “Keep Lowell Park Green”

  1. Surprisingly the field is not owned by the Town . In Massachusetts a Town has no rights of ownership in a Public Park and it is the Legislature ( as the Public’s representative) not the Town who is in authority ( Lowell v. Boston) . In 1906 the Lowell family gifted the four and a half acres of land to benefit the children of Cotuit mentioning school 7 times on the deed. Guy , Fredrick and Alice Lowell put 2 restrictions , backed with a breech and reverts clause , on the deed to protect the property from the Town of Barnstable for the school children of Cotuit. In 1937 Alice Lowell Ropes strengthened the protection by signing a Release of Restrictions allowing the property to become a Public Park . Under Mass. Law in a Public Park the easement is not with the Town but instead is with the General Public.Very fortunate indeed for the village.Sitting on the shady hill behind 3rd base as #27 Norwood smokes the ball into the ‘ Green ‘ on his way to the Major leagues .

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  2. David – The closing on the purchase of the 19 acres surrounding Lowell Park is scheduled for tomorrow Dec 17 . Perhaps you and your readers have noticed a sign or two around the village for two years reading ” Save the Forest Around the Ballfield ” & ” Save 19 acres” & ” Save the Woods ” . The Public endorsed this idea with voluntary contributions of more than a million dollars that both you and I encouraged . Here’s how the very confusing deal shakes out. The WaterDistrict chips in 200 thousand and holds joint Title to 16 acres with BLT with a strong Conservation Restriction . Community Preservation also chips in 250 thousand in this part of the deal . Four hours after BLT closes with the Lowell Family the second part of the deal is scheduled to take place . BLT sells 3 acres back to the town for 300 thousand with Title to be held for Municipal Purposes with zero future protection . This is now the same type of property as schools , fire stations etc. allowing the Town absolute freedom to do whatever it wants in the future . These 3 acres are a spaghetti lot 100 feet wide beginning behind home plate and running along the first base side foul fence , then along the entire outfield fence ending by the foul pole . In my view these are the most important 3 acres providing all the charm of Lowell Park and are now at risk of future development . Already ,before the ink is dry , there has been an attempt to remove 3000 sq ft of trees behind the left field fence . I notified Town Councilor Grassetti and very fortunately she was able to block the Contract on Tuesday . The four orange stakes were in place by next week it would have been too late . I will be working hard in the upcoming year to get the Town to preserve the existing Tree Footprint in perpetuity . I think that’s what the Public expected when they donated their money and feel its in the village ( as opposed to Town ) best interest . Do you have the ability to forward this Email to community groups like the Civic Assoc. , Cotuit Bird & Garden , Cotuit & Santuit Historical , Friends of the Library , Cahoon Museum etc so at least the village is aware of the risk to the Park ? If you see my wife in front of the Post Office in March or April with a Tree Petition I hope you ll stop by and sign . Mark Buckley

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