For a city that functions, most of the time, rather well, Newton still suffers the slings and arrows of its citizens’ complaints. We quarrel about development; about the siting of elementary schools; about the school curriculum. When problems arise, such as the presence of lead in water pipes, the voices of anguish rise ever higher. Let’s face it: challenges will inevitably emerge in a city like ours, and it’s for the best that we citizens take notice and make our opinions known. We care.
On this occasion, however, I write to praise, not to complain. The project to resurface the twelve courts at Newton South High School is a week or so away from completion, and it has proceeded wondrously well. The Parks and Recreation Department deserves lots of credit here, as does the City Council along with the many subcommittees involved in the process.
This effort was not without its challenges. The courts were last resurfaced in 1994, but cracks appeared soon afterward. Why so rapidly? The site, including Newton South’s classrooms, lies on wetlands. Had a high school on Brandeis Road been proposed in 1979 instead of 1959, I doubt that the powers-that-be would have allowed its construction. The water table being high, the pavement swells and shrinks over the course of the year. A stream runs under the courts, diverted through a culvert and eventually draining into an aquifer under the athletic fields across the street. The courts have been patched several times, most recently in 2008. By 2014 the situation had become untenable and the courts problematic for play.
After some hesitation, the mayor and Parks and Rec embraced the proposal for a major face lift. Who could blame their caution? Funding the project at a cost of $800,000 would require the city to issue bonds, and the plans would need to pass muster before various aldermanic and environmental committees. Thus, though the project was to begin in August 2015, it was delayed until December.
My group, the Friends of Newton Tennis, was hoping that Parks and Rec would consider spending 50% more to utilize an emerging technology that guaranteed the courts for 25 years. For the city, this level of expense was a bridge too far, and eventually a more traditional technology was employed. In retrospect, I fully understand the hesitation. The new technology, with a concrete base, might have required even more preparatory work, and it hasn’t been tried anywhere north of central Connecticut. At the same time, I was impressed with how open Parks and Rec was to soliciting our input on the project, and several ideas, including more paths around the court and a pavilion on-site, were incorporated into the final plan.
Even in their not-quite-finished state this spring, the courts were playable and safe. Now that the high school tennis season has ended and the weather turned warm, the contractor is applying the final seal coats to complete the project. In a few weeks, Newton will be home to the best outdoor hard courts in the state, and its residents will be playing matches and taking clinics there under sunny summer skies and under the lights in the evening.
This July, if you are driving on Brandeis Road in the early evening, pull into the parking lot across the street to admire Newton South’s tennis courts. If you have your racquet, park your car, cross the street, and enjoy the fruits of a Newton success story.