By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD — A fireworks display will light up the town’s skies for the first time in modern memory over Columbus Day weekend.
It’s all part of the year-long 2014 celebration commemorating the bicentennial of the town as well as the tricentennial of the Meeting House on the town common.
The selectmen voted unanimously Aug. 28 to approve a plan proposed by the Recreation Committee to launch the fireworks from the town’s King Rail Golf Course. That 9-hole course is closed to golf while several greens are being rebuilt and reconfigured following the construction of MarketStreet. It is anticipated that the course will be open to the public in the late spring of 2015 if all goes as planned on that front.
“Lynnfield Recreation wanted to come up with something exciting” for the townspeople to commemorate these two special occasions, Recreation Committee member Terri Farrell told the board. The fireworks celebration would be held on Sunday, Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m. with an alternate date for adverse weather of Columbus Day on Monday, Oct. 13.
As an added bonus, Farrell said, the town will be celebrating the launch of the new stadium turf field at the high school that weekend as well. The first home football game to ever be held in the stadium is scheduled for Friday night, Oct. 10.
Farrell said Recreation has been busy coordinating the logistics and feasibility of the fireworks plans with the pyrotechnics firm the committee will hire, Atlas Fireworks, as well as the police and fire departments and the town administrator. Their goal was to find a location with the “least public safety issues,” she said and present it to the selectmen for approval. Once approved, they planned to reach out to the 2014 Tricentennial Committee, she said.
Initially, both the high school and the Reedy Meadow Golf Course were under consideration, but both were crossed off the short list for a variety of reasons.
The impact of traffic and lack of adequate parking in the center of town was a major factor in abandoning the use of Reedy Meadow, Farrell said.
She explained that the plentiful parking available at MarketStreet will enable Recreation to reduce its anticipated cost for police details by 75 percent compared to the cost of securing the Reedy Meadow site.
Since access points to King Rail would be limited on three sides by the natural barriers created by marshlands, two ponds and a meadow, it will also be easier for the police to patrol and prevent the public from entering the fireworks launch area on the fourth fairway.
Farrell emphasized that no parking will be allowed on Walnut Street as they do not want to adversely impact that neighborhood.
Farrell said she and other town officials walked the King Rail site with Matt Shea of Atlas Fireworks August 28, including Police Chief Dave Breen and Town Administrator Bill Gustus.
The King Rail is considered a superior choice by the organizers for many reasons, including the fact that having the celebration there will not interrupt the schedule of an active golf course and this location affords “360 degree visibility” to the spectators from any location they choose to view it within MarketStreet, Shea said.
“Because of the status of that golf course, it is really a fantastic site,” Shea said. “Market Square is 470 yards away and the nearest actual building is 750 feet away…even with a breeze there is a huge area,” to safely launch them, Shea said.
Selectmen Chairman Dave Nelson asked Shea whether spectators would be allowed onto the golf course itself and how long the fireworks display would last.
Shea said the golf course would be closed to the public and a detail officer would be stationed along any walkways or driving areas that would provide access to the course, including access to the site from one nearby neighborhood street.
The show itself would last 18-20 minutes, “which is a faster pace, mainly because it will be cooler” weather, Shea said. He and his crew would start setting it up at noon and the show would begin at 7:30 p.m. It would not be conducive to pair the show with music because the anticipated 2,000 to 5,000 spectators would be quite spread out within the mall complex, Shea said, who added that they will still “really able to entertain people all the way around.”
In keeping with the state Fire Marshal’s regulations, Farrell said a fire engine detail would be on site “from the moment the first shell arrives,” and an ambulance also needs to be available.
Adverse weather that would cause the show to be postponed to Columbus Day would be rain or “prevailing wind of 20 mph or more,” Shea said.
Nelson asked if the organizers anticipate the fireworks would draw people from other neighboring towns.
Farrell said that it would depend. “We have to make a decision on how much we want MarketStreet to market this event. If we proactively market it we bump up numbers and we need to make sure the police chief will not be concerned,” she said. A broader audience could draw 8,000 or more, she said.
The committee previously reached out to the Wakefield Fire Department for advice, Farrell said, due to that department’s years of experience in providing details for Wakefield’s annual 4th of July fireworks. She said they still need to contact Wakefield’s Police Department.
Of the 2,800 parking spaces available at MarketStreet, roughly 60 percent of them are in use on Sunday evenings by the restaurants since the majority of retail shops close by 6 p.m. on Sundays, leaving 1,200 available for fireworks spectators, Gustus said. He added that Recreation would provide shuttle service from the town’s school lots, providing an option for spectators who do not want to deal with finding parking.
Gustus concurred that they will save money on police details at King Rail, using a minimum of “five, possibly 10 officers, plus security staff at MarketStreet” whereas Reedy Meadow would have required 25-30 officers.
“The police presence would be mainly traffic (control) and parking control and limiting access to the site from people who would try to go down Thistle Lane and maybe several on the side streets along Walnut Street such as Country Club, Alexandra Road,” Gustus said.
The town would have also needed at least 1,200 feet of snow fencing as a barrier if Reedy Meadow was used, but “only a fraction of that” would be necessary at King Rail to run it “from water line to water line across fourth fairway,” Gustus said.
The proximity of other off-street parking facilities near MarketStreet also make this location favorable, such as Boston Sports Club in Lynnfield and the Edgewater Office Park in Wakefield. Selectman Phil Crawford recommended the committee contact those private property owners to make sure the use of those lots would be allowed.
Selectman Tom Terranova recommended that Recreation touch base with the Conservation Commission as well. Gustus agreed it would be best for them reach out to the ComCom. “It is not within the 50-foot no disturb zone (but) those natural heritage issues need to be explored,” he said.
Terranova thanked the Recreation Committee for adding a fireworks show to the “basket of goodies” for the town’s birthday celebration and the launch of the new fields. Calling it a “great use of the money in the revolving account,” Terranova added that “it took many years” to build up that account and advised the committee to “hold onto it as tight as you can.”
Farrell assured him that they would. “The revolving budget will stay robust and healthy. Also MarketStreet has indicated that they might want to provide some sponsorship, so we wanted to work out the feasibility before we sought out sponsorship,” she said.
Addressing the Recreation Committee, Katy Shea commented that if they decided to have MarketStreet promote it she reminded them that in its advertising MarketStreet can only promote access to the site via exit 43 off Rte. 128.
Terranova said they should consider hiring “one or two extra patrolmen to handle other areas” of town that may be impacted by the traffic and parking issues.