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Nashua sued over locked, gated field

Union Leader Correspondent

February 26. 2012 11:35PM

NASHUA - A local resident has filed a civil suit against the city and two other entities, arguing a recreational area behind Pennichuck Middle School is not easily accessible or available for public use.

Geoff Daly of Walden Road submitted legal documents at Hillsborough County Superior Court asking a judge to permit 'unfettered public access' and use of the 3.5-acre parcel of land.

'There is a gate that is locked, and only organized youth groups are allowed to use the area,' argues Daly, noting a previous city ordinance that states the recreation land should be open to the community.

In court documents, Daly maintains that the public has been barred from entry to the recreational area, in violation of the city ordinance.

'Restrictions in the Access and Recreational Easement provide for use by public or private youth sports organizations, but do not provide for unfettered access by the general public for recreational purposes such as walking, running, exercising, bicycling, art shows and exhibitions unrelated to youth sports activities,' Daly states in his suit.

A court hearing has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday to discuss the matter in front of Judge Jacalyn Colburn.

Key is available

Stephen Bennett, deputy corporate counsel for the city, said last week that because the matter is in litigation, he could provide only limited comments.

Still, Bennett argued whether any city-owned park or recreational area allows unfettered, or unrestrained access. Several parks in Nashua have gates, some of which are locked because of public safety reasons, he said.

Bennett said that even though one access point to the recreation field near Pennichuck Middle School is gated and locked, there is another way to gain entry.

'Really, anybody can get to it,' he said, explaining residents can walk along the south side of another ball field behind the school and get to the far end of the recreation area Daly is concerned about.

The practice field is used for youth football and lacrosse teams, according to Bennett, who said the city and Pennichuck Corp. each have a key to the gated path leading to the field.

'We have kept it locked because we don't want people dumping stuff back there, or keg parties,' said Bennett.

Anyone interested in using the practice field may contact the city Parks and Recreation Department and ask for the key, Bennett said.

Undeveloped land

In January, prior to the city's acquisition of Pennichuck Corp., the water company provided a Recreation and Access Easement to the city of Nashua for the field behind the school.

The 3.5-acre recreation parcel is part of a larger, 33-acre plot of land recently acquired by developers and referred to as Parcel F. The large lot has caused quite a controversy in Nashua, as it is the last piece of Pennichuck's undeveloped land in the city.

Pennichuck Corp. sold the land to North Concord Street Properties earlier this year, and the developer plans to build an 85-unit elderly housing project named Hayden Green.

'It is my understanding that the deal was finalized on Jan. 23,' Bennett said of the land sale.

Daly also cites North Concord Street Properties, LLC., and Southwood Corp., a subsidiary of Pennichuck Corp., in his civil suit.

'I believe that this (sale) has been mischaracterized. It has been so underhanded,' Daly said. 'Someone is wheeling and dealing for the future. We've got a pristine area with crystal clear water that should be preserved. We can't afford to lose this type of property.'

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