Pony Express Frequently Asked Questions and Property Name Survey
- Q: When will the athletic fields be ready for use? A: It is expected that the athletic fields will be ready for use in the spring of 2019. The Town has been working to improve conditions on the former polo fields, which hadn’t been maintained for a couple of seasons prior to the Town owning it. The Town has also been working with consultants through the permitting process with the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission, before beginning construction of the expanded parking area for the athletic field users and a new irrigation system for the fields. The permit approvals were finalized in mid-August and construction will begin later this fall once construction bids have been secured, and the stable building is demolished in early September.
- Q: Why is the stable building being demolished? Can the building be repurposed for public use? A: After months long study, led by the Town Manager appointed Pony Express Task Force, taking into account a number of different variables including the current condition of the stable building and possible ways to repurpose it, the Town came to the conclusion that the building, which was constructed in 1985 for seasonally boarding horses and as housing for their handlers, should be demolished. The Task Force made that recommendation to the Select Board considering the potential costs to renovate, repair, maintain, and upkeep any or all portions of the building for use by the community. These cost factors outweighed its usefulness as either a picnic pavilion; a storage, vending and restroom facility; an educational, cultural events facility; and/or a horse boarding operation. The Select Board voted to authorize the building be demolished in March 2018. The building demolition cost was approved as a capital expense in the FY ’19 Town operating budget. The Town held a Silent Auction sale of surplus items in the stable in July 2018 and the proceeds went into the Town’s General Fund. The stable building is set to come down in the next couple weeks.
- Q: Is the property currently open to the public for use? A: The property is currently open to the public for passive recreational use, i.e., walking, horseback riding, birding, photography. Parking in the existing parking area leads to a single trail marked with directional arrows to the adjacent conservation land owned by Greenbelt. The athletic fields are not open for use, as turf maintenance continues through this growing season. The agricultural fields, bordered by split rail fencing, also are not open to the public as they are being hayed by a local farmer. When the stable building is demolished and construction of the parking area and irrigation system begins, the property may be temporarily closed for public access. Notices will be posted on the property if there is a temporary closure.
- Q: Are dogs allowed on the property? A: Yes dogs are allowed on the property, but they are not allowed on the athletic or hay fields. Also, dogs must be leased at all times and dog waste must be picked up and properly disposed of offsite.
- Q: How much will the property improvements cost? A: In January, 2017 when Town Meeting authorized an expenditure from the Open Space Bond to purchase the 30 acre portion of the property (Greenbelt purchased 42 acres and Mass Fish and Wildlife purchased 55 acres of the entire 127 acre Pony Express property), $227,000 was included in the authorization to be used for property improvement costs specifically related to field turf improvements, parking area construction and installation of a new irrigation system for the fields. That amount did not include the stable demolition costs since it hadn’t been determined at that time what the Town was going to do with the building, which is why there was a separate capital expenditure of $35,000 approved at Town Meeting in May, 2018. The Town sold a 2.5 acre portion of its 30 acre acquisition in May, 2018 for $270,000 offsetting the cost of the total amount bonded for the property ($2,377,000 for both acquisition and development costs). The Town is utilizing the $227,000 appropriated at the January, 2017 Town Meeting for property improvements to advance the design, construction and implementation of the parking area and athletic field improvements. The parking area design plans call for 168 spaces at full build out to support four athletic fields, and for a new underground irrigation system, utilities, and pump station as part of the existing irrigation pond on the property. There is also a wetland restoration and mitigation plan, and an invasive Phragmites removal and maintenance plan around the irrigation pond, which needs to be completed. With the remaining funds available for property improvements, we expect to be able to construct an initial 100 parking spaces, remove the Phragmites around the pond, and install the primary main components of the irrigation system. Fencing, wetlands mitigation, secondary parking, and irrigation lines in the fields will likely be expenses beyond the Open Space bond funds allocated for property improvements, and additional funds will need to be secured to advance those elements of the project. There will be a better idea of actual costs for the various elements of the project once construction bids are returned this fall.
- Q: Will the property continue to be called Pony Express? A: Glad you asked! The Task Force is currently conducting an online, one question survey of Ipswich residents to finalize a name for the property. Follow this link to find out more and cast your vote: Name The Property Public Survey