Worcester State’s recent growth created an inevitable parking crunch in the streets around campus. The brunt of it has been born by the residents to the south-east of campus.
To address their complaints, Worcester State built a 500-car shuttle lot up on Airport Hill, and the City created resident-only parking on affected streets. While increasing numbers of students use the shuttle lot, this lot is under-utilized, with WSU reporting that 200 students use it regularly. Worcester State did not incentivize the use of the lot, and neither it nor the City have made use of other tools to ease the parking crunch on residential streets (night-time resident-only parking, diagonal parking on Chandler, installing meters).
Worcester State has a history of taking over city athletic fields and not making good on its promises. The use and maintenance of Rockwood Field, for example, was transferred from the City to Worcester State. Although technically the City still owns it, WSU has priority usage. City residents need permission to use it from the university, and they must pay rental fees to use it. The neighborhood strongly objected but the deal was already done. In return, the city agreed there would be no more fields developed at Rockwood and the neighborhood would get walking trails, plantings, benches, and a playground. They’re still waiting. (To see exactly what has not been delivered, see the Rockwood Field Master Plan.)
In order to protect Worcester State from the consequences of not managing its own parking problems, the City Manager’s office offered Worcester State the Chandler Magnet ball fields, and the nearly 22 acres of woodland next to it. As for all the people who use the fields and who would lose them in this transfer, in the words of Gary Rosen, District 5 Councilman,
The students of the elementary school and the leagues that use the present field would be provided by WSU, on university property, the use of a field of much higher quality than the one that they have known for so many years.
The idea that one could fit in all city youth and adult athletic activity in amongst university athletics is hard to swallow. This proposal also rules out the simplest recreational use of the fields, like walking and playing with children. Above all, we ask Councilor Rosen: if there’s land for another field on Worcester State property, why shouldn’t Worcester State students simply park there?