A front-row seat is not what she ordered

This Mt. Hope High School neighbor says the new lacrosse backstop is ‘overkill,’ and the water in her basement is a problem

By Scott Pickering
Posted 6/10/21

Susan Pasqual has a small yard with a big view. As one of the neighbors directly abutting the northwest corner of the Mt. Hope High School campus, she has always been able to look from the back deck …

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A front-row seat is not what she ordered

This Mt. Hope High School neighbor says the new lacrosse backstop is ‘overkill,’ and the water in her basement is a problem


Susan Pasqual has a small yard with a big view. As one of the neighbors directly abutting the northwest corner of the Mt. Hope High School campus, she has always been able to look from the back deck and survey the athletic fields for the regional high school.

For 17 years, the view was pretty much a constant — an open vista with some ball teams off in the distance. The area abutting her property at 8 Dartmouth St. was mostly underutilized by the school and its sports teams. That all changed this spring, with the arrival of the boys and girls lacrosse season.

After many years spent playing their games off-campus, the lacrosse teams finally have a home at Mt. Hope. Wedged into a tight corner of the campus, a new lacrosse field sparkles green and white.

Angled to fit in the only configuration that would allow it, a corner of the playing field extends to just a few feet off Ms. Pasqual’s back property line. Though she can accept the close quarters with high school kids enjoying a spring sports season, she’s having a difficult time accepting everything else that came with the new field: a tall retaining wall, a jagged line of black fencing along her property line, and a towering net that rises some 40 feet high adjacent to her and her neighbors’ property.

She considers that net to be “overkill,” as it would require a Herculean effort for a lacrosse player to fire a shot at goal, miss wildly and clear the enormous net before sailing into one of the nearby houses.

“I’ve never had any problems in my 17 years of living here. Not with the Little League playing here. Not with anything. But this? This really affects me. It gives me anxiety when I look out from my house,” Ms. Pasqual said. “The poles are overkill. They look ridiculous.”

Ms. Pasqual has made many attempts to meet with, talk with and find a compromise with school officials. More than a year ago, Superintendent of Schools Jonathan Brice, members of the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee and town officials, including Town Administrator Steven Contente, all visited her back yard to see things from her perspective. There was talk of making some changes. Then Covid hit, the schools shifted all their energy into distance learning and social-distancing, and Ms. Pasqual’s complaints were pushed to a back burner. She also didn’t want to bother them too much during the pandemic. But she renewed her efforts this spring, when the Mt. Hope lacrosse teams showed up to use the new field for the first time (their 2020 season had been canceled because of Covid).

“They don’t want to hear it. They don’t return my emails. They don’t return my calls,” Ms. Pasqual said.

She sent yet another email to school officials on Monday of this week, closing with: “The school committee is being completely negligent of these issues. And quite honestly, completely rude in not responding. There are solutions to this.”

Contacted last week, Dr. Brice said the district has no response to her complaints.

It’s the field, not the athletes

A Bristol High School graduate, Ms. Pasqual was a three-sport athlete — soccer, basketball and softball. “I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I believe in athletics,” she said. “I don’t mind the games. I don’t mind the kids. I mind the fence, the poles and the water.”

The water is an issue that is difficult to quantify. The new lacrosse field was created as part of a multi-million-dollar water remediation project at the high school. Largely funded by state grants, crews spent two years reshaping the grounds, the drainage and grades on a campus built atop an active watershed. The Silver Creek runs literally through the Mt. Hope property, and water has been a problem there for years. A wall of the school gym had to be rebuilt after it nearly collapsed a few years ago. Mold has been a problem. Soppy fields were common.

Ms. Pasqual said she’s always gotten water in her basement. That’s why she had a sump pump. But she claims it’s gotten much worse since the school launched the project, and she spent more than $1,000 to install a new French drain system. “It was never like this. The sump pumps are constantly running,” she said.

She also claims the east side of her yard is a soppy bog much of the year, and it never was before.

Ms. Pasqual is not alone in her complaints about water. A neighbor who asked not to be identified said they deal with a chronic accumulation of water in their backyard, and they also feel the massive net is an eyesore. Another neighbor has shared the same complaints with Ms. Pasqual, who is one of the few willing to vent her frustrations publicly.

A new set of fields

While dealing with the water issues during its two-year project, the district took the opportunity to reconfigure its athletic spaces, creating a new lacrosse field, a new football practice field, a new soccer practice field, and a new softball stadium. It also installed and then moved a throwing cage for the track and field team from Naomi Street to the opposite side of the campus.

Now that all is said and done, Mt. Hope is using most of its available space. The lacrosse field fit the only way it could — wedged at an angle into the very corner of the campus, tucked between Naomi and Dartmouth streets. Ms. Pasqual said the district initially told her the field would be a JV practice field, yet this year it has been hosting home games for all the school’s lacrosse teams.

She feels that the neighbors have never received much respect from the district. “They didn’t ask for any of our input. None of the neighbors would have protested the field. We just might have given them some input on how we could all play nice together,” she said.

A possible compromise

Two weeks ago, Ms. Pasqual emailed the superintendent and other district and town leaders to outline her priorities. First, she is asking that the district consider installing the net only for lacrosse season, and taking it down the rest of the year. She said she’s researched enough to learn that the poles are mounted to bases and could be removed and stored most of the year.

She also wants someone to acknowledge the water problems and offer some solutions. So far, the district has said nothing about either issue.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.