Debate over Prescott Park stage


Portsmouth city councilors continued to discuss plans for expanding and moving the stage for the Prescott Park Arts Festival at a workshop meeting on Monday, Aug. 17. At the meeting, mayor Robert Lister’s working group on the park, made up of city councilors Stefany Shaheen and Chris Dwyer, trustee of the trust fund member Tom Watson, and Lister, presented an update on plans for renovating and expanding the arts festival’s stage and rotating it about 34 degrees toward the Memorial Bridge.

Rotating the stage “primarily projects sound away from the city and more to the bridge” and “gives more land back to the people and makes it safer and quieter,” said Tracy Kozak, of JSA Architects.

Councilors Esther Kennedy and Zelita Morgan said they were concerned about the plan. Kennedy said plans for the stage don’t address “the issue at hand, and the issue at hand is the sound, the traffic, and the number of people” attending shows in the park.

“There is a much cheaper solution, which is to turn the volume down,” Morgan said, adding that she thinks the arts festival should look at moving shows likely to draw large crowds to other venues.

Dan Plummer, who was representing the arts festival at the meeting, said the festival needs “some kind of agreement (from the city) before we can raise funds” for the new stage.

A final plan remains in the offing; the council must reach a consensus on the plan before it can be sent to the city’s land use boards, which will then work on finalizing the details. — LC