Ignoring the petition of approximately 150 New Hartford residents presented by the Friends of Brodie Park South asking that sports practices in town parks be allocated by matching the needs of teams with the existing infrastructure at the parks and that Brodie Park South be used only after other areas have been assigned, the Rec Commission members were unanimous in their intent to allow the Football program – which last year included 125 players plus their families and vehicles – to continue to hold practices of all of their teams at the same time at Brodie Park South for the coming summer/fall season. This location has parking facilities for 12 vehicles.
Residents have grown increasingly concerned with the active sports use of Brodie Park South. The Football program has held practices at Brodie Park South for 4 years but during 2011 the program’s use of the park intensified greatly: they held practices for its 4 teams and its cheerleaders five nights per week from 5 p.m. to 8-8:30 p.m. according to neighbors (from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. according to Football) during August, and three to four nights per week from September to mid-November. They also placed a large, metal POD in the park to store their equipment for 4 months without Rec permission or the required zoning permit. With parents remaining at the park during practice, there were at times 75 cars parked in the 12-car parking lot and along Niles Road. Construction lights were used to allow practice to continue well after dark, again without permission, and the sounds of whistles and cheers and coaches’ commands reverberated around the residential neighborhood in which the park is located. The Rec Commission as well as the town’s selectmen, local and state police and the Planning and Zoning Commission received multiple complaints and expressions of concern from residents during 2011 regarding the unsafe and disruptive situation created by the practices at the park without any one organization responding to the residents’ concerns.
Having been informed by the Rec Commission that practices of the entire Football program would again take place at Brodie Park South in 2012, the Friends of Brodie Park South came to the May 2 Rec Commission meeting to present a petition signed by approximately 150 town residents urging the Rec Commission to:
- Schedule sports practice at other parks/play fields in New Hartford; those areas being more appropriate, provide safer access and parking than Brodie Park South. Only utilize Brodie Park South after other playing fields are fully utilized.
- Consistently enforce the hours of access from sunrise to sunset. No night activities. No lights.
- Adhere to Conservation Commission field mowing schedule and maintenance guidelines.
Download a copy of the Friends of Brodie Park South petition: Petition Concerning The Use Of Brodie Park South (82)
Following the presentation of the petition to the Rec Commission by Heinz Beier on behalf of the Friends of Brodie Park South, Maria Moore, editor/reporter of NewHartfordPlus, presented the Rec Commission members with copies of the aerial views of the town’s school fields and park areas that have been allocated to Youth Sports as practice spaces with the 2011 summer/fall practice schedules noted on each aerial view. Maria said that having tracked the allocation of the practice spaces last year ”there seems to be room for improvement in the way fields are used and by which groups and the size of the group and the amount of parking they needed.” (See video, at 2 mins. 10 secs.) She especially drew the Rec Commission members’ attention to the aerials showing how Brodie Park North and Brodie Park South had been used: ”Brodie Park North was being used much less than Brodie Park South, even though Brodie Park North had a much bigger infrastructure: It can accommodate 150 cars, it has potentially 3 areas that can be used by different groups … while Brodie Park South was being used by 4 teams plus cheerleaders 5 nights per week during August and 3 nights per week during September through mid-November. Obviously, that’s a lot of people, a lot of kids to be supported there, especially since the adults want to stay at the field and remain there the whole time and the parking there is only for 12 cars. Based on the way the playing fields are allocated, my understanding is that there has been no formal way for Rec or anyone to match the needs of the team with the infrastructure at any one place.”
She then introduced the Coaches’ questionnaire, a form she had put together which allowed practice spaces to be be allocated according to the needs of the teams and the infrastructure each space offers. She explained the form this way:
“I put together a very, very, simple form for coaches to use so the coaches can write down how many kids they have on their teams, how many cars they wll have on location or special needs they may have. Underneath that I made a list of the practice areas available and I wrote down the infrastructure available at each practice area. By using this (form) I did a couple of examples and it’s very, very, easy to match the team with the practice space where they will have the least impact on the environment and still have their needs met. I brought copies of this (form) and I really urge the Rec Commission together with Youth Sports to adopt something along these lines… this is just an idea… but I really urge you to do that because there’s a lot of concern in town that now there are more teams, we would really like to have the spaces allocated to the best possible (way) before we start to build new infrastructure.”
Next to address the Rec Commission was Rick Berneike, Co-President of Soccer. Rick was followed by Steve Roth, President of Football.
Rick Berneike thanked Maria for her efforts and continued: “As probably most – quite a few – of the Commission members are aware with their involvement with Youth Sports over the years, in the 22 years that I’ve been doing this going all the way back to when Daria Hart and Ira Klein were presidents of this Commission, the Youth Sports organizations have managed to work together to divvy up practice sites in town and it’s been made very clear to us over all those years that neither the Rec Commission nor the Rec Director has wanted to insert themselves into that process and that’s been fine with us. Baseball and Soccer have worked together to divvy up field space and now with the advent of Football a few years ago that obviously threw more into the mix. I would urge this Commission to not get too heavily involved in the day-to-day process of running the practice fields. I think perhaps some adjustments need to be made in terms of who practices where but I think that probably with some slight direction from this Commission and Town Hall in general we can all work this out amongst ourselves.”
Steve Roth, President of Football, agreed with Rick Berneike (7 mins. 45 secs.). “I would actually second Rick. Over the years and this has been our 6th season as far as Football, but at least for 5 years we have worked with Youth Sports amongst themselves to find places to play, places to share certainly with Brown’s Corner game days and it’s worked well amongst Youth Sports. The advent of this controversy, for what controversy there is, seems to be not amongst the various sports and the Rec Commission so much as some of the neighbors of the adjacent fields and Youth Sports. That’s unfortunate, and we certainly want to try to work with everybody and have everyone be happy with the scenario and the situation but again this isn’t a Youth Sports issue necessarily, we all seem to be able to certainly develop our plans and work well together. It’s worked well in the past, for the Sports aspect of the situation. I would ask you to keep that in mind as we work towards a solution. Also, that being said we now have two more Rec Commission meetings before Football season starts and so I’d like to throw that out and ask that you expedite the process and get that process in place very soon because we have a lot of plans to make.”
Rec Commission member Dan Eddy (9 mins. 30 secs.) said that it’s significant to get reports from Youth Sports as to who practices where and that if anything seems amiss the Rec Commission speak with the Youth Sports representatives to get it straightened out, but to get involved in the day-to-day details of the practice schedules would be extremely time-consuming. “At this point in town, with what’s going on, I think we need to monitor it and be aware of what’s going on but I don’t think it’s our place to get involved in the day-to-day operations and whatever individual sports are doing.”
John Maschi, Rec Commission Chairman, agreed with Dan Eddy (11 mins. 20 secs). “I think I agree with that. I think the purpose of the Rec Commission is to generally oversee the operation of recreation in the town of New Hartford and get involved when there are issues which we do have an issue here and there is going to be a meeting on May 15 to discuss Brodie, but Youth Sports is a piece of New Hartford Recreation, part of the Rec Commission in general. I think Youth Sports has done a great job over the years of coordinating fields, coordinating times, coordinating different sports when, where, how. I don’t think it’s really been an issue, I think the people that have been scheduling it’s worked out well over the years. They’ve now put it together with Dennis’ direction… We’re now made aware of where everybody is – I think that’s the important piece of this. I have to agree with Dan, I don’t think we should get involved in that. Youth Sports has done a great job over the years, they’ve worked together and if it ain’t broke, I don’t see why we should fix it. They do a good job. If there’s an issue it gets to (Rec Director) Dennis (Minor) and if he has to bring it to us, he brings it to us for us… We spend an inordinate amount of time doing other things on this Commission and to get involved in scheduling is probably not a good use of our time.”
Dan Eddy thanked Maria for all her effort and all the time she put into getting together the information and Maria responded: “The reason I put in all of these hours, respectfully to the Rec Commission, is that seeing a location that has parking for 12 having 50 to 60 to 75 cars showing up 5 nights a week, I beg to differ that it’s been working well. And having the teams stay there until 9 o’clock at night with their own lights in a residential neighborhood, again, I beg to differ, that this is working well.”
A Friend of Brodie Park South, who was at the meeting, said that if it had been working well in the past, there has been a big explosion of Football and it hadn’t worked well last year. The petition they had turned in to the Rec Commission, he pointed out, had close to 200 signatures of people they had collected in a very short time and it showed that there are a lot of people who feel that it is not working well and are not in favor of it. From the way the spaces are being allocated, he said: “Like most things, where there are a lot of people you do need an authoritative body to help coordinate it… There is conflict right now and to say “If something comes up” at this time seems to be ignoring very much something that has already come up.”
Another Friend of Brodie Park South added: “It’s important to remember, too, that if you are going to change the rules that various groups were disallowed access after dark including boaters and basketball players. If you’re going to make changes in that you need to have that process clearly defined because people will come back to you and ask you why you were selective in the way you make approvals.”
Rick Berneike asked permission of the Rec Commission to ask the Friends of Brodie Park South a question, and having been granted permission, he asked the Friends at the meeting: “If Football moved elsewhere and that presented a case where they took over where Rec Soccer was playing and Rec Soccer moved to Brodie Park South and didn’t practice after dark and there were less cars up there would that be acceptable?”
One of the Friends of Brodie Park South answered: “Well, that’s interesting, I think it’s the first time we’ve ever heard anything about switching around. There has been activity up there for years as people have said, never has that parking lot been even full. We’ve seen kids kicking soccer balls around, people hitting a couple of golf balls and I don’t think anybody in the neighborhood thought anything of it. If you saw six cars in there you’d say: “Wow, what’s going on? There’s a crowd there? And there were never any lights, never any noise.”
“So the answer would be yes?” Rick asked.
“That is something that needs to be talked about. I think it’s great that you would say that. We’d definitely be interested in talking about that in detail.”
“It can’t be yes because we don’t have all the group here but it’s certainly something we would be interested in talking about.” Another Friend of Brodie Park South added.
A supporter of Football then asked a question regarding the environmental impact at Brodie Park South. She asked how having Football practice up at Brodie Park South had any impact on the environment. A Friend of Brodie Park South responded that it was a question best put to the Northwest Conservation District that had done an environmental impact study of Brodie Park South.
John Maschi then said that there would be a meeting on May 15 which would include two members of Youth Football (Steve Roth and Joe [last name?]), two members of the Rec Commission (Dan Eddy and John Maschi) and two members of the Friends of Brodie Park South.
John asked who the two representatives from the Friends of Brodie Park South would be. “We’re not sure. What is the topic of that committee,specifically?” One of the Friends asked.
“We’re going to discuss the use of Brodie South as it relates to Youth Sports using it for practice.” John answered.
“Youth Sports in general?”
“Could be. More specifically, Football.” John answered.
“You’ll be talking about how Football can use Brodie Park South?”
“That will be the strong topic of discussion.” John responded.
One member of the Friends of Brodie Park South offered to attend the meeting. No other member of that group present at the Rec Commission meeting volunteered to be at the May 15 meeting.