by Andrew Martin
A new source of funding may be needed for the Hyde Park Recreation Committee. On November 8 the Hyde Park Selectboard approved a new Facility Use Policy which will severely limit the use of alcohol on town property. Members of the Recreation Committee now fear that the adult softball tournaments and leagues that often use the town-owned fields on McFarlane Road will now look elsewhere for a venue given the new policy. Those league and tournaments currently provide a large portion of the committee’s income.
“Those fields are currently used by all factions of the community,” commented Hyde Park Recreation Committee member Ken Harvey via phone interview, “There has been a great deal of maintenance work on those fields done by volunteers from the adult leagues, and those leagues and the state tournaments provide a great deal of income.”
The new Facility Use Policy in Hyde Park states that “No alcohol is allowed in any Town-owned buildings or on Town-owned land.” The policy goes on to explain that the current lone exception to the rule is that if the Hyde Park Selectboard gives permission than alcohol can be served at the Grange Hall in North Hyde Park by a licensed caterer or third party if those entities have the proper liquor liability insurance.
“…the Selectboard wanted to be consistent for all town facilities and the exception for the Grange includes the requirement that renters of that facility provide additional insurance to cover the increased risk,” explained Hyde Park Town Administrator Ron Rodjenski via email. He went on to state that the new policy also has the goal of covering the increased liability risk to town taxpayers when alcohol is consumed at events on town property.
While the board is working to better protect the town with the new policy Harvey and the Recreation Committee worry that if enforced the new policy will drive away sources of income at the softball fields. The three fields off McFarlane Road are used by a variety of male, female, and co-ed softball leagues and tournaments, all of which pay to use the fields while also donating time and effort to help maintain the facilities. The Vermont adult state tournaments provide further income in the form of fees as well as through the sale of food at the newly constructed concession stand.
“People often bring a cooler and have a few beers while playing,” explained Harvey, “Historically, alcohol has been allowed at the fields unless children are playing at the same time. The members of the Recreation Committee are always at any adult events. In the time since the fields were opened there has only been one incident where an individual was asked to leave and not come back, and that incident was not alcohol related.”
Harvey went on to explain that given the new policy the committee fears that they will lose many of the state tournaments to other nearby facilities in Waterbury and Newport and that the local adult leagues will also find new venues.
“We have received indications that the leagues and tournaments may not return, and if that is the case than the committee may have to seek funding from the town to compensate for that loss,” said Harvey.
Harvey went on to estimate that combined the local leagues and state tournaments bring in approximately $8,000.
“We have expressed our concerns to the Selectboard, but they felt it best to enact the policy,” said Harvey, “The committee is meeting this week to discuss where we are going from here.”
The new Facility Use Policy does allow the Hyde Park Selectboard the opportunity to change their decision. In the policy it is stated that “This Policy may be modified any time by the Selectboard…”