I am responding to some of the issues raised in the October 28 column by editor Bob Hall (“Council fails youth again”) regarding the proposed expansion of Little League baseball at Lions Park.
Lions Park is an amazing treasure within our community. Under the stewardship of the Lions Club and city works crews, we enjoy something close to an ideal neighbourhood space. On any warm spring evening, the field is alive with dog walkers, picnickers, ad hoc soccer games, and much more. People come to the park from every corner of the city and beyond for the great facilities and relaxed, friendly atmosphere. It is a privilege and a pleasure to live beside this small and very well-used park.
The Little League ball that is currently played at Lions Park every spring is part of its rich fabric. Little leaguers are respectful of neighbours and other park users. The Nelson Baseball Association should be commended for their fundraising efforts and their offer to upgrade the ball diamond at minimal cost to the city. Grassroots efforts like these enrich the whole community.
The baseball association, in consultation with the Lions Club, has brought forward a proposal that sincerely seeks to minimize impacts on other park users. This is recognized and appreciated. Occasional parking issues, noise and extra traffic are trivial inconveniences compared to all the benefits of living next to this park.
Due to concerns about errant balls, baseball can be challenging to accommodate alongside other park uses. The field of play proposed by the baseball association comprises at least two-thirds of available field space, substantially limiting any other concurrent uses. In a bigger park this may not be an issue, but Lions is small. Most importantly, the time requested by the association — late afternoons and evenings throughout the spring — are the peak demand periods for all other park users too. The baseball association outlined to council their intention to grow baseball in Nelson, and it expects that the improved facility at Lions Park will spur this growth. Baseball usage may be only 10 hours per week for now, but that could easily increase, further limiting other park users prime time access.
The concern is that Little League baseball — and the adult softball players who will inevitably be attracted to the improved facilities — will come to dominate the park to the detriment of all other interests. Nelson is a diverse community with many recreational needs. While ball players are part of the overall mix, they are only one of a number of interests laying claim to a limited amount of park space: frisbee throwers, dog walkers, free-playing kids and everyone else falling under the motley umbrella of “disorganized recreation.” Fair access for all park users during prime time should be maintained.
Park neighbours attending the October 24 committee of the whole meeting were grateful to have an opportunity to outline our concerns to council and learn more about the baseball proposal. Not one of the park neighbours presumes we have a right to determine what happens in the park. We do, however, hope our elected council will consider all information and points of view before making these important decisions. Following the October 24 meeting, I am confident that has now occurred.
If, as appears likely, city council decides that building the ball diamond at Lions Park is in the best interest of the public, then I will definitely support that. I may not agree with the decision, but I can be assured that it was reached fairly and with due process.