City joins County: no lights for Towe softball
In an abrupt decision, Charlottesville's leaders have suspended until an undetermined date a planned public hearing scheduled for their next City Council meeting–- leaving local softball players in limbo without a firm decision on the future of either Darden Towe or McIntire Park's softball fields.
Following the example of Albemarle County's Board of Supervisors– which recently decided not to sign a resolution approving the lighting of Towe's three softball fields–- City Council has taken the issue of lighting Towe off its radar for the time being.
"Because the County chose to defer their decision, the City chose to defer taking up the issue at this point," says Charlottesville Director of Parks and Recreation Mike Svetz. "We'll wait longer because although the city does co-own the park, it is in County property and directly affects County residents."
Instead of holding a forum for softball, the City will include on the November 3 consent agenda the issue of lighting Towe's tennis courts, a pill that was easily swallowed by the County back on August 13. The tennis lighting has been seen as a less controversial issue, especially with private funds expected to pay for it. With the County embroiled in a budget budget crisis, pouring money into Albemarle parks is not a realistic option.
"Even if the softball resolution was accepted," says County Parks and Recreation Director Pat Mullaney, "there's no money around to do the work."
While the City and County have stalled the progress of Charlottesville softball–- a league that was initially overlooked in the City's McIntire Park master planning process–- softballers have recently stepped up efforts to make their voices heard.
Led by softball player Bob Fenwick, who organized the Save McIntire campaign, the McIntire Park Preservation Committee has formed. The committee, which is also run by Towe neighbor Clara Belle Wheeler and softball supporters Mala Cunningham and Randy Page, plan on keeping the issue of field space at the forefront of the city's awareness.
"Not lighting Towe was an appropriate move since the City basically tried to force the hand of the County," Fenwick said in an email. "This delay will now give us time to present to the citizens of the city the entire picture of losing the best part of McIntire Park."
Despite indefinitely pushing back their Towe lighting decision, the City expects to move forward on a McIntire overhaul. As the Piedmont YMCA begins its building design phase, Svetz expects to revisit the controversial master plan that removed McIntire's two softball fields in the first place.
"The master plan is not in stone," Svetz says. "To do due diligence and the best thing for the community as a whole, revisiting the master plan is the right thing to do."