County to City: Save McIntire

mcintire park softball players gameTo make room for parking and a multi-purpose field supporting a proposed YMCA at McIntire Park, City Council voted May 19 to destroy the two softball fields.
FILE PHOTO BY RYAN HOOVER

Despite a top administrator's attempt to focus the last Albemarle County Board of Supervisors' public meeting on lighting the softball fields at jointly owned Darden Towe Park, the conversation returned time and time again to the impending demise of softball at the City's McIntire Park.

"This decision is about Towe, not McIntire Park," Albemarle Parks & Recreation director Pat Mullaney said October 8.

But from the get-go, the discussion centered on McIntire, with Supervisors' chair Ken Boyd immediately disagreeing with Mullaney, saying, "I know it isn't about McIntire Park, but in actuality, it is.

"We do have a say-so in the City's decision," Boyd continued, "as we'd cover the cost of three-fourths of $700,000 in lighting."

While outspoken Towe neighbor Clara Belle Wheeler spoke out against lighting a traditionally rural area, the other 15 public participants–- including Bob Fenwick of the Save McIntire campaign, Chad Day of the Charlottesville Sports and Social Club, and Kurt Krueger of the Piedmont-Virginia YMCA– emphasized a desire to save McIntire's fields and warned of growing demand that's already created a bottleneck for field time, with supporters of girl's softball–- a league long denied a home base–- packing the hearing.

"It's imperative that you light Towe," said softball dad Marc Powell. "Look at all options and think about the future at the population of the county–- there's a lot of growth left to go."

The City's unilateral May 19 decision to replace McIntire's fields with a multi-use rectangular field created no shortage of frustration.

"It's not up to us to design McIntire Park or tell the City how the master plan should be executed," said Supervisor David Rooker. "But if we make the decision to light the fields at Towe, it cements the City's decision to shut down the fields at McIntire."

Supervisor David Slutzky agreed. "We're here," said Slutzky, "based on the premise that the proposed placement of the Y encroaches on the softball fields at McIntire. We're trying to find a way to expand playing time."

The City's director of Parks and Recreation, Mike Svetz, a driving force behind the controversial McIntire changes, revealed last week that a possibly slimmer footprint for the Y building might salvage the McIntire softball fields.

Chair Boyd and Supervisor Sally Thomas emphasized what has traditionally been a dark-skies area surrounding Towe, while Rooker and Slutzky talked about the county's growing athletic needs. While Mullaney urged the Board to give the staff an indication of their leaning–- "Would it be acceptable," he asked, "to create a long-range lighting plan at Towe?"–- the supervisors compromised by not lighting the fields, but not ruling it out either.

"We are not taking any action, but leaving lighting as an option in the future, should we have the need," Boyd announced. "We're inviting ourselves to sit down with the city to have a discussion of saving McIntire's fields based on the Y's footprint."

10 comments

Does the city government now have the courage to admit it blundered when it handed McIntire Park over the to Y?

I see very little courage on council. This evening Ambassador Norris said that the DP got it wrong when it said that councilors asked how the $2.1M budgeted for "affordable" housing was spent. He said that staff and councilors were talking about something else and they did know how the money was spent. Waving a piece of paper, he said that well over 100 homes were built or repaired last year in the city to provide "affordable" housing using this money. It will be interesting to see if he makes that list of homes public. Actually, I believe $140,000 and $70,000 went to the federal housing authority for some reason. Where is the $100,000 the city plans to give to the federal government for the housing authority to "plan" redevelopment coming from? Where is the money for the bus trip to take public housing residents to NC to see a development project coming from?
The excuse the city is making is the smaller YMCA facility will allow them to situate the building differently on the site and therefore the city may retain the lighted fields. That says the county should wait until after the construction of the Y begins before it bothers to waste time on maybe-unnecessary lights at Towe. If the city chooses to deplete it's stock of softball fields it should bear the cost of replacing them and not impose upon the county's coffers.

Let the COUNTY deal with it own softball needs. The way it stands, the county wants the city to provide the space and fields-except for Piedmont Community.Col.
The county is manipulative. For example, Everyone knows, the county's main goal is to push its own traffic through as per the Meadowcreek Pkway.
Come on city of C'ville, WAKE UP QUICK!!!

"Let the COUNTY deal with it own softball needs." Mmm...not so much. The CITY is the jurisdiction with the softball problem. It is the CITY leagues that require fields. CITY leagues that pay the CITY to play.

The County is manipulative? My friend, the County of Albemarle pays the City of Charlottesville $10 million in extortion payola each year to prevent the City from trying to annex Fashion Square.

This isn't City v. County as much as it is reasonable common sense v. staff members who gave away a huge chunk of public land to the YMCA without realizing that there would be such an outcry. Maybe Svetz figured the softball players were too busy playing drinking games or dragging their knuckles to notice.

But since you seem so anxious to pit City against County and disregard cooperative agreements that have been mostly workable for many years, I'll tell you what: you keep McIntire, and do whatever you want with it.

We'll our reservoirs. With the reduced capacity there will be no need to construct a new one.

Deal?

Music lover, I will agree, the city should never have given up public land to the Y. I do stand by my statements in that the county is manipulating the city. Actually, the county has been doing so successfully for years. It was plain foolish for the city to sell off the old Lane High school property to the county. The city needs this property now and it is gone. The same thing is happening with the Parkway situation. The county will recieve the better deal. It is the city that will endure the mess, fumes and bypassing county traffic, through the center of the city. As you know the city will lose valuable parkland, all because of pressure from the county.

You got yer McIntire Park crusades screwed up there, Hookies. Stratton's gig has nothin' to do with the softball fields being relocated. It has to do with VDOT and the County gearin' up to tear up a huge chunk of McIntire Park for the Meadowcreek Parkway, which is where ALL the Save McIntire Park people need to be focusing 100% of their efforts right now. Moving softball fields is trivial in the extreme compared to this travesty.

That is inaccurate. The Meadowcreek Parkway would not affect the softball fields. It would result in the destruction of 2 (or 3) of the holes of the golf course, though.

Which, as I've stated before, leaves a worthless 6 or 7 hole course left. Remove the remainder of the course, locate the YMCA over there, move the multi-purpose field over there. The YMCA will benefit from being in a more high-traffic area with possible exits off of Meadowcreek Parkway (as well as traffic entering from the current 250/McIntire spot). The city/county get a great multi-purpose field, AND keep the current McIntire fields. Towe should also be lighted as well due to the lack of field space in the city/county and the continued growth.

These are the same issues that have occurred in No. VA and we will probably get the same results. The demands of the youth athletics will take priority over adults. CHS desparately needs more field space for spring sports as well as the youth football teams in the fall (several weekends of youth football had to be cancelled when local high school would not allow them to use their fields). The city has turned over Azalea and Tonslor fields over the youth softball.

The county needs to step up here and allow lights at Towe. It makes no sense that the tennis courts can have lights but not the softball fields. The enviromental impact of lighted fields at Towe is nothing compared to endless housing/condo/commercial development that the county has permitted in that area.