County to City: Save McIntire
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."