'Bothered' Boyd slams City for McIntire softball exile
After making an unprecedented decision to green-light athletic lights at Darden Towe's tennis courts last month, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors may be putting on the brakes. For Chairman Ken Boyd, the decision might have been one made without enough public input, and he now says he's "bothered" by the City's decision to exile softball from McIntire Park.
In a "community conversation" set for September 11, Boyd plans on opening the floor to his constituents to air their feelings about the potential lighting of Towe's three softball fields–- a move that would defy all previous understandings that Towe is a daytime park.
The quest to light Towe began with the City's May 19 decision to approve a master plan for McIntire Park–- a controversial concept that includes giving public land and money to the YMCA and destroying McIntire's two heavily-utilized softball fields in favor of a single artificially-turfed multi-purpose field.
In justifying the decision to oust Charlottesville's adult softball community from its longtime home at McIntire, Director of Parks and Recreation Mike Svetz proposed turning to Towe–- a regional park co-owned by the city and the county– as a replacement, asking both governments to consider lighting Towe's softball fields in order to maintain the same level of play.
In looking to light Towe, Svetz and the city began what has been a months-long struggle to decide the fate of both Towe and Charlottesville softball. Towe neighbor Clara Belle Wheeler claims that "the city and county gave an assurance to never have lights at Darden Towe Park."
Which is where Boyd's community conversation comes in. In a public meeting held August 13, the Board of Supervisors voiced support for lighting Towe's tennis courts, but the Board held off on approving the lighting resolution until its next meeting, set for tomorrow night. However, based on public feedback Boyd received after the August 13 decision, that resolution could remain unsigned.
"I'm really not sure how I'm going to go on the tennis lights," Boyd says. "There's not a lot of tennis use at Towe; there's not high activity there."
Whatever the outcome of the tennis lighting, lighting the softball fields is a completely separate ball game– which is why Boyd is pushing to hear more from the community.
"I want to discuss it with the people, rather than listen to a three-minute speech," Boyd says. "I just don't have a feel for it, so I'm hoping to get a good example from the conversation."
The one thing that puzzles Boyd and his constituents is the City's almost unilateral decision to push McIntire softball to Towe. While Towe is already used frequently by the city's softball league, the lack of lights prevents night games, a mainstay of the City's largest recreational league.
"One of the questions my constituents and I have is–- is there another alternative? Do we really have to get rid of McIntire Park?" asks Boyd. "Those are discussions that we haven't had with the City– it's something that bothers me."
Repeated calls to Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris, who led City Council's unanimous decision to overhaul McIntire, sans softball, were not returned.
Both the City and County have set up public meetings, for October 20 and October 8 respectively, to hear the public's opinion on the lighting of Towe's fields. But for Boyd, a public meeting may not be enough. He says there are still conversations that the county must have with the public–- and with the City.