Towe tennis courts to be lighted
In what has recently been a hot issue, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors agreed in its public meeting Wednesday, August 13, that, contingent upon some additions to the original resolution, they will support lighting the tennis courts at Darden Towe Park.
The public meeting heard support from several tennis groups, including the Charlottesville Tennis Patrons Association, while various neighborhoods from Forest Lakes to vocal Towe neighbor Clara Belle Wheeler expressed opposition.
"Once lights are there, it's going to get bigger and bigger and bigger," Wheeler cautioned the Board. "The city and county gave an assurance to never have lights at Darden Towe Park."
Dave Emmitt, of a nearby subdivision, echoed that sentiment. "The community," he said, "put trust in the Board of Supervisors that every effort would be made not to start lighting Darden Towe."
Nevertheless, the Board warmed to the idea of lighting the courts presented by the Department of Parks and Recreation and voted provisionally to allow Towe's four courts to be illuminated. Several Supervisors expressed a need for the lights to be as energy-efficient as possible, with the lights remaining off when the courts are not in active use. The Board also insisted that the resolution make clear that the lights must be full cut-off, turning off automatically by 10pm, and that the project be privately funded. The $125,000 expenditure will not come from the County's budget, but will be raised by the Charlottesville Tennis Patrons Association.
Despite approving the tennis court lights, the elephant in the corner was the upcoming public hearing to light Towe's softball fields. The Supervisors kept clarifying the purpose of this public hearing, insisting that their approval would not set a precedent for future Towe lighting. Emphasis on the culture of tennis–- it being a quiet, well-behaved sport–- was constant, as were comments such as, "We're clearly talking about just the tennis courts," and, "This is different from other things that might be talked about."
"Lighting the courts and lighting the fields are two completely separate issues," County Director of Parks and Recreation Pat Mullaney says. "I have no idea what the Board will do in October."
Nevertheless, a small victory has been won for Charlottesville tennis enthusiasts. The Board deferred approving the resolution until its September 3 meeting, requiring more specific amendments. While the look and feel of Towe may be changing in the coming months (although no actual construction will occur until both the city and county approve the resolution), local softballers–- facing exile from their longtime home at the City's McIntire Park–- must wait until October, when both the city and county will be holding public meetings to decide the fate of Towe's three softball fields.