Home run: City approves policy amendment for youth baseball usage of Lions Park
The City is stepping up to the plate to help knock home several long-standing issues for youth baseball and adult slo-pitch.
An amendment proposed for the Sports Field User Policy — that identifies guidelines for the allocation and management of City sports fields — could see “fairer access” to the City’s sport fields, Lakeside and Lions parks after City council approved the policy amendment during a council meeting Dec. 5.
The policy changes address changing demographics, registration trends, user demand and field management in a fair and equitable manner by proposing an earlier start date (or later closure) to the fields, an increase in maximum hours of use at Lions Park — from 150 to 275 hours — and cancellations due to weather or poor field conditions would no longer carry a financial penalty.
On Sept. 23 the Nelson Baseball Association (NBA) and Nelson Mixed Slo-pitch (NMS) submitted a joint letter to the City and the Lion’s Club relating to the urgent need for changes to the policy.
“As the City is aware, the issue of a field hours usage ‘cap’ at Lions Park has been a long-lingering impediment to the Nelson Baseball Association as it significantly limits or negates its ability to deliver and grow its youth baseball programming for girls and boys aged 5-10,” the letter, signed by NBA president J. Stewart and NMS president Lauren Penfound, read.
Seven years ago City staff responded to a request to develop a Sport Field User Policy (SFUP) that outlined guidelines to help prioritize field use allocation.
“Staff engaged the Nelson Baseball Association on a number of occasions to discuss proposed changes to the policy,” noted City director of Corporate Services, Sarah Winton, in a report to City council on Dec. 5.
Stewart said the game had surpassed the limitations of SFUP and ongoing “band-aid” solutions.
“We need help to maintain and further develop the game in our community, and it starts with the kids and amending the SFUP and designating Lions Park as a hybrid ‘neighbourhood park and sports field’ for 16 weeks of the year,” he wrote.
Previously, Lions Park has been designated a neighbourhood park by the City, which limited the NBA to 150 hours to run all of its youth baseball programming for children in the under-10 age group.
The new ask from the NBA is for a hybrid model for the park — neighbourhood park and sport field — for 16 weeks of the year during the youth baseball season, from mid-April to late June, and early September through the Thanksgiving.
A hybrid designation eliminates the gray area that precludes youth baseball from fully utilizing Lions, said Stewart in the letter.