There's been a lot of talk -- and a lot of misconception -- about the Joint Village-BOE Fields Committee in recent months. I thought it would be helpful to take a look back at how the committee came to be.
According to BOE member Charlie Reilly, who was the first chair, the Fields Committee was formed around 1994-95 and arose out of two problems: poor maintenance of the fields and conflicts over scheduling.
The committee worked to convince the youth sports groups to donate funds for sprinkler systems for the fields in order to provide better maintenance. Marriott, which was responsible for maintenance of fields and buildings after 1993 or so, did a great job for many years, according to Reilly, but the fields were beaten up with overuse. Since the fields were owned by the BOE and the Village, Reilly worked with Councilman Pat Mancuso to have Village representation in the form of Village Parks & Rec Director Tim Cronin and the Village Fields Manager. The plan was to meet monthly with the RHS athletic director and any sports group representatives who wished to attend. The Committee worked out which fields would get sprinkler systems as
funds became available, mainly donated by the sports groups. The committee also discussed and prioritized improvements that could help make fields more playable.
Reilly recalls one early Fields Committee project, which was to encourage the Village to dig up tons of heavy debris, such as cinder blocks, that had been deposited at Brookside Field from the time it was a dumping area for construction debris. After digging up the debris, field was leveled off to make it more playable. The Committee tried to do improvements to at least one field every year.
At the request of the BOE and Council, the Committee also worked on the scheduling of fields. Tim Cronin handled all field scheduling for several years until resident Ed Seavers took over that responsibility within the Committee. Before scheduling was taken over by the Fields Committee, sports groups would come to BOE meetings and fight during public comment over what sport should be on what field. Needless to say, it was not an efficient way to manage schedules.
Currently, the Fields Committee is chaired by the RHS Athletic Director Nick Scerbo and Tim Cronin, the Village Parks & Rec Director. The Committee continues to manage the scheduling and allocation of fields, with input from the school programs and youth programs. Each outdoor youth sport has a representative on the committee. I'm there as the BOE liaison, and Bernie Walsh is there from the Village Council. A representative from the District's field maintenance company attends. There are also two "at large" members who are members of the community, not affiliated with any sport. They are there to represent the interests of neighbors of the fields.
As a final note, Charlie Reilly has owned up to being responsible for the 7:00 AM meeting time. His rationale was to ensure that the Village fields manager and Marriott people could come to the meetings before going off to work. This way, the sports groups had the direct ear of the people actually responsible for the work being done. Charlie (and other volunteers, I presume) also wanted to get to work at a decent hour.
What I find most interesting about the Fields Committee is that it is one of the few, if not the only, truly joint groups in town, taking a collaborative approach to managing a complicated set-up of fields, owners and users.
Representatives of the Fields Committee will attend our BOE meeting on Monday night to give feedback, provide information and present a revised draft of the Fields Use Policy. The expectation is that the Board will also hear public comment, and will probably vote on Monday night. If the policy is approved, it will go to the Village Council (tentative date March 23) for discussion during a work session and then for approval at a subsequent meeting. Public comment will also be available at Village Council meetings.
Meanwhile, the snow is melting and the spring sports season -- guided by the existing Fields Use Policy -- opens this weekend. Go Maroons!
Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org