Regulations for town-owned parks deliberated

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 7:30am
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The New Shoreham Town Council is pondering how town-owned parks and playgrounds should be regulated, and what kind of policy, or policies, should be implemented for events that are hosted by the public on those properties.

Margie Comings, Chair of the Old Harbor Task Force, met with the Town Council at a recent meeting to discuss the topic. The OHTF is the organization behind proposing regulations and restrictions for town-owned park use, and enforcement that will be overseen by Town Manager Ed Roberge. Town-owned parks are: Ball O’Brien Park, Esta’s Park, Fred Benson Town Beach, Heinz Field, Mary D. Park, Negus Park, and Nicholas Ball Park.

The OHTF is proposing a policy “to govern the use of town-owned parks and playgrounds by individuals, groups, and/or organizations that are not directly associated with the Town of New Shoreham, its employees, office or departments.”

The proposal states: “All activities requiring town permits, or the approval of the Recreation Director, Town Manager, or the Town Council must comply with the park application and use conditions outlined in this policy.” The policy notes that activities, or events hosted by the Town of New Shoreham are exempt from the policy’s regulations.

During the discussion, Councilor Sven Risom said, “I was wondering if we could split this into two types of parks,” noting the distinction between a park and a playground.

“We spent quite a bit of time on this today,” said Comings. “And we came to the conclusion that we really need two separate park policies. One for the three little downtown parks, and one for Ball O’Brien Park, the Fred Benson Beach Pavilion, and Heinz Field.”

“I think that’s a good point,” said First Warden Ken Lacoste. “I think there needs to be a delineation between parks and playgrounds, versus beaches. The beaches are a different animal altogether, and deserve their own set of regulations, if they don’t already exist.”

The Town Council tabled the item to its next meeting so that a draft of the policy, or policies, could be reviewed and then discussed.

An open dialogue

In other news, Councilor Risom and the Town Council are interested in having town boards, commissions, committees and organizations attend Council meetings to foster an open, fluid dialogue between the groups. “My goal is to increase communication between the Town Council and the town’s various boards and commissions,” said Risom. “My suggestion is that we should meet with them on a semi-regular basis.”

“I sort of broke them into A, B, and C priorities,” said Risom, noting that he was open to revising the groups, and that “the A priority group would be the Housing Board, the Broadband Committee, Harbors Committee, Planning Board, Early Learning Center, and Senior Advisory Committee.”

Risom noted that he could work with the Town Manager to slot the A-group and other boards into upcoming work sessions. Risom said the discussions could help inform budget and infrastructure needs. “It’s not about numbers; it’s about what’s going on with the town,” he said.

Councilor André Boudreau said that the Town Council could invite a board to each of their 22 meetings, but it might be better served attending meetings held by other boards and commissions. “This is going to take a long time,” he said. “I’m all for it, but in the meantime we need to discuss this. We should try, as best as we can, to go to those meetings.”

Councilor Martha Ball asked former First Warden Kim Gaffett what the Council’s protocol had been before. Gaffett said that the Town Council did what Boudreau recommended, and went to meetings.

“The only problem I have is with scheduling,” said Lacoste. “Some of these groups hold meetings in the middle of the day.” Councilor Chris Willi agreed with Boudreau, and noted that, “It would be nice to get written reports from the boards.”

As for the next step in the process, Risom said he would work with Lacoste and Roberge on a plan moving forward. Boudreau noted that whatever the Council planned should not be a “mechanism to micro-manage committees.” The Town Council members agreed with that approach.

The next Town Council meeting is Wednesday, May 16 at 7 p.m.