Officials with the Batavia Bulldawgs, a youth football program with about 150 participants, were surprised recently to learn from city officials that they wouldn't have full use of Kibbe Park for practices, said John Reigle, Bulldawgs president.
Reigle said the four age-bracketed teams need a lot of space and a lot of parking for parents and coaches on practice days and only Kibbe Park provides enough space.
A newly formed men's softball league reserved the ball field at Kibbe, creating a scheduling conflict between the two uses.
City Manager Jason Molino said the city has seen an increase in the number of organized groups looking to use city parks over the past couple of years and that means the city needs to find a way to juggle the interests of all those groups.
"It's a new issue," Molino said. "It's not a bad issue. It's a good issue. There are multiple different organizations wanting to use the parks. In the past, the parks were available on a first-come, first-served basis, but as we get different organizations, football, softball, tennis, it creates conflicts. We need to figure out a way to get with all parties and work out a schedule."
Reigle said the Bulldawgs were a little caught off-guard by change in park use. For several years, going back at least 10 years if you include Batavia Youth Football, local youth football programs have used Kibbe Park for practice without reservations. Reigle said he wishes city officials had informed the Bulldawgs it needed to reserve the space for the first time before giving the time and space to another group.
This season, the Bulldawgs will practice where they play, at Lion's Park.
That's not an ideal situation because of limited parking in the area.
Riegle fears the increase in traffic four days a week will have a negative impact on residents on Wallace Street.
"On Saturday game days, as a courtesy to the neighbors, we put out cones in front of their front yards and driveways so people won't park there," Riegle said. "It's a small street and traffic flow in and out of the park is difficult."
Molino offered the team a city-owned field on Cedar Street, in front of the County Highway Department, but that field hasn't been used in years. At one time, before Batavia Sports Park, it was used for youth soccer. It hasn't been maintained since and Riegle said the ground is too hard and rutted now to be used safely for practice.
Which brings up another issue Molino said the city is facing as recreational sports use of the parks increases -- field prep and maintenance.
The city doesn't have a recreation department and doesn't have the resources to perform the kind of prep work that might be common for recreational leagues in other cities.
"In a way, this comes up at a good time," Molino said. "Our strategic plan outlines the need to do a recreational needs assessment. That can be done through the comprehensive planning process. We can look at what the needs are and develop that into the comprehensive plan so we know what these services cost and what it will take to fund them. It's a good public process that will help us understand the needs and demands on our parks."
Molino said he realizes Reigle isn't 100-percent satisfied with the outcome of their discussions about the situation, but both men are open to exploring the use of the field on Cedar Street for next season.
"The Bulldawgs are committed to continue providing a great program for the kids," Reigle said. "We'll make do with what's best for the safety of the kids."