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Township Talks About Fees For Use Of Its Athletic Fields

SANATOGA PA – A suggestion to create a football field at one of Lower Pottsgrove‘s parks has sparked a Board of Commissioners‘ discussion over whether the township should charge other municipalities and sports organizations fees to use its athletic facilities.

A fall youth soccer game at Richards Park (file photo)

Commissioners so far are only talking about the issue, and took no formal action on either the field or the fees. But their tone of conversation made it clear several were irked by what they see as rising expenses to build and maintain public spaces heavily used by residents from neighboring communities without any accompanying financial support.

Commissioner Stephen Klotz said it was his hope to “keep our kids here closer to home” when, during the board’s March 5 meeting, he proposed the township consider creating football practice space at Gerald Richards’ Park on Buchert Road.

The cost could be kept low, Klotz said, by minimizing its size. “Maybe we make it only a half-field, with a single goalpost,” he volunteered. Some parts of Richards’ fields have substantial drainage problems, however, and fellow Commissioner James Kaiser noted practicing in those areas would not only be a muddy affair, but could also substantially damage them.

“What are the other townships doing?,” Kaiser then asked, referring primarily to Upper and West Pottsgrove. All of them have parks, he said, and some have fields for specialty uses like soccer, but none to the extent built in Lower Pottsgrove.

“And all the sports organizations seem to come to Lower when they need a field to use,” Commissioner Michael McGroarty chipped in. “Which is fine, but it’s our taxpayers footing the bill,” Kaiser added.

A few organizations – the Pottsgrove Soccer Club was cited as an example – pay to maintain fields for their use at Richards and Sanatoga Park. The township is in negotiations with local baseball and softball clubs, Assistant Manager Alyson Elliott said, for a similar maintenance agreement covering the ball field at Sanatoga. Commissioners said they wanted to see more of such support.

A few years ago, Kaiser observed, sports facilities in Lionville PA were closed to all but that municipality’s residents until others who used facilities there began paying for upkeep. Neither he or any other board member threatened similar action here, but Kaiser drove his point home.

“If you’re going to come to Lower and use our fields,” he said in an apparent address to non-residents, “we’d like you to pay your fair share.”

Of particular interest to Kaiser is advance planning that gets sports organizations involved in raising money to build fields and facilities they will use. “They should start fund-raising now for what may be needed five years down the road. We need as a township to say, ‘We’re not going to do this alone. Here’s what you need to do to fund this’.”

Elliott estimated the cost of installing one large field, without parking or support structures, is about $500,000. “It’s a very big expense,” she said, that in the past has in part been subsidized by grants or donations. Those have dried up, she noted.

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for March 22 (Thursday) in the municipal building, 2199 Buchert Rd.

Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ meeting of March 5):

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