‘It Is Going To Hurt Us’: Parks Officials Seek Youth Sports’ ‘Fields Usage’ Funds To Fertilize Playing Fields


New Canaan’s playing fields will suffer this fall if funding doesn’t come through soon to fertilize them, parks officials say.

Playing fields at Waveny Park. Credit: Michael Dinan

Playing fields at Waveny Park. Credit: Michael Dinan

The fields at New Canaan High School and parks such as Waveny and Mead need two applications of fertilizer by the end of June, according to John Howe, parks superintendent in the Department of Public Works.

But this year, access to the funds typically available for the work has changed, under a new system whereby the nonprofit organizations that operate each youth sport pay a $20 per-player “fields usage fee” into the town’s General Fund, for re-allocation back to parks, officials said during a meeting last week of the Youth Sports Committee.

“If we are not going to see that money for a month, that means I am two months away,” Howe said during the volunteer group’s April 18 meeting, held at Lapham Community Center. “That money is going to come in at the end of the budget year. If I don’t have time to get the approvals, I am only going to get time to do one application.”

“A simple way of looking at this is: Our fields are in great shape because we’ve been doing everything. We are taking out one-quarter of their fertility. And it’s not like you are skipping one meal each day, it’s you’re skipping meals for one quarter of the year and that is going to be our biggest problem. It is going to hurt us. We will be saying in the fall that the fields are not in as good shape because we have lost that ability.”

This spring marks the first year under a formalized fields usage fee system, and a problem in funding is not expected to happen again, since the collected $20 payments will end up in the General Fund where Howe can access the money as needed, committee members said.

The problem just now is one of timing, they said. Specifically, this year, the fees must be paid in May so that Howe can request their release into outside contracts both to purchase the fertilizer and hire people to apply it, they said.

For this spring, a total of about $40,000 in total fields usage fees are expected to be paid out by baseball, lacrosse and soccer, according to committee Chairman Chris Robustelli.

The committee decided to contact directly the heads of the sports organization urging them to meet a May 1 payment due date for the fields usage fees, explaining the fertilizer situation.

The fees themselves, along with player rosters, are due seasonally—for example, the committee set a July 1 due date or baseball and softball summer programs, and a Sept. 1 due date for field hockey and football, according to Secretary Tracey Karl.

Recreation Director Steve Benko said the spring sports—soccer, lacrosse and basball—by now should have their rosters “pretty much set.”

Committee member Sally Campbell said, “The funds are there.”

Benko asked how the fields usage fee affected sports organizatiosn that use the fields but aren’t necessarily “Youth Sports” related. Those include a men’s soccer and lacrosse groups that play at the water tower turf field, high school track field and Conner Field.

“We should ask them for a contribution,” Benko said.

Campbell asked whether the recreation men’s softball leagues also should pay a fee, and Benko responded that no they shouldn’t, since it’s a town program.

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