Recreation and Parks

At our meeting on March 12, 2012, we heard a report from staff about the current policy regarding the use of our Town Commons, and whether we wanted to investigate any changes to the policy.  Most of the agenda item consisted of a history of the modifications to the policy (for example, expansion of the Farmer’s Market, allowing fundraisers, allowing other events of different durations under certain conditions, and discussing insurance requirements).   One suggested change we were made aware we might consider was whether we wanted staff to investigate allowing the sale and consumption of alcohol at the Town Commons (we have such a policy at the Century Center).    Making such a change to the policy would allow us to attract different kinds of events, such as a “Cask Ale Festival” as suggested by Tyler Huntington of locally owned Tyler’s Taproom.

Before we considered the motion, we spent a good deal of time asking various town employees how increasing our special events has affected their existing workloads.   In particular, we spoke with Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison and Public Works Director George Seiz.  Recreation and Parks Director Anita Jones-McNair was also in the audience. These three departments, in particular, are affected by this increase in events.

Annette Stone, our Economic Development Director, has done a bang-up job highlighting special events and bringing new ones to the Town, and partnering with local businesses to increase these (witness the Tift Merritt concert held in fall of 2011 at Town Commons as well as the “For the Love of Carrboro” February themes, among others).  But with an increase in these type of activities comes more work on our already busy staff, and we wanted to signal to the Town Manager (David Andrews) that we recognize this and if necessary, we should explore creative solutions to accommodate our goal to add events, but not burn out or overwork staff.  David agreed that he was aware of this, and was working to identify ways to address these concerns.

The Board voted unanimously for staff to bring back to the Board procedures that would allow alcohol on the Town Commons property, also taking into account all insurance requirements.

At our March 9 board meeting, we were asked to approve two road races (an 8K and a duathlon which includes a bike ride), as they were being run on the streets of Carrboro and would impact our public works and other staff as well as town citizens.   I noticed that the two sponsors for the Carrboro Classic Endurance Festival were for-profit groups.  The paperwork noted that monies raised would go to Durham County Habitat for Humanity (as well as “Swim for Smiles,” an Orange County organization).  I asked that the sponsors consider having the profits from next year’s festival benefit the Orange County Habitat for Humanity.

I have previously raised the issue of groups that have road races in our community.  I believe we are more than accommodating for these events, which is why I believe we are asked to host so many.   I support these road races and think they are a fine addition to our active, vibrant town.

But, I do think in cases where we have for-profit groups holding races that benefit non-profit groups from other counties that also have a branch or office in Orange County that we should have some type of policy that any donated monies (basically, race proceeds) from the race go toward the Orange County non-profit (a good point was made to me from a local runner that usually, the non-profits that benefit from these monies staff the road races with groups of volunteers – point taken.  I believe it would be reasonable to expect that Orange County non-profits be required to be up to this task.) 

In Carrboro, we have an ongoing quest to support our local non-profits, and this would be one way to address this need.  This is being placed on a future agenda for discussion at some point.

As a former recreation professional, liaison to our Recreation and Parks Commission and all-around avid sports and recreation nut, I feel a bit of a tug when I vote in a manner that does not seem to support these types of activities. However, I have found that one of my priorities these days on the BOA is to carefully look at every decision we make through a financial lens.

At our February 19, 2008 meeting, we discussed a request from the Orange County Board of County Commissioners to consider waiving soccer field rental fees for groups that might contribute to the cost of artificial turf to be installed on one or two of the Smith Middle School soccer fields. Note that although these fields are not owned by the Town, Carrboro is responsible for reserving and collecting rental fees for the community soccer field at Smith, pursuant to an inter-local agreement.

After we received an initial staff report, I asked several follow-up questions in an effort to find a way to justify contributing in some fashion to this request, but in the end, it simply did not make financial sense. For one, we were not certain of the total amount of rental fees that were to be waived, because of the uncertainty of the amount of money groups might contribute, and the uncertainty of the cost of the turf on the field or fields. Second, if we waived the fees until these groups were totally paid back for their contributions, these groups might use the fields for many years, quite possibly well beyond the life of the fields. Finally, in an effort to look at the installation of artificial turf in a way that could end up generating more revenue for the Town because the fields would be more marketable, past rental records showed that the groups that would be contributing to the cost of the fields currently use most of the prime time on the fields, and that the time periods left to rent to make extra money would be minimal. Given this information, it would not have been a financially responsible decision to waive these soccer field rental fees.

As for road races … we have had an increasing number of road race requests come before the BOA. We have asked staff to prepare a report on how frequent these races are and how much they impact staff. These road races are usually held early Saturday mornings.

The benefits of having road races are many. Carrboro has a large running population, and many groups start their runs at the Town’s perennial store for runners, Fleet Feet, located in Carr Mill Mall. A visual demonstration to fitness and health is one we want to continue and promote. At the same time, we are aware that these road races have an impact on residents, neighborhoods and traffic flow in our community, as well as the workload of Town staff.

The time may be approaching when we might need to put a cap on the number of races we authorize in the Town. In addition, to date we have only charged what is ascertainable as direct costs to these road race organizers. We may need to consider a modification of what we charge, particularly with regard to any for-profit road races. In any event, whatever we do, we need to give due consideration to our runners as well as our community.