'Turf' Wars Ahead?

Haldane’s field

 Haldane board ponders what to do about sports fields

By Michael Turton

Work on “the next big thing” at Haldane has begun and it’s bound to generate some very interesting conversations across Philipstown in the months ahead. The issue is the condition of the Haldane sports fields and in the some cases the total lack of facilities. The question is what to do about it and at what cost.

A standing room only crowd filled the Haldane music room on Tuesday Dec. 21 to listen as Athletic Director Tom Cunningham outlined some of the major challenges the current sports fields pose.  Cunningham pointed out that the main field, which includes the football field, has a long list of shortcomings that include over-use, crowded conditions that make it difficult for physical education classes to share the field, lack of restrooms, lack of field recovery time, lack of irrigation and lack of drainage. The field also fails to meet standards set for a regulation soccer field.

Cost is great concern
What may cause unrest if not outright conflict is the potential extent and cost of a project large enough to remedy current conditions while also providing the new facilities that many feel are needed.  In an email to Philipstown.org in the days following the meeting, Haldane School Board President Dave Merandy said, “Our game plan is to gather information from all the organizations that use the fields in Philipstown . . . and go from there. At this point all options are on the table and will be discussed – grass vs. turf, lights, a field just for game use – the whole nine yards.” Merandy said that improvements to the sports fields and facilities are a priority for the school board. “As far as priorities go, after the budget and contracts, this is number one.  We will be giving it full attention.” He described condition of the main field as, “deplorable in a town that is so involved in sports.”

Cost of improvements and new facilities is on Superintendent Villanti’s mind, as is quality and safety. “Costs have to be taken into consideration with any project. Our main field, however, is sub-standard.”  In addition to the problems outlined by Cunningham, Villanti pointed out that Haldane, “can not play sectional games or varsity soccer (at the main field).We do not have a track or practice course for our Sectional Cross Country Champions. And the safety of running on side roads has been brought into question.” Haldane currently uses a number of sports facilities owned by the Village of Cold Spring, Town of Philipstown and the St. Basil Academy. Representatives of those organizations along with Little League Baseball, Pop Warner Football and other sports organizations attended last week’s meeting.

Rec. department and residents comment
Amber Stickle, supervisor of the Philipstown Recreation Department sees the situation in much broader terms. “I don’t see this as just a Haldane issue, I see it as a town-wide issue.  It doesn’t make sense for us all to try and solve the field issues separately.  We are going to have to work together if we want to efficiently meet the needs to the community.” At a time when local governments across New York are looking for ways to streamline operations and end duplication she sees that cooperation is a given.  “That is why (Philipstown) Rec is so involved in this process right now.  It does not make sense to be duplicating services -we really want to examine the needs of the community.”

There are those who worry that if sharing the planning and use of facilities is carried too far, the focus on providing better opportunities for Haldane students may be lost. Cold Spring resident Brian McElroy has four children at Haldane and coaches sports locally. “The Board  – must find places for the Haldane (his emphasis) kids to play their Haldane (his emphasis again) sports, including track and field. The Philipstown Little League and the Garrison Schools, the Pop Warner football and other organizations will benefit from Haldane facilities, but they should not have such a voice as they do in a Haldane School Board meeting.” He also questions some ideas put forward for public-use facilities at Haldane.” Dr. Villanti said “we don’t  want to do something that is ‘half-baked.’ But a proposed walking track for adults in the community to walk on? Do we really need to spend funds on a place to walk? We have Main Street for that. I wish they would remember that job one is to provide facilities for Haldane Students, (his emphasis) including those who are runners.”

Board response
Merandy sees it differently. “Without St. Basils and Philipstown Rec. we could not run our programs. We would love to work something out collaboratively but if that reaches a dead end we definitely will be moving ahead with our fields and improvements to the tennis court which is ridiculously bad shape.” Villanti said that next steps will include fact finding on various options along with sub committee meetings with the Town of Philipstown, Village of Cold Spring and other stakeholders in order to “create a shared vision.” He also said that an architect may be hired to provide more detailed information on some of the ideas presented at last week’s meeting. He emphasized that the board will conduct an ongoing conversation with the public and that the future of Haldane’s sports facilities will be an ongoing agenda item at school board workshops.
Photo by Michael Mell


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