Should there be more recreation at Rick Volz Field?

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

A plan to expand Rick Volz Field has some crying foul over concerns about the impact to two of the town’s wellheads. The Parks and Recreation Task Force, appointed by the town to investigate improving recreation facilities throughout town, has begun work by focusing on Rick Volz Field in the Bearsville Flats area. Plans include a pavilion, permanent bathrooms, a hiking trail and exercise stations among other improvements.

“There are a number of safety issues” at the field, said Task Force Chairman Vincent Christofora, and the Little League organization barely has enough volunteers to maintain the field, let alone any additions.

Many of those who came to a July 27 task force meeting said they had no problem providing recreation and exercise opportunities for people of all ages, but don’t want anything to happen to town wellheads, which sit on top of the Bearsville Aquifer at the field, the supply for the town’s water system.

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One of those concerned residents is former town Supervisor John Mower, who lives next to the field. He objects to the task force’s calling it Rick Volz Park. Some volunteers, including task force members, are part of a group called Friends of Rick Volz Park. “It was never a park,” Mower told them. He said the area around the ballfields is a meadow that helps recharge the wells.

Resident David Menzies said he feels it is important for a neighborhood to have open space, but raised concerns among others about the potential noise levels from an increase in use. The only major activity now is during the roughly two months of Little League season.

Mower felt he was left out of the loop before the task force recently showed its plans to the Town Board. “We asked for the plan for a month,” he said. “Then you presented it to the Town Board.” John’s wife Janine joined the task force shortly after the Town Board presentation to improve lines of communication.

Michael Veitch, who chairs the town Tree Committee, objected to the rerouting of the access road close to a row of trees. “Your proposal for the road is probably going to kill the maple trees,” he said. Veitch offered a site visit so he could make suggestions. 

Mower offered a counter-proposal that keeps the existing access road in the same location and includes paths to the proposed pavilion and other areas. Visitors would park a safe distance from the wellheads and walk to the other parts of the location.

Mower also said the task force plan as it stands now requires an environmental assessment under Woodstock’s TWEQRA law before any decision is made.

Some suggested the dog park on the far end of the property already poses a danger to the wellheads because some people let their dogs off leash and don’t clean up after them. Dog park volunteers say users are responsible and they can’t be there all the time to enforce the rules.

For its part, task force members say they only have an advisory role and are fulfilling their obligation to the town by pointing out deficiencies and proposing potential expanded uses.

Deplorable conditions, little to no funding

Christofora said the town hasn’t provided the funding necessary to keep recreational facilities up-to-date and even expects Little League to pay for the dirt used on the fields. The annual budget is $3500. He said the task force is looking to tap into the $147,000 accumulated from a recreation fee charged each time a land subdivision is approved.

Because Rick Volz lacks basic amenities such as permanent restrooms, the town can’t host tournaments. He invited people to look at neighboring towns and compare their fields with Woodstock. “You will probably find our facilities embarrassing.”

The playground is not up to current safety standards and is antiquated, rusty and dangerous, he said. “The playground is fenced in like an animal pen,” Christofora said. “It has to be” because of its proximity to vehicle traffic.

He countered that proposed parking is more than 300 feet away from the wells, when federal law only requires 50 feet. He added all work will be done without taxpayer money.

He defended the plans for Rick Volz, noting Andy Lee Field is closed weekdays until 3 p.m. for the bulk of the summer because of the summer recreation program, so people need other places to play and exercise.

Supervisor Bill McKenna has asked Dennis Larios, who provides engineering services to the town, to come up with recommendations for uses that would not endanger the wellheads. There are no progress updates as of July 31.

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