The ball field on Summerside’s Hillside Drive is being removed.
Lorri Laughlin, director of communications for the city, said the field is being taken away because people have stopped playing ball there, which is strange since it’s not uncommon to see children using it. Sure, it’s not always 18 kids with uniforms, but they do use it.
Don’t believe us? Try asking Joan Hodge who lives across the street. She was shocked when she heard the city was removing the ball diamond.
"The kids love it," said Hodge. "I can't imagine why they would want to get rid of it."
The city, however, contends that it has been “very underutilized the past two years.”
That may be a fair statement, but how would we know? It’s not like this decision was ever discussed in public.
How did the city come to the conclusion it was not being used? Do they have it under surveillance? It seems to reason that city officials would only be aware of its use if it were being booked through them. But the type of use being described by the field’s neighbours would not be scheduled through the city. Is a pick-up game by neighbourhood kids any less important than a league game?
Aside from cutting the grass, which presumably the city will have to keep doing, was this field costing taxpayers any money? It seems more likely that it would cost more to send workers in to remove the backstop and fencing than it would to maintain something already there. And what are they doing with the fence and backstop? Is it being repurposed? Stored? Sold?
Again, how would anyone know or be able to question the decision when taxpayers are completely excluded from the conversation until it is too late to do anything about it.
There are far too many unanswered questions.
In defending the decision, city councillor Jim Steele said some people were complaining about parking. Fair enough, but who? When? Have there been any accidents to prove that there are issues?
Another neighbour, Jim Adams, is upset about the process – or more pointedly – the lack of any consultation or even notice.
The Journal Pioneer knocked on doors throughout the neighbourhood and found no one who knew about the ball field being removed.
Steele said the city wants to do what's best for the people in the area.
We suggest a good first step to attaining that goal might be asking for their input.
Maybe the city is correct to remove it, maybe not. With this style of management we’ll never know.