PRMCC talks grant use & sport field priorities

MARTINEZ, Calif. – During the dark days of winter, a storm of sports field requests blow into the Park and Recreation Department. Karen Galindo, recreation supervisor III, said it is getting tougher to decide who gets to play. She asked the Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission and Waterfront Subcommittee to clarify the City’s priorities at a Dec. 12 meeting.

The commissioners also discussed how to best use a state-approved grant of at least $200,000 to improve City parks. It must be used within a year to 18 months, therefore using it in combination with Measure H projects that are already approved is logical, according to Michael Chandler, deputy director of administrative services. City staff is poised to act as soon as they know when, and how much will be allocated to Martinez. The City is always on the lookout for state, and other grants. This one is for a minimum amount and based on a per-capita formula, so bigger cities will receive more.

The policy clarifications that Galindo asked for are not simple and it appears she must make final decisions soon. Sports organizations urgently need to lock-in available play times for spring and summer, and the demand for baseball and soccer fields will barely be met, according to Galindo.

“I expect the fields to be more in demand by next year,” she told the baseball, softball, and soccer leaders crammed into the upstairs City Hall conference room with the sub-committee.

These sports organizations vie for playing fields every year, and she said there has been a level of cooperation. However, it is getting tougher every year. Galindo uses a vague, outdated list of booking priorities while doing her best to be fair. In the past, competition between groups for field times bookings has been less formal. “It was sort of a ‘gentleman’s agreement,’” according to her comments.

Galindo researched surrounding cities, reporting that some cities with a high demand require a higher percentage of resident players. Martinez gives a higher priority to teams with 50 percent or more of the players residing in the town, but it has not been clear what “Martinez resident” means.

Generally, it has meant living within the city limits, but realistically if that was applied literally, some teams would not be able to play and Martinez children within the city limits would not benefit from the fields if their team did not have enough players living within the city limits.

Many teams include players who live in areas such as Mt. View, just outside city limits but in the Martinez zip code. Some players go to school in Martinez but live elsewhere. There was a general consensus that these should children be counted as Martinez residents for the purpose of establishing a team’s field-booking priority.

Martinez-based organizations are prioritized, non-profits are prioritized but they may not have the highest number of players who live in Martinez. These are the kinds of dilemmas Galindo with which Galindo is dealing.

City staff will more attention to the player’s place of residence and gender information provided by players. Galindo asked the commissioners, “How can we verify that?”

Now city leaders are visualizing where space for another playing field may be found and within the coming year, the PRMCC will develop recommendations for the city council to establish a firm, clear list of priorities, while leaving the Park and Recreation Department some discretion for special circumstances.

Chandler suggested the need for more data before considering recommendations to the city. “Let’s collect the data from this year’s registration and see how it goes,” he said.

Beyond the resident criteria, there are other considerations. Since the passage of AB2404, requiring that girls and boys have parity of opportunity to participate in sports, there are situations where a girls’ team could go ahead of a boys’ team, depending on the other factors involved.

There were preliminary remarks about potential improvements at Golden Hills and Hidden Lakes Parks. Those will be outlined in an upcoming story.

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