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Albany Little League and the Gill Tract

A history of negotiations between Albany Little League and the University regarding Albany Little League's playing fields and the Gill Tract.

I have lived in Albany since 1977 and I served as President of from 1998 through 2003. My son started playing in Albany Little League in 1993, so I have been involved in the League for almost 20 years.

Because of my involvement in Little League I think I have some historical insights on issues involving the Gill Tract. I would like to give my perspective.

In 1998, my first pressing issue as President was Albany Little League’s negotiations with the Regents of the University of California involving our baseball fields at and the then-planned reconstruction of the married student housing at the Village. We were not alone in this, as Albany Berkeley Girls Softball and Albany Berkeley Soccer Club were also impacted. These negotiations had been going on for some years before I became involved. 

The University of California plan at the time was to include three phases and entailed loss of fields by each group at different times. The University of California had first offered to move our fields to an area that went along the railroad tracks from Fielding Field to the USDA that we unaffectionately called “The Swamp” because it was located in a flood plain bounded by two creeks: to the south and Village Creek to the north. In addition to being subject to flooding, the suggested site was much smaller than what the League had at University Village and lacked parking.

The situation changed about two years into the negotiations, when the University of California revised its plans in such a way that soccer and girls softball would not lose their fields and in the eventuality that it became necessary to construct housing on the League baseball fields, they would be moved to open space on part of the .

The League did not then nor does it now want to move its fields, as having a space dedicated for community recreation close to our current fields is a great resource.

The Gill Tract has been part of the discussion about the future of youth baseball fields in Albany for at least the past 14 years and not just the last five years of negotiations on the Senior Housing / Whole Foods Project.

Which brings us to that project. As part of the city of Albany’s negotiations with the University of California and with the close cooperation of City Council members and UC staff, the University of California has agreed in writing not to move the baseball fields for at least 10 years and to pay for the costs of relocation if the fields are moved after that time. League use of fields at University Village had been a major concern for the Albany community and the agreement with the University of California was reached through a lengthy and exhaustive process in which all community members had a voice.

So imagine my dismay when I found out that an Albany City Council member . Such a major change at this late date threatens to scuttle the whole project and, by forcing the University of California to revisit its development plans for University Village, directly threatens the existence of the Albany Little League baseball fields. Moreover, it sends the message to our community and our kids that good faith negotiations don’t mean anything in the face of the illegal actions of a small but noisy minority. More than 600 current players, their families and countless League alumni have been cast aside as if they didn’t exist. 

Albany Little League fields have been at University Village since 1956, thanks to the generosity of the Regents of the University of California.  If we have no fields in Albany, Albany Little League will cease to exist as we don’t have enough playing fields as it is. 

I can grow a garden in my back yard but I can’t play a baseball game.

It is my belief that families move to Albany for the benefit of their kids and to take advantage of the rich and supportive environment our town provides for children.  

If you care about the future of the Albany Little League, please get involved. Follow the story in Albany Patch and, especially if you’re an Albany resident, let your elected representatives know what you think!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

concerned educator May 29, 2012 at 05:49 PM
I agree, we can grow a garden in our back yard. We cannot play baseball in a back yard as easily as in a little league field. Also, there are studies abounding on the internet about the value of school gardening http://www.ecoliteracy.org/sites/default/files/uploads/getting-started-2009.pdf a recent study validated the benefits from school gardens: (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/09/berkeleys-new-school-food-study-a-victory-for-alice-waters/63465/) ' and it is more important to see a little gardening all over the place rather than in a concentrated spot. I was also dismayed by the narrow focus of the Albany City Council member on a quick and easy issue, rather than taking the whole welfare of the Albany Community into account. Go help your school garden, transition Albany and all the little places we can make food grow.
Caryl O'Keefe May 29, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Albany Little League should be able to continue to do the great job it’s done for decades, for thousands of kids and families. UC, Council and Little League did their parts; while hoping the fields remain, they agree if UC causes fields to move, then UC will pay to move them. This is a huge amenity from UC, I believe the dollar value was estimated at $1M. What's really puzzling now is the apparent reluctance (refusal?) of urban farm advocates to mention or take up UC's offer to share the Gill Tract. "Going forward" UC is tending many crops planted by OTF. UC’s Dean of the College of Natural Resources (CNR) wants to continue to work with the community to explore “a possible partnership with CNR that would sustain urban farming and related educational activities” alongside the researchers who must be there to fulfill their grants. See http://albany.patch.com/announcements/going-forward-on-the-gill-tract-an-open-letter-to-the-community. Why isn't everyone enthusiastic about UC”s offers to Albany, for BOTH community urban ag on the Gill Tract, and ongoing Little League fields?
Adam Smith May 29, 2012 at 08:31 PM
yeah and that totally works out for people who, oh I dunno, don't have a yard at all, right? and gardening in your own back yard is a great way to get to know your neighbors and build connections within the community, right? oh wait, no. neither of those things are true. gtfo with your bourgeois privilege.
Emilie Raguso May 29, 2012 at 09:01 PM
There are actually programs in various places -- I believe Albany has one -- where people who have yards but don't garden, or who otherwise want to share their space, can open their green space to others. It's pretty neat. http://albany.patch.com/articles/transition-albany-garden-sharing-in-albany
Yair May 29, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Here we go again... the rich and comfortable colonial yuppies think that boys running around competing by hitting balls is much much more important than feeding hungry people. the land was stolen from the Oholoni Indians who where massacred for that purpose so lets spray more round up and concrete for the colonizing yuppies.......
Jeff Shipley May 30, 2012 at 01:20 AM
I don't know anyone who moved to Albany because they though they could solve the problem of world hunger by doing so. I do know countless people like me who live here because it's a wonderful place to raise their children. Disparaging us as "colonial yuppies" isn't helpful.
concerned educator May 30, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Albany Little League has been going since 1956. That means that all those families have been creating community for a long time. There are many girls in little league. The studies on helping hungry people involve education about healthy earring, how to pre are food, and having good exercise. So all these little things add up to helping everyone do better, get healthier, etc. We do not have to have an either - or either gardens or fields. We can use our limited space in Albany in the best way to meet all the needs. The educational parts of school and community gardens help people make better food choices.
Dover May 30, 2012 at 02:07 AM
One question, what does a colonial yuppie wear to mow the lawn?
Allan Maris May 30, 2012 at 02:46 AM
A few years ago Judy Lieberman, Assistant Manager of the City of Albany, conducted a public hearing that included the University of California, Little League, unban gardners and other interested parties to develop a Gill Tract plan that would address the diverse needs of our community. Compromises were made by all parties to achieve that plan. In that plan Albany Little League didn't get all the fields they need to compete effectively with other districts, but they still produce wonderful, young athletes. Urban gardners didn't get all the land they need to effectively nourish our residents, but they were provided enough land to educate families and young farmers. Please continue to follow a democratic public process if we are to gain the respect and cooperation of the land owner, The University of California. The University has a mission to educate and conduct research and a responsibility to be a good neighbor. They have done both in the past, I hope they can continue to do both in the future.
Peggy McQuaid May 30, 2012 at 02:49 AM
We don’t have to choose between a farm and sports fields – there is room for everyone. The University of California has agreed in writing not to move the baseball fields for at least 10 years and to pay for the costs of relocation if the fields are moved after that time should the needs of UC require a move. The University is also forging a partnership with the City of Albany, local schools, residents of University Village, members of the community at large and experts from local, non-profit organizations to work on a plan which will provide safe, organized access to the Gill Tract for those who will be working with together with CNR on urban agriculture projects. I hope we are gracious and let the University know we appreciate their working with our community to provide these amenities which have such benefit to us all.
Ross Stapleton-Gray May 30, 2012 at 03:22 AM
I think you just ignore Yair, who's just another pseudonymous one-post-only drive-by hit-(wo)man. Our younger daughter is finishing up her first year in the Albany/Berkeley Girl's Softball League, and it's been a wonderful experience. Her first team sport, and all the girls showed amazing growth over just a season, learning how to excel as individuals, and how to work together as a team. Most of our games were at Fielding Field.
Caryl O'Keefe May 30, 2012 at 06:04 AM
Does any urban farm advocate have a substantive reply to my question? Why no enthusiasm - or even acknowledgement - about UC's offer to explore sharing Gill Tract agricultural land for community urban ag and education? This seems a very basic question.
Theresa Bittner June 01, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Caryl, I think they are too busy calling people names.
Dover June 01, 2012 at 07:40 PM
If not for the trespassers, I would have never known that I am a Colonial Yuppie. Now I am having "CY" monogrammed on all my jackets. Thanks, Trespassers!
Winifred Owen June 01, 2012 at 08:31 PM
But you see, we (at least I) don't care if some naive young silly refers to me as a "colonial yuppie." Or hurls the "shocking" allegation of "bourgeois." Oh, the humanity!!! What a crock.

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