A plan to install a permanent fence and two bullpens at the ball field had all the ingredients for controversy.
In the past, the idea of a fence had been mentioned—but strongly opposed. And the issue had two parties with separate interests: the and baseball team on one side, and dogs and their owners on the other.
But, this time around, compromise and cooperation have seemingly prevailed. And the agreement over the proposal is being hailed as a “great collaboration,” according to .
“It’s a really successful project,” said Cunningham, describing the May 19 commission meeting when the topic came up for recommendation. “It felt like a success. It was great to see a lot of happy people leaving the meeting.”
The plan comes before the City Council on Monday, June 6. The Parks & Recreation Commission is recommending the council authorize the city manager to enter into a contract for fence installation, which is not to exceed $15,900. The money will come from the Measure R Ball Field fund.
“Ultimately, it’s the council’s decision,” said Penelope Leach, director of the Recreation & Community Services Department. “There’s not any other pot of money to draw from, so that’s why staff is recommending this. This is the best fit.”
Leach described the proposal as a “pretty simple project. The discussion (by the council) will be about the installation itself.”
The bullpens won’t be funded by the city. Jack Miller, Albany Little League president, said the league and the will spend “several thousand dollars” for the materials to construct the bullpens. The labor will be provided by the Boosters and the Little League, he added.
“We have a very close relationship with the Boosters, and lots of Little League kids go on to play for the Albany High School baseball team,” Miller said. “Basically, whatever is OK with them is OK with us.”
According to the Parks & Recreation Commission, from 2005 to 2007, during the design phase of the Memorial Park ball field renovations, the idea of a fence was opposed. In 2008, when the commission held public meetings about sharing park space with dogs and dog owners, the idea of a fence wasn’t pursued.
But the issue gained traction last fall, officials said, when a temporary fence was installed to separate the two sections, and baseball players and dog owners realized a fence could benefit all parties.
In April, residents asked the Parks & Recreation Commission to discuss the idea of installing a permanent fence.
Meanwhile, Jim Giblin, the Albany High School baseball coach, and baseball boosters asked for two bullpens, one down the first base line and the second down the third base line. Installing the bullpens would relocate the portable batting cage and free up more space for dogs and their owners.
In advance of the May 19 commission meeting, some dog owners weighed in, offering support for the plan.
“I am writing you to fervently support the addition of a gated fence separating the baseball field and the east side of the field so that the dog-owning community can share this space responsibly with other users of the field,” Annette Zavala wrote before the commission meeting.
Lesley Ransley, another Albany dog owner, said, “I think separating it works to both the dog owners as well as (the) teams’ benefit in terms of safety for dogs and players and keeping the baseball fields in good shape.”
Added Ransley: “It would be so nice for us Albany residents/dog owners to have the small dedicated space in our town of Albany rather than having to drive to Point Isabel (dog park in Richmond).”
Recreation & Community Services staff said the fence and bullpens won’t affect city programs such as youth soccer and summer camps during non-baseball seasons.
Leach also said the hours for dogs and dog owners at Memorial Park would stay in place to accommodate the non-baseball users, such as people playing pickup games, or playing with Frisbees or balls.
She said the project wouldn’t take long to complete.
“It’s a matter of fitting it in the schedule of whomever we end up choosing (for the contract),” Leach said. “It shouldn’t take more than a week to install the fence. We hope to get it done by the middle of July.”
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