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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)
September 5, 2013 Thursday
Virginia; Pg. A11
|County, lacrosse league butt heads
By Chase Purdy [email protected] 981-3334
More than 30 people attended a meeting Wednesday at the South County Library, where Roanoke County Supervisor Charlotte Moore hosted a forum to parse through complaints made by a Cave Spring youth lacrosse league.
In what has become an ongoing dispute, the group has griped with the county Department of Parks and Recreation about having inadequate access to nearby sporting fields, forcing them to travel across the county for limited play times. At the same time, the county department juggles a shrunken staff and budget hit hard by funding cuts, all while maintaining times for multiple sports.
"There are just some elements of lacrosse that just don't fit with what we're doing," said Doug Blount, the director of Parks and Recreation. "It is a very challenging sport because of its season."
Tension ran high throughout the meeting, as squabbling broke down attempts to find an equitable middle ground. On more than one occasion, those in attendance interrupted to try to restore order.
"I'm going to tell you, this is just about the most worthless thing I've attended if we're just going to keep interrupting each other," said Jay Glenn, a Cave Spring Rec Foundation member.
At the heart of the issue, league members would like access to lighted fields near their own neighborhood during the spring season, as opposed to trekking nearly 30 minutes to an unlighted field at Green Hill Park. But public facilities near them, such as three fields at Merriman Soccer Complex at Starkey Park, are open only during the fall for Valley AFC soccer, and closed during the spring to allow the fields' fescue grass to grow.
"Every taxpayer deserves to be out on those fields," said Deena Musselman, the coordinator for Cave Spring Rec Girls Lacrosse. "There's no sense in having three soccer fields with special grass that can't be used year-round."
The county prioritizes field use based upon the conditions of its fields, whether a sport has enough members to be sanctioned (lacrosse does not), and the time of the year.
In all, the county maintains 125 ballfields.
"The complaint that I've received is that they don't want to play at Green Hill Park," Blount said, adding that his department has never received a formal request from the group to use other park space.
"If it's an organized group, and they have uniforms and referees, then they need to have a permit with Roanoke County to go out and use the facilities," he said. "All we're asking for folks to do is to get a permit."
Teo Grochowski, a parent in the league, described the interaction between fellow parents and the department as decidedly more chilly.
"The story line was that the county was being very selective and very restrictive as to what it was making available," Grochowski said. "The lacrosse players were being made to play in the misfit fields."
At the meeting, Grochowski echoed his previous statements.
"We're not screaming at the county for money, we're screaming at the county for fields that exist," he said.
Near the end of the meeting, Blount suggested the league consider operating not with the county recreational club, but as a travel team instead - an option that would allow it to rent field space.
Musselman and others said they would take the idea into consideration.
"That's not a decision we can make tonight," she said.
map - Merriman Soccer Complex THE ROANOKE TIMES
September 5, 2013