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Setting The Record Straight

by on April 4, 2012

[Editor’s Note:  If there is any way you can attend tonight’s Rec Meeting at 7pm, please do.  New Hartford Wolverine Football always wears their Wolverine red.  I invite other youth sports to show the colors also.  See you at Town Hall.]

New Hartford resident Christy Tellier sent the following email to the Board of Selectmen and the Recreation Commission members today.  With Christy’s permission I’ll let you decide if this letter tells the story.  Thank you Christy.

Hi everyone,
 
First, I apologize for the length of my correspondence, but I really felt the need to express to you my feelings in the matter of the park rules, as well as use of Brodie Park South by Youth Sports. I’ve typically tried to stay out of the politics and the banter that has been going on in town in regards to this issue, but it hits a certain point, and it is time to comment. 

Let me start by saying that my children and I have participated in endless hours of activities in our town. We are Cub Scouts, Baseball players, Soccer players, Boy Scouts, and yes, (gasp) even Football players. We have participated in Earth Day clean ups, we have hiked the trails at Brodie, we have practiced hours of football at Brodie South. We have cleaned up trash along our way to help keep our community beautiful; we have chipped in and helped when we can whether it is a part of us being Scouts, or Football players. To me, it is simply a part of being a decent human and a decent neighbor. That is something I want my children to learn; that we need to respect our town, and our community, as well as each other as citizens. We need to respect each other’s opinions, and work together to get along. Some of us haven’t been doing that too well as adults lately, and I hope this situation is resolved so we may set better examples for the children in our community.

My children have participated in probably every sports program that we have in town. Why? Because part of being a good citizen comes from learning things like team work, following direction, and participating in and feeling a part of something larger than yourself. Participation in an organized sport encourages healthy behaviors and exercise. Sports and the many wonderful volunteer coaches help to instill values in my children in a way that I never could as a parent. Participating in group sports allows for lessons to be learned and reinforced from responsible adults other than parents. My family has also participated in Scouting and other civic groups to learn the value of our community, and individual achievement. Again, these groups offer the opportunity to learn to work together towards a common goal. We are fortunate to have so many people in our town who care about where our town is going from both an environmental impact, as well as the impact on our future generations. I have been feeling alone in recognizing the common goal, and it makes me wonder why. Why are we having such difficulty in getting along? What concerns me most is not what I think the Rec Commission will decide. The Recreation Commission has demonstrated fairness to all organizations for as long as I can remember. From Eagle Scout projects and recycling bins at the parks, to helping develop youth sports programs, the Rec Commission has always been supportive to all residents. I don’t expect any less moving forward. I believe we are on the same page when I say that there is a time and a place for all that we desire to make happen in our town. However, at the last Recreation meeting, when the outdated rules for Brodie Park were reaffirmed and then expanded to include all town parks, a concern developed in many people because of what appeared as rashness in making that decision. I was unable to attend the meeting, but did watch the taped video from beginning to end. It appeared to me that not much consideration or time was spent reviewing the rules that had been set before you. I clearly could be wrong.  I am just letting you know how it appeared from the outside looking in.  I am guessing from prior dealings with the Rec Commission that the intent was to help resolve issues, not create new ones, but the rules that were reaffirmed were clearly outdated, some illegal, and most greatly conflicted with any current activity that any of our parks are being used for. One could only surmise that the decision to reaffirm these rules so quickly was due to pressure or influence received by an outside source. Again, I could be wrong, but that same video is what many people have based their opinions on.  It’s really neither here nor there at this point about why that happened, but I am looking for reassurance going forward that the Rec Commission will act in a logical, rational manner that best suits the needs of all our townspeople despite personal feelings or agendas.  That is, after all, what the Commission is supposed to be about, what they have always been about in the past, and what I hope they continue to be about in the future. 

There has been a ton of misinformation out there, and I am sure I am not privy to many of the newest developments, but it is absolutely driving me crazy that the football program has been portrayed in some instances as a bunch of renegades doing as they please with no regards to anyone else. It just simply is not true. When football was first established, I am sure that you recall they started out practicing at Antolini. But there was a series of conflicts including (if I recall correctly) the school being closed for asbestos abatement in the summer, and the conflict of practice space with the soccer program. This necessitated the practices to be moved somewhere else. Field use at any other school as well as a majority of Brodie Park North created conflict with practice space for soccer. Using New Hartford Elementary School at this point only relocates a problem.  Instead of an inconvenience for a handful of landowners, you would be disrupting a neighborhood in excess of 40 homes. Further potential problems exist with using that school in that cleats on the handicapped playground that is installed there would create a much bigger expense to rectify than a few tires in wet grass. I know that it has been portrayed as “approved” by the school board, which, yes, it was, and that is a clear example of groups working together despite potential conflict, but New Hartford Elementary certainly has more limitations than advantages.  And if you want to get into an environmental debate about the whole thing, the Farmington River certainly provides as much refuge for wildlife and scenic beauty as Brodie South.  The school borders the river.  I know that you, as our Recreation Commission recognize the importance of protecting ALL of our town resources. I personally can’t compare or choose between the sanctity of Brodie South and the Farmington River and wouldn’t expect you to make that choice either.  What would be next, the Friends of the Farmington River preventing I don’t know, fishing maybe?  That’s about as sensible as preventing children from playing in a park. Yes, there are locations to relocate the football program, but the impact and ALL ramifications need to be considered before rashly charging forward to “get rid of a problem” whether that problem is the location of football, or the balking of a self-proclaimed environmental group.

I’d like to further note that football has followed similar protocol as other groups using the parks. I walked Brodie South while it was under consideration for a practice field in the first place. The area in which football practice takes place was a grassy, overgrown mess. It wasn’t someplace you could even safely walk through without twisting an ankle. It was similar to an underutilized cow field.  That field area was not some place you could walk your dog or enjoy nature. The areas conducive to walking were primarily the edges of the wooded areas of the property and areas near the road which have since been deemed an extreme hazard (unless it’s only hazardous if you are there for football, I was never quite clear on that point. Somehow it’s not about the fact that people are speeding up the road, but it’s about the fact football is being played there, but I digress). Brodie South is now a beautiful area allowing beautiful views and a place to safely walk dogs. Thanks to football, dog owners, hikers and ball players alike can utilize a small portion of a large piece of land. Permissions to use that space for football were obtained in the same manner as MANY other groups got permissions to do a variety of things that they do. A problem arose when years later, someone decided that they don’t like the activities that are occurring and they start digging into 25 year old rules and ignore the process that occurred in the meantime that got us to where we are today. Dogs were not prohibited from the parks, well, other than when we reaffirmed the outdated rules.  Dogs have been permitted in ALL parks in town; they have been justifiably restricted from the playing surfaces for obvious health reasons, and in some instances liability reasons.  Brown’s Corner is typically more congested than the other parks a lot of kids on all of the grass there and a certain liability exists with a dog’s comfort level with children. I can’t see allowing a child to get bit by a nervous dog just so we are being fair to dog owners. (Dog owner here, and I get all that too!)  That should be common sense. I’m not sure when exactly our society has lost sight that it simply makes sense to cater to positions that impact the most amount of people. Why is it that we continually cater to small radical groups? The football forefathers performed due diligence while moving forward with the football program and practices at Brodie South, whether it was with equipment, use, lights, practice times, or the storage pod. If something needs to be changed or corrected, that’s one thing, but I am absolutely certain no one “snuck” something in deceptively.  It is both sad and unfortunate that no one has stepped forward to defend that fact publically, or perhaps they were just silenced as many of us have been when trying to set the record straight.   The use of the field as it occured last season has been happening for a number of years, and they have only recently come to be an issue. I was at that practice field EVERY night and was unaware of the pod’s location until I went looking for it one night after seeing a picture posted online.  What is also sad in this situaiton is that the Rec Commission and our Selectman’s hands were both forced into a situation instead of allowing a less disruptive course of action to occur in a timely and logical manner. Should there be rules? Absolutely. Should both groups make concessions? Absolutely. Football has been making every effort to rectify problems and concerns as they arise. If cars are parked in “unauthorized areas”, they are asked to move, radios are requested to be turned off, people car pool when feasible. I am confident that the football program will continue to make concessions when it is reasonably and realistically possible.  Football has made concessions to try to make this work – how about FOBS?  What are they doing to try to work together?  Why should concessions be one sided?  That simply changes the terminology to ‘gving in’.  Forcing football to move to yet another temporary location to appease a small group with unrealistic arguments seems unnecessary. This “open space” at BPS was a golf course not too awful many years ago. Fields such as these are not a naturally occurring landscape. An argument can be made for just about anything in the world, but the weight and viewpoint of an argument being made needs to be greatly considered. Just because you can make an argument for something doesn’t make it a correct option that should be disseminated on an entire town population. I am hopeful that the Rec Commission can weed out all of the arguments, laden with opinion, and come up with a workable solution that is best for the largest quantity of residents. 

I am a football mom and a nature lover. For the record, you CAN be both. Many of us “football people” are. We would like there to be open space, wildlife and fresh air for our children to enjoy.  That is a big part why most of us live in New Hartford.  We are not irrational. We are quite reasonable. I am until provoked anyway, much like many people. Then sometimes rationality can be put on hold until I can regroup myself. Which, I think we are all at a point of needing to do. Regroup, and start thinking clearly.

I have enjoyed the peace of the land at BPS while my children have practiced football. It is a beautiful serene place. You are able to do that during practices. I have visited with friends, chatted on my phone, and did homework for college classes while I sat there. Often when I have left practices to run errands, or my children and I have left the park for the night, we would spot a variety of wildlife crossing Niles Road going into the park. The animals weren’t fleeing for their lives away from the park due to noise and disruption. The fox, deer, raccoon and opossum we saw on numerous occasions were peacefully making their way into the forest at BPS. There was one practice this past fall that an owl was perched at the top of a tree “watching” the B team practice. My son was in awe that the bird sat for so long watching.  I’m pretty sure that it would have been scared off if the screaming militant coaches and the shrill whistles were as disruptive as they have been portrayed to be. Those horrible militant coaches never scared my kids. I actually had a conversation with a coach saying I thought he needed to be tougher.  What does that say about me?  What DID scare my boys, however, was having an adult lurking and sneaking in the trees taking video of him practicing. In today’s day and age with our children’s safety always in the forefront of our minds with pedophiles on every corner, and school shootings every week, this behavior was way over the top. My kids were made to feel uncomfortable to be in a public park by a grown man lurking, unidentified, in the trees. The experience of being able to freely enjoy our town’s park has been tarnished forever for my children. They still bring it up from time to time. I have, of course, explained the situation to them and they understand it was just a “concerned” neighbor, but do you remember being a child and although things are explained to you and make sense, you still get that prickly feeling on the back of your neck when you walk in the dark.  We try to protect our kids from creepy people and yet these types of actions are allowed? Where exactly were MY rights as a tax paying resident and my children’s rights to enjoy the public park? I am curious what would happen to me if I stood outside the playground at Brodie North and videotaped the kids playing inside the fenced playscape area. It’s apparently not illegal. I don’t suppose it would go over too well though, and yet we, as football parents, were basically told it was no big deal and it was not illegal for that video tape to be made because it was a public park. Weather is getting nice, maybe I’ll have to give that a try and see what happens. Of course, I’m being facetious here. I, unlike some, try to respect my neighbors, and if I have an issue with someone, I try to talk to them and address the situation and even put my name to my concerns.  How can one possibly expect to address concerns and rectify any kind of situation with a whole cloak and dagger act going on?  Furthermore, in regards to the “noise” complaints, I have heard from various friends that the music from the Concerts in July can be heard on Troutwood Drive, as well as across the lake. Shall we discontinue the concerts too?  These same “Friends” of Brodie Park South must be disrupted by that noise, or maybe not since they are probably in attendance at the concerts and since THEY are enjoying that particular noise, then it must make it ok, it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks.

I recall a number of times last August arriving at Camp Brodie for 7:30 am. I worked all day between camp and a 2nd job. I left Brodie at 5:45, just in time to get the kids to football practice for 6. (along with other “tagalong” children who liked to come and hang out and play with other children while we were there.) They have a healthy snack because a heavy dinner isn’t good right before practice. I’m not complaining, that’s just my life. Most of us have similar schedules. That’s the age we live in I guess. At 8:00 when practice ends, my boys are hungry.  There is not a lot of hanging around, and the last thing most of us do or want to do is hang around an extra hour or 2 after practice ends – I’ve got kids to feed, dishes and laundry to do.  On an occasional Friday night, have a few people hung around, chatting and enjoying the comradery that goes along with football? I don’t doubt it. Is it an issue? To me, it’s less of an issue than the groups of teenagers that camp out across the field at Brodie South illegally throughout the summer, leaving beer cans and condoms strewn about, tearing up the practice field.  I haven’t heard anyone complaining about that.  I am more concerned about the teens that drink and drive and the teenage pregnancy rates than a small group of dads that stand around and chat for a while after practice. If nothing else, I’m guessing they prevented teen drinking from the corner of the field, at least for a couple of hours.  If I were a neighbor to any part of Brodie Park (because the same “teen” activities happen at a variety of places in the park – both “North and South”), I would be more concerned about a drunk teen leaving those same premises and smashing into my house or a tree at the bottom of Niles Rd., or worse yet running the stop sign at Niles/West Hill and killing themselves or others. The after-hours teen activity at Brodie concerns me much more than a large group of supervised children getting exercise and learning all the lessons that team sports have to offer and a few dads hanging out after a long day.  Maybe football is the one thing that will help these children avoid the same future as those who are ‘partying’ in the park.  How’s that for perspective?  Unfortunately, there is only so much our police are capable of doing, finding, and rectifying.  I would sleep much better at night knowing that the police were out there keeping people safe like they should be rather than policing a group of coaches from a football practice that ran 10 minutes late.

The lack of communication between the groups in town, as well as the misinformation that has been disseminated by various media outlets is concerning to me. I will be looking to the Rec Commission to lay the groundwork for the best decisions for all groups in town, and STICK TO IT like you always have, regardless of how many people show up at a meeting or how loudly they bellow, or don’t. As far as Brodie South and the Football vs. FOBS dispute, please continue to move forward in supporting the football program as you have in the past. Regardless of where the best place to practice is, I hope you recognize the importance of finding a home for the program. There have been countless meetings dating back to 2007 that the football program needs space, and the Rec Commission has repeatedly offered reassurance that we would all work toward a common goal to find appropriate space. Brodie Park South has continually been a temporary outlet to allow the program to occur. Rec minutes continually show that an effort is being made to find a more permanent, suitable location for the program. I am not sure how anyone has lost sight of all the hours already spent discussing this situation. From a football standpoint, I personally don’t think Brodie South is the most ideal place, but right now, it’s all we have. It could be made to be more suitable at least for practice fields, but it is working for now and has required little funding on the part of the town.  To cave to demands from special interest groups would certainly be doing a disservice to the football program, as well as all the townspeople. Regardless of how any of you feel on a personal level about anyone from any of these other groups, your decisions should be based on the best options for the most amount of people. At no time should a board or commission feel they have no option but to cave to the demands of any one group. Brodie South is a town park. Utilizing a town park for activities has been determined by the town paid lawyers as lawful use of the park. Digging up ancient ruins of rules, regulations and ordinances has done nothing but distract the Commission from moving forward in resolving the real issue at hand, which should be finding a suitable and permanent location for the football program, as well as much needed field space for the sports we currently have, as well as new future activities. 

I beg that you carefully consider all options on the table for the football program, as well as any rules that you are looking to introduce for use in our parks. I am respectfully requesting that the rules that are established are not rashly voted in, but thoughtfully considered and that time is allowed for public input to be sure that all things have been considered at all parks. I live down the street from Callahan, and I certainly will have a different perspective than someone who lives on South Road about what should and shouldn’t be allowed. I get that.  The people who live on Church St. in Pine Meadow seem to live harmoniously with the Farmer’s market going on every week.  Why is it that we can’t seem to reach an agreement with this one area of town?  Are the tax payers in that area more important than those of us who live elsewhere that we should shift an entire program to appease them?  No one opinion is going to be the RIGHT answer, and I am certain there are some people that are not going to be happy. I am sure, however, that by working together in a collaborative effort, we can find a balance in sharing our parks with all residents and all of our sports programs, and do the best job for the most amount of people that we can.  And the one or two or 10 left unhappy?  Well, out of the 7000+ residents we have, and over 600 children in our public schools system alone, I think we are pretty safe to live with those statistics.
 
Thank you for your time.
 
Christy Tellier
 

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From → Youth Sports

9 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink

    Christy, that was one of the most well crafted letters I have ever read. Thank you from the bottom of my nature loving, football loving, dog loving, child loving heart.

    Lori Roth

  2. Krista Maloney permalink

    Thank you Christy.

  3. Well said, Christy!

  4. NewHartfordHeldHostage permalink

    Finally, a true friend of Brodie Park South.

  5. Steven Roth permalink

    As President of New Hartford Youth Football & Cheer I feel that I am safe in speaking for the entire organization when I say that Christy has articulated our position perfectly. We have said all along that BPS is not an ideal location for our practices but we have made the most of it because that is what was available. We have been very considerate of the neighbors needs and when asked to change our procedures (to change our parking, reposition our lights, ensure the trash was picked up, etc) responded immediately. Unfortunately, our consideration has brought only greater and more difficult demands. With this last salvo from FOBPS, it has become clear that they will only be satisfied when NHYFC has been removed from New Hartford. We will not allow this to happen and trust that the rational people of New Hartford will show their support for all their Youth Sports programs.

  6. Meg Toro permalink

    Thank you Christy for putting this issue into perspective. Well done!

  7. Thank you Christy for putting much time and thought into your greatly appreciated letter.

  8. Pam Colombie permalink

    Everthing you share in your letter, Christy, is so completely logical. Beautifully said! Thanks for taking the time to write that.

  9. Football MOM permalink

    WOW!!!! From one football mom to another: You gotta a little Wolverine in you! Goood job Christy!!!! Totally awesome letter….very well said!!!!

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