Meeting notes (taken by Alicia Fordham, for CELOS):
The meeting was attended by about 20 representatives of Sports organizations, also by Councillor Janet Davis (East York, Beaches) and a PFR employee responsible for sport field classification and maintenance. The meeting was hosted by Karen Pitre, Chair, Toronto Sports Council and facilitated by Nicole Swerhun.
Intro and background info:
The objective of this meeting is to gather advice from the sports community to present to council as a more permanent decision regarding fees is made. Council has decided to waive fees for 2012.
Next step after this meeting is to write up a report for council. There is a public meeting next week hosted by city staff (Thurs, May 17). Staff report should come out at the end of May. The executive Committee on June 12 is an opportunity to speak before council on this issue.
Group feedback - those present were asked to provide recommendations on the following topics:
1. Quality of the fields
2. Permit Issues
3. Process issues
4. Fee Issues
Quality of the fields
- There are problems with how fields are classified - often they are measured incorrectly.
- Many quality issues have to be looked at, i.e water pooling, mound building (baseball), lines drawn
- Maintenance means more than just grass cutting.
- Often maintenance crews lack required training.
- Who does maintenance? Mostly PFR staff, or sport org volunteers?
- Does the current classification system of A, B and C fields make sense? One issue around classification is lighting: if you are using an A field during the day, you pay extra for the lights but don't use them.
- If there are fees, there must be an agreed upon standard of maintenance (money needs to go back into the facilities). There should be a consistent level of city support for facilities across the city.
- Maintenance standard should be attached to field classification. Existing guidelines from provincial sport organizations (on field parameter, design etc.) should be followed.
- What defines maintenance? What we (the sports organizations) call maintenance might be capital from the city's point of view. Ex. Buying machinery, and rebuilding fields.
- A check list should be put together for a league appointed person to present an audit to the city on conditions, and what needs to be done at sports fields. There should be a post, and pre season audit.
- Rain out / smog/ heat are tied to permits and booking. People block book so that they can reschedule in case of bad weather.
- Block booking is a problem, it makes sense to book a bit more time than needed in case of rain etc., but some people abuse this taking too much time, excluding other groups from the space.
- People who run the sports orgs are the experts, they should decide when a field can open. The city should stop making decisions for experienced volunteers.
- We don't want to dispossess active users, there should be an effort to find where excess capacity exists.
- Leagues are required to submit permit forms by September, registration is not yet completed. Permits are usually based on guess work.
- Leagues are scared to give space up to someone who might want it for a short amount of time fearing that they won't get it back – should be respect for legacy.
- Councillor Janet Davis was concerned that this mentality sounds something like ownership of public space. She also proposed that a system should be put in place for documenting who has permits and who is using them. Facilities should be protected for passive users.
- Block booking leagues have a stewardship mentality toward their fields, and do a lot of volunteer maintenance while others say “we booked it, paid our fees, now we can go.” They often leave the fields in poor condition for the “home” league to fix up.
- We block book to protect the quality of the facility.
- There should be a request of the city to provide info on the data and issues. (Many block booking problems are hearsay.)
- Clubs with all the cash are booking everything up, leaving little clubs limited access.
- There's a need for a partnership between the city, elected officials, leagues and other users. Communication is the only thing that will solve the problem.
- Report must be in by June 12 – this is too soon for such large issues.
- The city needs to tell us how much it costs to maintain parks.
- City should adopt a community development model – communication, partnerships, cooperation. That is a major shift from what has been going on during the last couple of years. Certain pockets of the city, however, have managed this alternative approach.
- Need to address access for less established clubs. Baseball has dominated. Ex: boy vs girls hockey, there was a fight for equal access.
- The private sector has no problems building condos. More parks are needed as population grows, who will make this a priority?
- No one here wants fees
- Decision should be pushed to 2014 until we can address the partnership (between city and sports orgs.)
- Fees didn't appear to be a problem until this year.
- The city doesn't seems to have knowledge of what sports volunteer groups do – money they invest, what is done for the kids etc.
- There should be a liaison between city and local groups.
- What are we getting for our money?
- Councillor Janet Davis – this is a legacy of harmonization, Etobicoke had fees before that were dropped after harmonization – the city is still trying to sort it out.
- Just collecting money with no services attached, that will never happen. We will fight tooth and nail if the city thinks that they can charge a fee with no service – that's a tax. This is what is being proposed, we were told point blank – “it's a fee, and no added service.”
- Other users (dog walking, playground use, etc) don't pay fees.
- This is an opportunity to build something different.