A request by a Pickerington-area youth soccer league to hold regularly scheduled practices in Nelson Park was rejected by a 3-0 vote of the Violet Township Board Trustees Aug. 7.
Officials from the Pickerington Area Soccer Association, seeking additional practice space for its growing youth soccer program, recently approached the township about using the park.
Nelson Park is a two-acre greenspace tucked away in a corner of the Eastchester subdivision. It was acquired by Violet Township from Fairfield County about 10 years ago, said Bill Yaple, Violet Township's director of operations.
Yaple said PASA specifically requested four of its teams use the park four nights a week in three-hour increments, for a period of 9-10 weeks, for two separate sessions a year.
About a dozen residents from Eastchester appeared before the trustees Aug. 7 to express opposition to the proposal.
Residents said granting such a request would likely add traffic and parking headaches to not only the park but to the surrounding neighborhood.
"Most of the residents are concerned about safety," said Doug Smith.
"We don't have sidewalks. There is no space for cars to turn around," Smith said.
Eastchester resident Steve Brown said Nelson Park was designed to be "a neighborhood park."
He said the streets in the Eastchester subdivision are also too narrow to accommodate the potential congestion "30 to 40 cars, in and out, for eleven weeks" at a time would create.
Richard Madison, an Eastchester homeowner for 25 years, said allowing PASA to hold practices in the park would "change the very essence of the neighborhood."
"The majority of cars would be parked in our front yards," Madison said.
"If we granted this, we set a precedent for other groups to use (the park)," he said.
Township Trustee Terry Dunlap said Nelson Park is also enjoyed by residents of the township's Summerfield subdivision.
"There are no restrooms and safety is an issue on the roadway," said Dunlap, who then made a motion to deny PASA's request.
Mike Simmons, PASA president, said his organization simply is trying to find viable practice space as the organization, founded in 1973 and now with more than 1,400 youth soccer players, continues to evolve.
"We traditionally used the (Pickerington) schools as our primary training facility, but they changed the rules and started charging fees," Simmons said.
PASA is a non-profit organization that owns fields off Hill Road, however, those fields are utilized for games, Simmons said.
"We don't want to practice on a game facility," he said.
PASA is also 10 years into a 20-year lease with Fairfield County Historical Parks for the use of Zeller Park in Violet Township as training space for both its Select and Recreational soccer programs, Simmons said.
"We were hoping to be able to add Nelson Park to our list of practice facilities, maybe long-term," he said.
"Our program continues to grow on the recreational side as well as the travel side."
Simmons said he understood Eastchester residents' concerns, however, no one from PASA was able to attend the Violet Township Trustees meeting to address those concerns.
He said PASA has solicited the city of Pickerington about using Colony Park, however, he was advised the city doesn't accept reservations for its use.
For now Simmons said PASA will continue to work with the Pickerington Local School District to try to work out a resolution.
"Open space is what we're looking for," Simmons said.
"If someone is willing to allow us a multi-year agreement, we're willing to make improvements that will benefit (both) our program and the residents that live around it," he said.