Members of Marietta City Council debated opening up Flanders Field to area residents this week and we hope it's a discussion that will continue.
The Little Sluggers team has been leasing the ball field from the city for $1 per year. They've maintained the site and improved it in many ways, including putting in new dugouts, restoring the fence and making the restrooms operational again. They keep the property closed off and locked except when they have games.
We commend them for all that work. However, the field is a city park space and shouldn't just be used by members of a certain organization. It should be there for the public.
There aren't a lot of outdoor recreation spaces in the Harmar district and the children there deserve to have a place to run, play and be active.
Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, who represents those residents, has suggested a compromise of opening the park during the daytime hours only.
We think that would be the best decision.
There's no reason for the park to remain open at night. Perhaps the hours could be slightly more limited as well to reduce risk of misuse. Maybe during the school year it could be open on weekends and then expand to weekdays hours in the summer, when children are out of school. Bathrooms and other areas could remain locked, since there is more opportunity for vandalism there, and the field and playground could be accessible.
We understand the desire of the volunteers to protect all the hard work they've done at Flanders Field, but the entire west side community deserves to have a chance to enjoy the space.
Vandalism is always a risk, but you can't take away parks and other quality-of-life opportunities for many because of actions of a few.
If the gates are unlocked and there are major issues that arise, then the city should pitch in on repairs and not rely simply on the volunteers. If there are continuous problems, access may have to be reconsidered.
Until then, we think the park should be for everyone.