Following a decision last week to abandon a plan to add 10 soccer fields to the newest park in the western end of town, the town’s soccer club is left looking for another solution to overcrowded conditions at the current location at Clifton Common.
Space has become so limited at the Common, organizers may be forced to cancel their midweek youth practices and games.
Clifton Park Soccer Club officials, Town Board members and members of a committee drafting plans for the new park agree something must be done to alleviate overcrowded conditions at the common that includes bumper-to-bumper parking and the effects of constant use on the fields.
“Clifton Common is a beautiful place, but it’s completely landlocked, and we’ve run out of space,” Peter Clinton, president of the soccer club board of directors said. “The fields are constantly in use, and because of that, they’re difficult to maintain. With all the running, they get beaten down right through the center.”
Discussions about expanding needs for the soccer club have been ongoing for the last year. Soccer Club Tournament Chairman Helmut Gerstenberger said the town previously offered field space at the northern end of Clifton Park near Eagle Crest Golf Club, but it was found to be inappropriate despite its size.
“There was no way we could agree to that location; it was way out of town and even though it could hold 10 or 11 fields, it wasn’t right for our needs,” Gerstenberger said. “We need a centralized spot.”
The Clifton Park soccer program has grown substantially, with a current enrollment of 1,400 players in the youth recreational program and more than 600 players in the travel soccer program. The recreational program consists of a 10-week spring league and a seven-week fall league. The travel program begins in September and ends in mid-July.
The 80-acre Clifton Common, located in the center of town, has long been the site for soccer, with six regulation and three half-size soccer fields. There are a few soccer fields on Parkside Trail that are suitable for practice, and limited field space available at the Shenendehowa schools campus when not in use by the schools. Clinton said the teams even use lacrosse fields at Shenendehowa, playing sideways on the fields.
The new park includes 150-acres on northern Route 146 and Waite Road near Rexford, bordering Wing and Guernsey roads, and also Knott Farms and Appleton Road across the highway. The park, which has not yet been officially named, is nearly double the size of Clifton Common. The town acquired the land last summer, and, earlier this spring, a committee studying recreational options announced the new land could be ideal space for fields to be moved from Clifton Common.
Neighbors near the site appealed repeatedly to the Town Board and Councilman Tom Paolucci, who is cochairman of the committee studying uses for the land, asking them to protect the rural character in an area of town known for its farmlands. They organized a petition and spoke during board meetings about concerns with traffic, littering, noise, lighting and the cutting of trees.
But Clinton disagreed with the neighbor’s concerns. He said based on the club’s preliminary work with engineers on using the land for soccer, the 150-acre site could accommodate sports fields without detracting from the overall aesthetics of the park.
“There would be walking trails, picnic areas and play areas for kids, not specifically just fields,” Clinton said. “There are many wetlands right in the front you can’t touch, so the fields would be on the property in the back. People would hardly know they’re there.”
Paolucci told the Town Board and members of the public at the May 28 council meeting that the park will not be used for soccer fields, and plans will be of a combination passive and active park with year-round access to walking and cross-country trails, pavilions, picnic areas and a central water feature such as a pond. Paolucci also called for a more comprehensive long-term study to review all recreational land in town.
“The issue we have for soccer fields may exist for other sports as well, and we need to look long-term at the active and passive recreational needs in town,” Paolucci said.
Gerstenberger said he’s confident an agreement can be worked out for future sport space needs.
“We’re meeting with the town, and there’s still a possibility of putting three or four fields [in the Rexford park],” Gerstenberger said. “We’re working together on this.”
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