ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The president of the Salisbury Youth Association left Thursday night's township commissioners' meeting scratching his head, wondering what he could have done differently to secure proper baseball fields for his young players.
When Dan Soria first came before the board early last month asking to use Franko Farm Recreation Area on Black River Road and fashion a regulation baseball field there, the board suggested the matter be taken to Salisbury's parks and recreation committee for further discussion.
Soria said he acted on the board's recommendation and approached the committee, who asked him to work with the Hamilton Park Athletic Association. Soria said he reached out but was told the association didn't understand his needs and was busy last month planning for its own spring athletic season.
Township Manager Cathy Bonaskiewich informed Soria at Thursday's meeting that a revamp of the field at Franko park wasn't going to happen this year. She added that a meeting with the local school district regarding possible use of the middle school's field also proved unfruitful. The district said that there are physical obstructions on the middle school's field that would prevent the SYA from using it as a baseball field.
Bonaskiewich noted the SYA already uses seven of the municipality's nine parks, and she met privately about the matter with current and former public works managers James Levernier and John Andreas and Recreation Director Genny Baillie.
Debra Brinton, president of the commissioners, said township parks are for everyone's use and not designated for professional sports play. Soria retorted the 300 to 500 youth under his direction are not professional athletes but elementary and middle school students.
"I don't feel the process was fair and we weren't even given a vote by the board," Soria remarked. He said he went through what he thought were the proper channels and got nowhere on the matter.
SYA Associate Director and coach Dennis Grejda said he and Soria should have made sure the topic was placed on Thursday night's meeting agenda for a vote. He also said that Hamilton Park's youth association rejected SYA efforts for playing field reallocation and added it would serve no benefit to them.
Commissioner Heather Lipkin said until the township's master plan is completely carved out, no changes for a proper pitching mound and field sizing regulations at Franko park would occur.
Levernier pointed out that Franko's field has a swale issue requiring correction or else the infield will flood. In addition, the field will require an additional growing season to fully correct the problem.
"For this season this is just not going to work out, and I'm sorry we just can't please everybody," Brinton commented.
"This is an accommodation of needs," Soria explained. "We continue to be stonewalled when we come before the board for field allocation."
He further pointed out Thursday night's meeting afforded him the first real feedback he's received on the matter.
"This is about community, and we have kids that really want to play baseball this spring," he said.