Councillor Lennox is right: Leave the fees out of minor sports

Op-ed

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In the May 9 Council meeting, one motion on the table was a suggestion to add hourly usage fees for local ball diamonds and soccer fields, including for organizations that run minor sports. Councillor John Lennox spoke out against this. He argued that soccer in particular needs to remain a cheap organized sports option for families of all socio-economic backgrounds. Councillor Matthew Uhrig had a similar opinion, pointing out that the grass is going to grow on these land parcels and needs to be mowed, user fees or not. 

It’s worth pointing out that some groups such as adult sports groups already pay user fees for the fields. I happen to sit on the executive board of the local soccer club that runs both adult and minor soccer throughout the spring and summer here in North Dundas, and I must say that we do it for a very affordable price. It really is a sport that almost any family can afford to sign their child up for, which reflects in the significant enrollment in soccer every year locally. 

I posit that Councillor Lennox is absolutely right. Leave the extra fees out of minor sports, and let the kids play with as little financial impact to their families as possible. Frankly, at the low rates suggested by Township staff for field rentals for minor sports, I fail to see how the administrative costs from collecting the fees wouldn’t usurp the revenue anyway. The result? You’ve achieved nothing but insult the taxpayer, who once again is left feeling like their tax dollars get lost in a never ending abyss. Taxpayers deserve to feel that our tax payments are paying for something besides garbage pick up. I love that we have two pools, two arenas, and multiple recreational fields and parks, but we pay enough taxes for these without adding more fees. When visiting the Winchester Arena with a group of March Break Camp kids for public skating earlier this year, I proudly told the kids “we all own this property, it’s a public space that my taxes and your parents’ taxes pay for”. The kids were very amused. 

There is nothing wrong with user fees in some contexts, particularly insofar as it helps to organize the booking of spaces such as the pools and the arenas. I would never question fees for booking other facilities such as the Old Town Hall, for example. But when it comes to a patch of grass nestled beside the train tracks in the west end of Chesterville – let each and every one of us taxpayers feel they have earned the right to call it our own. Let us have these reminders that our taxes pay for something other than garbage pick up and occasional road maintenance projects. What is lost in user fees will be made up for in smiles. 

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