From now until the election, the Town-Crier will ask questions each week to the six people seeking three seats on the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors. This week’s question: How would you characterize the Indian Trail Improvement District’s recreation policy? Does more or less money need to be spent on parks? Should ITID run its own recreation programs or should all recreation programs be run through outside service providers?
ITID SEAT 1
Mike Erickson — ITID’s current recreational policies have created one of the most successful community programs in Palm Beach County. The ITID policy supports the volunteers and outside service providers by providing the facilities at no cost. As a nonprofit, each provider has supported the program through its collected fees, volunteer coaches, team moms, parents and grants. These recreation providers have provided the support equipment, programming, insurances, uniforms, coaching and referee staff. ITID has provided the fields, facilities, lighting and maintenance staff. This type of structure has allowed the providers the ability to ensure high-quality programs at very reasonable prices, while ITID has been able to keep the tax burden relatively low. I believe this type of policy and structure is the best way to keep recreational services at high standards while keeping participation costs as low as possible. I support all the current activities being provided by the Acreage Athletic League and sports boards, the Acreage Horseman’s Association, TLC Productions and the Acreage Landowners’ Association.
I also support the expansion at Acreage Community Park and would like to see us complete all of the outside facilities within the next 18 months using funding that is already in place. On the other hand, I do not support an increase in taxes. When it comes to more costly projects, like a community center, I support asking the residents through a binding vote whether they are willing to support and pay for it. If a majority of residents support the vote, I would support funding it by issuing a bond and paying for it over the lifetime of the building. Learn more at www.mikeerickson.info.
Jennifer Hager — ITID’s primary responsibility is to provide drainage, road maintenance and improvements, plus a neighborhood park and recreation system to its residents. Our parks department is responsible for the operation and maintenance of ten parks within the district, including the sports fields, playgrounds, pavilions, trails and equestrian arenas. Any events held at an ITID park, such as the Acreage Athletic League’s sports functions, the Acreage Community Jam, the Acreage Greenmarket or the Acreage Horseman’s Association horse shows, are coordinated between ITID and the organizing association. At this time, ITID provides the facilities for these events and the associations provide the manpower. Since these associations are largely run by volunteers, ITID provides minimal staff.
The community’s desire for a community center is fully realized. ITID is closer to making this desire a reality. Tropical Storm Isaac was a considerable setback. However, since drainage improvements have been addressed and continue to be completed, Hamlin House has been finished and opened. The expansion of Acreage Community Park South has begun with the amenities portion to be completed first. Additional amenities may create the potential need for additional staff and/or service provider agreements outside of the scope of ITID.
Our parks are beautiful community gathering places for families and friends; true assets with many amenities to satisfy just about everyone, from football players to barrel racers. There may even be a dog park in the future. I remain committed to my primary goal: to address the needs of all while considering the least possible burden of additional expenses to the taxpayer.
ITID SEAT 3
Ralph Bair — The ITID parks system is one of the best in the county. It offers a large variety of neighborhood parks throughout the district, and our community park is for organized sports and large gatherings.
When our park system was first developed, the district reached out to the landowners and all local organizations to develop ideas for playground equipment and other amenities throughout The Acreage. Most recently, we upgraded the playground at Kidscape Park, including adding equipment for children with disabilities. Hoefl Park is receiving an upgrade now, as it’s the oldest neighborhood park, and it will include the construction of restrooms. The current budget needs to continue in order to maintain the existing parks, upgrade facilities, correct safety issues and replace worn equipment. The Acreage Community Park South expansion is being constructed with reserved capital funds and matching grants. It will include a large outdoor track.
I believe that approved recreational providers are better qualified to run programs and at a lower cost than district personnel. The outside service providers do background screenings, provide training, enforce rules and good sportsmanship, as well as approve the coaches. They also provide insurance in case an injury occurs that indemnifies the district, so only the operation of the parks are a cost to the community. Our most recent provider is now providing organized equestrian activities at our Nicole Hornstein Equestrian Park. This park also recently enjoyed the opening of the Hamlin House. It is open to the public for additional activities and is available to rent for parties.
Overall, our community parks are there to provide benefits to all of the residents and should remain a safe, happy and healthy place for all to enjoy.
Alan Ballweg — Our park system is one of the jewels of The Acreage. Parks should be well funded and well maintained, and expanded as appropriate. A study of federal parks estimated $4 of benefit for every $1 of taxpayer expenditure. No such study has been done for The Acreage, but I believe our system provides an excellent value for the taxpayer.
Our recreational policy is working well, and I see no reason to change it. I have toured our system with our parks director and visited all parks. I believe that we are not getting enough county parks compared to the county taxes we are paying. An appropriate ratio would be about 50-50 local-regional, but we are at about a 25-75 ratio. I feel we are being shortchanged, and this has been going on for many years. I have already had discussions with the Palm Beach County parks director on this subject, but as a resident, I can only go so far, which is one reason that I need your vote. If elected, I will immediately push for negotiations with the county to give us our fair share of the taxes we are paying. That could result in a dramatic increase in county contributions to our local parks, at no additional cost to ITID taxpayers.
Some other ideas I have include more shade structures and shade trees, with root barriers to protect the sidewalks and roads. I also would like to see more activities and playgrounds for children.
ITID SEAT 5
Betty Argue — The Indian Trail Improvement District has a park system to be proud of. There are parks in most of the units to serve families with recreational activities that range from racquetball courts to the equestrian park on the east side. Many of our parks are equipped with children’s playground equipment and walking trails.
The service providers, such as the Acreage Athletic League, AYSO and the Acreage Horseman’s Association, have done a great job putting together recreational and competitive league programs for children and adults. The Acreage Landowners’ Association also organizes community events. Our parks and programs add value to our community. Without a doubt, children who are kept busy with sports and recreation, build character and community. We should encourage community use of our underutilized parks by holding practices, team meetings and even community meetings at these locations. There are programs which ITID can and should keep in-house such as the community garden project at the Hamlin House.
While there is always demand for more, the district must balance the costs of construction, personnel, on-going maintenance and insurance with the benefits to the community as a whole. There are improvements needed such as shade structures, shade trees, improved equestrian trails, seating areas and water fountains. Many of these improvements can be done within the existing parks budget. ITID should lobby the county for improved soccer field drainage at Samuel Friedland Park. An ITID equestrian park on the west side would make a nice addition to our park system.
Carol Jacobs — Indian Trail Improvement District recreation policies are designed to provide sports programs for Acreage families. ITID has, at the present time, two recreation providers: the Acreage Athletic League (AAL) provides sports for Acreage families such as football, baseball, soccer and cheerleading, and the Acreage Horseman’s Association (AHA) provides events such as clinics, barrel, pleasure and hunter events for equestrian families. Both the AAL and the AHA make The Acreage a better place to live, both are operated with full volunteers, and if it wasn’t for the hard work and dedication by many volunteers, I’m afraid there might not be programs for our Acreage families. What these providers do for The Acreage is priceless.
The district takes care of roads, drainage and parks. That is what the residents pay for. The annual budget is adjusted according to what is needed in each area; there is a balance. The answer to should the district run it own recreation programs is no. If the district ran its own recreation programs, taxes would increase, because you would be taking on large programs, which as of now and for many years have been organized very well by volunteers. I am proud to say that I live in The Acreage! Keeping children in sports and on a horse keeps them out of trouble.