Sunday softball out for Burlingame park

A recreational-field use issue that divided the community was put to bed Sunday when the Burlingame Parks and Recreation Commission awarded Sunday use of Ray Park to its neighbors, stymieing young softball players’ desire for extra practice.

The contentious issue began months ago and ended when the commission held a special meeting Sunday at Ray Park as 350 girls from the Burlingame Girls Softball Association took to the field.

The meeting was held at the park so commissioners could determine how disruptive Sunday practices would be to the surrounding community.

The league of girls ages 5-14 wanted Sunday use of two fields at the park — which is used by the general community — from March to May from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Coaches did not want to lug heavy equipment to other fields in Burlingame to which the commission had offered access and complained of having to play without adequate bathroom facilities at other fields as well as having to travel to other cities in the past, five-year coach and league President Donna Colson said.

Residents are worried about a potential increase in noise, parking and traffic generated by practices on Sunday — which already take place the other six days of the week. They also say approval of Sunday practices would lead to games.

Neighbors by the park, situated behind Lincoln Elementary School, also said they would lose “an extension of their backyard” if the league were to hog the field on Sundays.

“This used to be a neighborhood park,” said Zita Escobosa, who has lived by the park for 37 years. “It’s a nightmare [during practices].”

The meeting was called to order outside the park’s snack shack and continued as commissioners took a tour of the grounds during a simulated practice.

The meeting shifted to the Lincoln gym, where dozens of concerned neighbors sat on one side of the room while dozens of coaches and players gathered on the other. The meeting was so heated that at one point, elderly residents began raising their voices at the young female players speaking publicly in support of the Sunday practices.

After 3½ hours, 16 residents speaking against adding Sunday practices and 14 supporting it, the commission ruled 4-3 to keep the current Sunday guidelines and deny the league’s request. Colson vowed to appeal the decision to the City Council.

The commission did not approve the construction of a 60-foot-long batting cage on the field, either, but did vote to support the concept of a batting cage, meaning a modified version could be approved at a later meeting.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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