Chris Hampton, chairman of the CRPA advisory board, told county commissioners on Tuesday that the soccer organization, which manages the park, has been violating a contract with the county by not opening the entrance gate during daytime hours.
The county’s contract with Cherokee Impact states that the park, located off Blalock Road, should be open to the public when teams are not using the fields, Hampton said.
The recreation advisory board voted this fall 5-0 in favor of keeping the gate open during the complex’s hours of operation (8 a.m. to 11 p.m.) as stated in the contract, according to Hampton.
“It was built with public funds, and it needs to be open,” he said.
Hampton said the gate is a continuing issue with Cherokee Impact.
“It seems to be that with this association we have the same problem every time. They’re the only association we have trouble with as far as direction,” he said.
Since the county owns the park, Cherokee Impact needs to follow the contract, County Commissioner Karen Bosch said.
“If they want to cut us a check for that park, they can have their lock,” she said.
For a long-term solution, Hampton suggested looking into an automatic gate that can be programmed to open and shut at set hours.
“In the meantime, someone needs to be opening that gate, and it needs to be us,” Bosch said.
John Brandreth, president of Cherokee Impact Soccer, said the organization isn’t trying to force people to stay out of Badger Creek Park.
“There are parking spaces at the entrance. Anyone who wants to can park their car and walk into the park,” he said, noting that people can walk around the gate.
He said Cherokee Impact relies heavily on volunteers and doesn’t have someone to unlock the gate every day.
“It’s something that’s pretty difficult to arrange,” he said.
Brandreth said vandalism is a concern for Cherokee Impact, as the restrooms and concession stands have been vandalized in the past. He noted that the soccer complex is “a little bit off the beaten path” and doesn’t have lights in the parking area.
Brandreth also expressed concerns about liability if a person not involved in the soccer league were to be injured at the park.
County Commissioner Harry Johnston said concerns of vandalism may prove to be valid, but the park should be open to the public during daytime hours as stated in the contract.
“I don’t think the risk warrants closing the park to the public most of the time, as has been the case so far. I think we have to open the park and see how it goes,” Johnston said.
The soccer fields are closed to teams and the public for the next 60 to 72 days for winter maintenance.