Pownal Select Board passes park policies

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POWNAL — The Select Board has unanimously passed two policies governing use and fees for town parks, furthering a recent focus on recreation.

The facility use reservation agreement and park policy approved by the board on Thursday were both in the works for about a year, said Michael Walker, town administrator.

The park policy outlines prohibited activities in town parks, which include burning open fires except in barbecues, grills or designated fire pits, parking motor vehicles or trailers overnight, hunting or discharging firearms or explosives and camping overnight.

The only change the board requested to this policy was to add clarifying language that it only applies to town parks, not anywhere else, like hiking trails, Walker said. He said he knows of two town parks: one by the former tannery, and another on Center Street.

He said he intends to put their locations online.

The town's facility use reservation agreement, which is an entirely new policy, lays out fees and permitting for one-time events of over 25 people in town parks.

The impetus behind the policy is "to try to expand activities in our parks, where people can come together as a community," Walker said.

People have been allowed to use parks in the past as well, he said.

"What I'm trying to do is promote the fact that we have nice parks," he said. "We encourage people to use them, but we want to make sure we have some kind of rules and regulations."

The user fee laid out in the agreement is $50, along with a refundable security deposit of $100, according to a copy of the agreement.

The agreement forbids the sale, possession, consumption and use of alcohol, prohibits the use of tobacco and vaping devices, and states that the town is not liable for injuries or loss or damage to private property occurring during the event.

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Before voting unanimously to adopt the policy, the board requested Walker add a provision exempting nonprofits from having to pay the user fee or security deposit.

"My thought is taking the discretion out of it," Bryan Harris, chairman of the board, said.

"I agree a thousand percent," said board member Bob Jarvis. "It needs to be a clear policy."

Before voting to approve the policy with the change, Marlena Pellon, board member, said that nonprofits seeking to hold events under this policy must come before the board and present their nonprofit information.

It is common practice to have fees associated with such a policy, Walker said.

"Ours [are] somewhat less than the norm," he said.

Walker drafted both policy proposals, consulting other towns' policies and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, he said.

Information from the VLCT identifies parks and recreational activities in towns as a key driver of economic development, he said.

"Over the course of a year, I'm trying to find ways to develop us more as a community, where we come together and recreate," Walker said. "And to try, as part of that, to spur some growth in the community."

Walker said both policies go into effect immediately.

"The caveat being I have not done the changes yet," he said. "As soon as I do it and post it to the website, they'll be the updated and approved policies."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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