Shenandoah council, residents dispute organized sports in parks rule

Results from the 2015-16 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, tests were released this summer.

Results from the 2015-16 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, tests were released this summer.

After a local youth football team was told it could no longer practice at Shenandoah’s main park in late August, City Council members and citizens alike have voiced their concerns about the newly enforced park rule.

A majority of Shenandoah residents stated in a 2013 survey they did not want football or baseball facilities at the main park, City Administrator Greg Smith said. Although the park does have sport facilities, the council amended the ordinance in 2015 to prohibit sports organizations from using them.

“The Park Committee worked off the information from previous park surveys and current surveys and made the determination that the park was not designed to be used by organized sports,” Smith said. “We then discussed the rules four different times in public meetings. No resident commented on the proposed rule for or against it; that’s why the rule is in place now.”

Although the rule is not new, it was not enforced until the city received a complaint regarding a youth football team in late August. The city then distributed signs reading, “No organized team sports or practices allowed in the park.”

“I have coached organized youth sports the entire time I’ve lived in Shenandoah—baseball, football, soccer and basketball teams—all of which practiced at the park with no issues over the last decade,” South County Football Coach Steve King said. “But now, we aren’t allowed to. This poorly conceived rule needs to be changed, and there needs to be a very hard look at the leadership of this city.”

At the council’s regular workshop meeting Sept. 14, six citizens addressed the council voicing their opinions on the issue.

“I have young children as well, [and] I’d like to see them be able to participate in organized sports there and practice [at the main park],” resident Jonathan Potler said. “It’s close to home, and it would be nice to keep it there. Certainly, I think [the council] should be open to that—we just need to figure out a good way to do it, but it should be a top priority.” 

Some of the concerns about organized sports that were raised by city staff and residents included liability issues, traffic congestion in the neighborhood, damage to the field by sports equipment, and addressing limitations on the number and type of teams wanting to use the facilities.

“I’m opposed to organized sports because I think the park is not a facility for football,” resident John Brennan said. “The grassy area is not suitable for football games. Secondly, it would increase traffic down by the park. I lived here when they had softball games in the park, and the congestion in that area was pretty intrusive to the neighborhood.”

Council members determined the item would be taken to the city’s Park Committee for discussion. Recommendations came back to the council at a workshop meeting Oct. 12. Possible action is expected at the following Oct. 26 meeting.