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Central Bucks’ fee for baseball field use riles veterans


At first, veterans from Doylestown Borough’s American Legion Post 210 thought a bill from the Central Bucks School District for use of a baseball field next to War Memorial Field was a mistake.

Apparently, it was not.

The district said the legion’s baseball team would need to pay $7,000 annually if it wanted to continue playing there, something it has been doing free-of-charge for decades. School officials offered to cut the fee in half, to $3,500, but only for the current year.

Unhappy with the change, nearly a dozen members of Post 210 attended a recent borough council meeting and asked officials to intervene. They also reminded everyone involved of War Memorial Field’s history.

The field, which is owned by the borough, has long been open to the public. A 1988 agreement allowed the school district use of the field, which sits next to Central Bucks West High School and across the street from Lenape Middle School.

However, it’s commonly understood that the larger community has access to its tracks and playing fields on weekends and when school is out.

Since last fall, residents have noticed the school district restricting use of the area and complained to borough council.

Now, veterans too are questioning what’s going on. The baseball field’s approximately 20 acres was purchased in 1945 by several groups, led by vets, according to historical records and to Steve Ruane, the post’s baseball team manager, who spoke at the council meeting. Efforts to reach Ruane for this story were unsuccessful.

The purpose of buying the land was to create a living memorial to veterans and the reason it got its name, he reminded both the council and the CBSD.

Tara Houser, the district’s chief operating officer, said at the meeting that restrictions for public use have been added due to security concerns, vandalism and liability worries.

“We’re trying to make sure that we follow the borough agreement,” said Houser, “and we don’t have unfettered access for whenever anybody wants to come and go.”

Regarding the baseball field, the COO said, as a board member of a Lehigh County American Legion team and a mother of an active-duty soldier, she supports veterans’ groups.

Still, allowing one team to use the field for free would open the door to others expecting the same.

“The firemen’s league has a softball team, and we charge them,” she noted.

Borough council agreed to appeal the district’s usage fee for the veterans’ baseball team.

“War Memorial Field was created as a living memorial to the sacrifices of our veterans, and donated by the Borough and its residents to the Central Bucks School District to use in that spirit for the benefit of the community’s youth,” said borough manager John Davis in an email.

“For three quarters of a century the District has benefited from this donation free of charge, with the Borough receiving only public access to the stadium and free usage by the American Legion as consideration. That the letter of our agreement does not sufficiently protect the community’s interests would be irrelevant if the District were to simply recognize its spirit and how modest the Borough’s request is in light of the benefit to CBSD,” Davis continued.

The school district’s operations committee is expected to review the matter this week, said school board president Karen Smith, in an email.

“Our administration, who are new to the district, asked some questions about the use of the field. They were doing their due diligence,” Smith said. “After some investigation we have clarified the situation and will bring it to the board at the operations committee on Wednesday,” Smith said.

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