Hilton Head council plans to nix recreation commission

tbarton@islandpacket.comNovember 25, 2013 

Hilton Head Island Town Council members discuss issues, including the future of the town's waste hauling program, Nov. 22, 2013, the second day of a three-day workshop in Beaufort.

STAFF PHOTO

Hilton Head Island Town Council will likely do away with its Parks and Recreation Commission.

The decision came during council's three-day workshop last week.

Council members say there's not enough for the seven-member group to do. Half of the commission's dozen meetings scheduled for the year were canceled because of a lack of agenda items.

The commission was formed in the 1992, when the town was in its infancy and its "limited-service" government focused mostly on slowing and controlling growth.

"There was this mentality that we don't do parks, but at the same time, there was a growing need to provide recreation activities on the island," town manager Steve Riley said.

The commission was formed to advise council how to proceed. The result was the town, Beaufort County and the Hilton Head Island Recreation Association sharing responsibility for operating and maintaining island fields.

"The real purpose of the commission was helping delineate the roles of these three entities in providing parks and recreation services on the island and guiding park development," Riley said. "Now, it's a lot of meetings of status reports" from the Island Recreation Association.

If the town abolishes the commission, it could create an ad hoc committee when it comes time to update the town's master parks and recreation plan, which is every five years. The Island Recreation Association would submit quarterly reports to the town and give periodic updates to council on its operations, programs and finances.

"I think (the commission has) run its course," Riley said. "There's too many months and years between updates of the island's recreation plan where there's nothing for them to do."

Councilman John McCann, who served six years on the commission, including two as chairman, agreed.

"I think the agenda has gotten less over the years, and I think it's time to move on with other committees," McCann said.

Mayor Drew Laughlin added: "If I were a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, I'd be tickled to get on to something else where there's actually something to do."

Though the commission is not as active as it once was, chairwoman Heather Rath thinks it still serves a purpose.

"... I believe we serve a broader community purpose of connecting people with government through recreation. I suggest we have a conversation with our committee and staff and see if quarterly meetings would be more effective," Rath wrote in an email to The Island Packet

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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