Hilton Head, county sort out who does what when it comes to parks

The question of where to go to book parks on Hilton Head Island has been answered at last.

As of Aug. 1, the Hilton Head Island Recreation Association is in charge of booking games and practices at all town-owned parks -- Crossings Park, Bristol Sports Arena, Chaplin Park and the Barker Field Extension. Beaufort County Parks & Leisure Services will continue to maintain them and establish booking fees, said Frank Soule, Island Recreation executive director.

Several issues, though, remain unresolved.

The town and county are still working on a document that will outline their role in the parks system.

"We've been taking it a piece at a time because the town and city have other things going on," said town manager Steve Riley. "We have made a lot of progress."

The parties have had a written agreement for many years that calls for PALS to do much of the maintenance on those parks, but that document apparently was never signed, according to town officials.

The town and county are trying to decide how to coordinate maintenance and ensure the many groups that use the parks are treated fairly, Riley said.

There has been no discussion, though, of changing the fees to use the parks, according to assistant town manager Curtis Coltrane. The fees were a point of contention in April 2009 after groups of ultimate Frisbee and soccer players were kicked out of Chaplin Park by a PALS employee for not paying to play there.

PALS' rule says that if 10 or more people are gathered on a soccer or baseball field, the group must pay $50 to $80 to reserve it for three hours. The policy also requires a $200 deposit.

"We'll use common sense in enforcing those rules," Soule said. "With the deposit, that's really more for organizations (that) are not nonprofits or civic groups."

PALS director Cristina Roberson said the change will make scheduling more convenient for island residents and reduce confusion.

In the past, sports clubs bounced between county and town committees to find out who had the authority to let them use town-owned fields managed by the county.

Now, clubs will have one place to go to request use, Soule said.