Rensselaerville Town Board looking into formalization of park committee

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Pre-pandemic: Kids play at Bayard Elsbree Memorial Park in Preston Hollow during Rensselaerville’s annual picnic, bringing together residents from all of the town’s hamlets.

RENSSELAERVILLE — When what is now known as Bayard Elsbree Memorial Park was conveyed to the town of Rensselaerville in 1997, it came with a mandate that the park, which is in the hamlet of Preston Hollow, be overseen by a committee made up of Preston Hollow residents. 

Rensselaerville’s attorney, William Ryan, advised the town board last week that, while there is a committee of such a nature in place, it should be formed by the town itself. 

Ryan had been asked to give his thoughts on who operates Bayard Elsbree Memorial Park after the park committee rejected the request of a local travel-baseball coach to use a ball field there for his team’s practice. The coach, Travis Myhre, brought the issue to the town supervisor, John Dolce, who was unsure what the town board’s role might be since the park is overseen by the park committee despite being under town ownership.

“My thought process on this is that the land is conveyed to the town, but there’s a park committee consisting of residents from Preston Hollow that have to oversee it,” Ryan said. “I think to avoid confrontation or argument, if you will, you should not relinquish the right or the obligation every year to consider appointing, as members of the committee, residents from Preston Hollow.”

He also explained that the committee should have bylaws that cover things like term lengths, term limits, and the number of members on the committee. 

Ryan said that, because the property is in the town’s name, “you as a town board must create the committee and give them the authority to create bylaws and term limits and the number of members on the committee. Otherwise, you’re going to get involved with running it, [and] the deed definitely doesn’t allow that.”

Councilman Brian Wood said that the committee may already have rules for itself, “but maybe we need to have a more definite appointment process where each year we appoint … a person for three years, we don’t worry about it until it comes up, and then every year, in January, we just appoint that person and stagger it or whatever.”

Wood also said that a more formal relationship between the town and the park committee would be mutually beneficial in that it “shows that we acknowledge the fact that we need a park committee … and then it releases us from any [park] issues because we can say, ‘Look, we have this park committee; that’s the committee that runs it, speak to them.’”

Wood said that he doesn’t think that “this is a contentious thing we’re looking at.”

The board, during the meeting discussion, was unsure about the composition of the park committee. Wood said that he believes there are “three or four” women who currently serve on the committee. 

“It’s an active committee with multiple people on it,” Wood said, contrasting it with committees in the area that are less engaged. “Usually in those cases around here, it’s one person doing all the work.” 

Dolce said he would follow up on the matter.

Preston Hollow Park Committee Chairwoman Valerie Lounsbury could not be reached by The Enterprise. 

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