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Dixie Youth supporters pack Halifax Council

South Boston News
More than 50 supporters of the Halifax Dixie Youth league were on hand Tuesday for the Halifax Council meeting to voice their support of the league remaining at the Halifax Elementary School facility.
SoVaNow.com / April 14, 2010
More than 50 parents, coaches, supporters and young players packed Halifax Town Hall on Tuesday night, seeking to convince members of Halifax Town Council to relent on their stance that Dixie Youth ball players could not use the ballfield at Halifax Elementary School after the completion of the 2010 Dixie Youth season.

In a letter dated March 3, Halifax Town Manager Carl Espy, on the instruction of Council, wrote to Halifax County Administrator George Nester, “It is our local governing body’s desire that Halifax County work together with the Town of Halifax and Dixie Youth Baseball in relocating to another site and developing a more suitable recreational complex which can accommodate these activities for years to come, starting in the 2011 season.”

But in an earlier meeting with Council, Dixie Youth officials said it would be next to impossible to relocate and develop a field within a year’s time. Furthermore they estimated the cost of developing a new facility at a minimum of some $200,000 not including the cost of the land.

On Tuesday night ten speakers addressed the Town’s request to have the ballfield relocated. Conway Harris, a resident of Snead Lane in the Town of Halifax, and a long time supporter of Dixie Youth play reminisced about how he and league president Skeeter Duffer had worked on the field for over 20 years, cutting the grass on Saturday mornings and picking up the trash after the games. Harris urged Council “to let the kids play ball and have a good time.”

James Medley, another long-time Dixie Youth supporter made a similar plea.

Raymond Duffer, the son of Skeeter, brought letters from two former players who started their long baseball careers on the Halifax field. In a letter from Blue Comet standout and now coordinator for the University of Virginia’s baseball team, Justin Armistead, he wrote of the valuable lessons he had learned while playing in the league. Armistead wrote that “it would be a great disservice to our youth” not to allow them to use the field. And noting the convenience of the location, fellow Comet standout Nathan Clements wrote that Council’s decision to kick Dixie Youth off the field “deeply troubles me. This is a place close to my heart. It’s a great neighborhood, clean, friendly and crime free.” Council’s action, Clements said “tells children they are not welcome.”

Another supporter, Larry Blanks, pointed out there are so many memories and so many emotions tied to the field and the play that has gone on there. “This is about more than baseball. These kids are our future.”

League vice president Randy Moore agreed. “This keeps our youth out of trouble. For many this is the only chance they have to participate in sports. Please send a letter to the Board of Supervisors saying we can continue to use this field.” And League president Barry Moore told Council that nothing has disappointed him more than the letter stating the league could not use the field another year. “We have got to have time and a year is not enough,” he said.

“We love baseball season,” Abby McBride, the mother of several players, told Councilmen. “I’m down here five nights a week, picking up trash with handheld lights and flashlights” to keep the facility clean.

Another parent who lives just across the street from the field, Kim Parker, said she had experienced no problems with the ballfield and she wants to see it continued to be used by the teams. Parker also presented Councilmen with a petition signed by businesses within the Town who support having the Halifax Dixie Youth remain at the current location on Mountain Road at the former Halifax Elementary School.

One of the strongest comments came from Don Bagwell Jr. who lives directly across the street from the ballfield. “While I am sensitive to the feelings of my neighbors, I enjoy sitting on my back porch and hearing the youngsters as they cheer and play. They have never bothered me and never thrown trash in my yard or parked a car in my driveway. I support Dixie Youth.”

Another nearby neighbor, Charles Parker, said he is a parent of players, a citizen of the Town and a supporter of the recreational program. He pointed out that the business owners of the Town support having Dixie Youth use the field and noted that he feels neither the Town nor the County has the money to sink into developing a new field. “Values are taught there every single day, and I think this Town should go on record saying keep the field as it is. It is one of the Town’s great assets.”

Following the public comment period Vice Mayor Dick Moore told the group that the Town was in no way trying to force Dixie Youth out. “We thought we could work to move to the Mary Bethune Complex, but found there is not enough space there. We have appointed a committee to work on the issue,” Moore said.

Councilman Jack Dunavant said “it is not our intention to kick you out. We would like for the County to work with the Town to find a solution since we do have a problem with having a ballfield in an R-1 district.” Dunavant said he hopes this will be the catalyst that brings everyone together to have a better facility that can host state tournaments and bigger events.

Absent from Council during the Tuesday meeting were Mayor Leon Plaster and Councilman Holt Evans.

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