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Opinion: Better use for Creek Road site than a gym

The UD-3 School Board has a duty to its taxpayers and students (from Middlebury, Salisbury, Bridport, Weybridge, Cornwall, Shoreham and Ripton) to see that their property is used in a way that best serves their needs. Allowing the town of Middlebury to build a rec facility on the Creek Road site clearly is not the best use of that property.
Ever since the town office/recreation facility proposal came to light I have been saying that the proposal does not look to the future, nor best serve the needs of the wider community. This would also seem to be the case with UD-3 allowing the siting of Middlebury’s rec facility on Creek Road.
There is strong support within the towns of UD-3 for the construction of an indoor turf facility. Why not harness the fundraising capabilities of those supporters to create a building that better serves our needs, and to reduce the burden on taxpayers? Such a structure would fully benefit the students who participate in intramural sports, and the student athletes who compete in numerous field sports such as lacrosse, soccer, track and football.
As a bonus, an indoor turf field at the Creek Road location would provide the locker rooms, rest rooms and storm shelter that are needed for the outdoor fields there. The facility would be easily accessible to students from both of the districts schools, Middlebury Union High School and Middlebury Union Middle School.
Yes, a turf facility could be built adjacent to the proposed rec facility on Creek Road. However, doing so would uproot the Little League baseball field to an undetermined location. We already know that outdoor recreation space is at a premium in Middlebury. Where would the Little Leaguers go?
Why should UD-3 taxpayers lose the use of this valuable land and parking area — presumably for 99 years — in return for, at most, the removal of the old American Legion building? Those taxpayers would still have to bear the cost of the construction of the desired locker rooms and restrooms that would need to be tacked on to the Middlebury rec facility at some future date.
Finally, it has been made clear that the rec facility will be a town building, housing current and future town recreation programs. UD-3 students will find that many of those programs are of no interest to them. The students and taxpayers would be better served by building a turf facility that meets all of their needs at the Creek Road site.
Yes, UD-3 needs locker rooms, restrooms and a storm shelter at the Creek Road site. However, community leaders should engage in long-term strategic thinking and create well-planned projects that are in the best interest of their constituents, rather than simply doing the first thing that comes to mind when something needs to be done.
Craig Bingham
Selectman
Middlebury

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