Chamber asks town to take on local winter recreation
After an idea to provide a sledding hill at the Bethel Airport fell through, the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce last week said the chamber will get out of the business of creating winter recreation for Bethel residents.
At a Bethel selectmen’s meeting last month, an idea was floated to hold this year’s ski/snowboard Railjam at the airport, and then allow the snow hill built for that purpose to be used afterward for sledding for area children.
But at last week’s board meeting Town Manager Jim Doar said the Airport Authority is recommending against using the airport “for any winterfest recreational activities.”
The biggest worry for him, he said, “is the unsupervised sledding.” He said there could be problems such as debris on the runway or people climbing on airplanes.
Selectman Don Bennett expressed frustration that efforts to provide recreation often “come down to liability.”
BACC Executive Director Robin Zinchuk, who attended the meeting, said the chamber would likely find another site for the Railjam, which has its own insurance.
She agreed that insurance and liability have generally been a problem over the years as the chamber has organized winter activities.
She asked the town to take on responsibility for winter recreation for its residents.
“I just wanted to let you know that I think the Chamber is out of the business of creating sledding and skating and those kinds of things for the citizens of the town, and I apologize for that,” she said, “but it is just too hard. It’s too expensive.
“We need to continue to focus on doing things that are going to help the businesses, because they’re the folks that are the ones that are our constituents.
“All those kids and families that enjoyed the sledding hill last year [at Festival Plaza] will be disappointed, and I am sure the chamber is going to get flak again for not creating a sledding hill, just like we got all kinds of flak for not flooding the skating rink [at the same location], when in fact I do not believe that is the job of a chamber of commerce.
“I do believe it is the job of the town to create some kind of fun activities for its citizens to the degree you’re able to have the resources to devote to it.”
A report by the town’s Ad Hoc Recreation Facilities Committee presented to selectmen last week included an ice rink on a list of possible recreational resources for the town in the future.
Selectmen noted the report also included a recommendation for a town recreation director, a position that might aid in creating winter activities.
Airport lounge donated
In other airport-related business last week, selectmen approved donating the “pilots’ lounge” at the airport to Telstar High School for use as a snack shack.
“I wanted to trade it for Ethel Bisbee,” quipped selectman Don Bennett, referring to the town’s request to SAD 44 to give the Ethel Bisbee School building to the town.