By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Citing capacity issues, Rumson has dropped Fair Haven from its recreation sports partnership, a move that isn’t sitting well with coaches and parents from both riverside towns.
At Tuesday night’s council meeting, Rumson’s governing body caught an earful from miffed residents who accused the borough of making a hasty decision and pleaded for officials to work harder to continue what some called the most successful recreation partnership in the area.
The council said it will work with Fair Haven to see if it can keep two fall programs, crew and lacrosse. But there are no guarantees that discussions will keep the partnership intact, Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl said.
“We’ve hit capacity. That is the single issue,” he said.
Rumson and Fair Haven, although they have separate recreation departments, had combined crew, lacrosse and flag football leagues within the last five years. Crew and lacrosse have taken off in popularity, and now Rumson, with enough locals to fill rosters, has cut ties with Fair Haven — in somewhat too abrupt fashion, in he view of some of those affectefd.
Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre first learned of the move on August 19, he said. He emailed Ekdahl the next day asking what was going on, he said.
“That was the first exchange we had, and that was after the fact. It was made clear that the decision was made, period, end of story,” Halfacre said. “Obviously, on behalf of the Fair Haven parents in both programs, I’m very unhappy.”
Fair Haven will now start its own lacrosse program, which will be open to Fair Haven and Rumson residents, he said, and borough leadership is “exploring” the possibility of a crew program.
Ekdahl contends that Rumson’s various fields are used about for about 75 percent of lacrosse practices and games, using a rough number he got from Rumson Recreation Director John Hird. Fair Haven Fields, the only venue in that town offered to host rec sports, makes up the rest, Ekdahl said,
It isn’t the fault of Fair Haven that the borough doesn’t have the resources to make the partnership more equitable, Ekdahl said.
“Unfortunately, Fair Haven just doesn’t have the assets to give,” he said. “It’s not that they’re uncooperative. They are cooperative.”
But combined with Rumson’s own in-house demand for field access, the two-town lacrosse program has pushed field usage to capacity, he said. Last year, Rumson added a traveling baseball league. Recently it expanded its soccer program with six more Monmouth Ocean Soccer Association teams. Those additions raised a flag earlier this year that signaled there was going to be a logjam on the schedule, Ekdahl said.
As for crew, Ekdahl said that last year there were Rumson kids taking a back seat so Fair Haven rowers could participate. And the cost for Rumson’s fields and crew equipment is paid for by Rumson, so it isn’t fair to Rumson athletes to sit out while Fair Haven kids take advantage, Ekdahl said.
“At some point you can’t justify that to a taxpayer,” he said.
The taxpayers aren’t happy with this result, though.
Tom Yorke, who has children in lacrosse, asked Ekdahl to keep the partnership alive for another season so the two boroughs can work out a more fair arrangement.
“Lets avoid this meltdown,” he said. “There’s a number of things we can do, and out of respect with how this program’s success has been, give this another shot.”
The situation could have been avoided all together had there been more communication, said Mike Everett, of Fair Haven.
“It seems like this is a drastic solution to a logistical problem that can be solved,” he said.
At the behest of the crowd, Ekdahl agreed to speak to Fair Haven about salvaging fall crew and lacrosse, and said he wants action within 30 days.