As Worcester Township’s proposed “Lighting Ordinance” continues its 30-day advertisement period, which began on Dec. 20, members of the Methacton School District community are using online resources to show support for having athletic field lights.
The online resources take the form of an online petition called,
- “Worcester Township Board of Supervisors: To amend Worcester Twp ordinance to allow the installation of lights at MHS;”
as well as a
- “Methacton High School Lights” Facebook page
According to one of the organizers of this virtual rally, Lower Providence resident Lois Byrne said using the online resources makes sense in the new age of social media and the traditional role of a busy parent.
“We’re hoping that we can prove there are supporters out there that are equal to or more than the opposition,” Byrne said.
Byrne retired last year from coaching in the Methacton United youth soccer club, after four years with her team.
While the spotlight of the lighting ordinance has focused on Methacton High School (MHS), Byrne points to the same absent field-light issues the Methacton United Soccer Club has at its homefield at Heebner Park. Both the MHS athletic field and Heebner Park are located in Worcester Township, and fall under the current lighting ordinance, which restricts illumination 12-feet above grade.
According to Byrne, one of the issues of not having lighted fields is that it becomes difficult to reschedule rained-out games, as other teams typically book available athletic fields. During her tenure as coach, Byrne said that the only option would then be for her team to travel to opposing team’s fields.
“Light becomes and issue,” Byrne said. “The home-field advantage is taken away.”
Proponents and Opponents
Byrne recalled the Methacton School Board’s Oct. 25, 2011 approval for athletic field improvements at the high school, which included field lights and new turf. However, Byrne said that she and other parents were disappointed to learn that residents, specifically those living adjacent to the high school property, had formed an opposition group, and had voiced their concerns at Worcester Township meetings.
Also, at the Oct. 17, 2012 school board meeting, a document titled, “Approval Conditions for Lights on Athletic Fields at Methacton High School,” was presented to the board, and consolidated the opposition issues concerning field lights.
Byrne said that she and other field light proponents, naming residents of both Lower Providence and Worcester townships, have not been fully represented in the matter, despite her understanding that there are more proponents than opponents throughout the school district.
“They are very local and very organized,” Byrne said of the opposition group. “We can’t go to all the meetings. We have to do homework and take the kids to sports practice.”
It is for that reason Bryne said the online petition and Facebook page were created.
One-hundred and Fifty and Counting
The “Worcester Township Board of Supervisors: To amend Worcester Twp ordinance to allow the installation of lights at MHS” petition, found on www.change.org, provides reasons for signing the online document, highlighting safety and school-community pride.
“It’s time for the majority to be heard,” Gene Dickey, a Methacton School District parent, said of the petition. “I hope my daughter can play at the high school field, and not have to practice in the parking lot.
Dickey, a longtime home-and-school parent volunteer at Skyview Upper Elementary, as well as with the Methacton Warriors Pop Warner organization, is also helping to organize support for the petition.
She, and several of the commenter on the petition website, argue that field lights are critical to their children’s safety, providing the example that the high school marching band currently practices in the school’s lighted parking lot.
The petition was created on the evening of Jan. 1, and by late yesterday afternoon the petition had grown to 83 signatures; by the late evening there were 150 signatures.
Among the most popular comments on the petition website was from a Greg Pellicano of Eagleville, who wrote in part:
The athletic facilities at Methacton high school are substandard as compared neighboring school districts. Changing the ordinance to permit lights coupled with the installation of turf fields will bring our facilities up to par with all of the other school districts. This is a necessary change that will greatly benefit the entire Methacton School District community which includes BOTH Worcester and Lower Providence townships.
Also by the late evening Jan. 2, the “Methacton High School Lights” Facebook page had not garnered as much attention as the petition, with just over 25 page likes. However, several posts feature polls asking for opinions concerning specific regulations found in the township’s lighting ordinance. Byrne also noted that two Arcola Intermediate School students helped create the page on Dec. 30, 2012.
“I’m pleased how rapidly people have joined the petition,” Byrne said.
According to Byrne, petition organizers plan on presenting their effort to the Worcester Board of Supervisors at a future meeting. She further notes that with the expected public hearing coming in the weeks ahead, proponents of the lighting ordinance will try to muster support at such future meetings.
According to Worcester Township manager Lee Mangan, the proponent group may present and explain to the board of supervisors their petition at a board work session, its regular meeting or through U.S. Post.
“The board would factor it in with all their deliberations,” Mangan said. “It shows the strength of our democracy. People come in and can petition their government.”
To read the proposed Worcester Township “Lighting Ordinance,” follow this link to the .pdf copies in the media gallery.