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The vexed question of the Northern Recreation Reserve has assumed an entirely new phase, and the athletic clubs (which have been agitating for certain concessions in order that they might bo justified in the expenditure required to' make the ground more suitable for their purposes) find themselves'” “hoist with their own petard ” in an entirely -un-' expected manner. They asked the City Council to close all the entrances to the reserve -with the exception of - two in order that the turf , might not bo much cut up by traffic, to sanction the raising a low terrace on the King street side, and to grant authority to make charges for admission on a few set days in the year, on the condition that the money arising from the “gate” shall be spent on the improvement of the ground. The Reserves Committee recommended generally that the request of the clubs should be'acceded to, but on certain points their report was referred back to them by the Council for reconsideration. Subsequently a meeting of the ratepayers of Leith Ward was held, at which, after discussion, a resolution was adopted approving of the concessions and privileges demanded by the clubs, provided that the reserve should not be monopolised, but be available at ordinary times to the children at the north end of the City. At the ordinary meeting of the Council on Wednesday the Reserves Committee brought down their revised report “as to the proposed dealing “ and improvement of the Northern “ Recreation Reserve,” which may truly be considered an “ eye-opener.” They recommend (1) that all the openings in the fences be closed with the exception of the two from King street and Cumberland street respectively, and the large gate in St. David street bo used only for vehicle traffic ; (2) that the three clubs now playing on the reserve be allowed to use one pitch for each club for this year only ; (3) that after the present season no permission be given to any adult club to use the reserve ; (4) that no permission be given to charge for admission to the reserve. Councillor Chisholm (the chairman < f the Reserves Committee), in moving the adoption of the report, stated that the Committee had gone into the matter very fully, and had arrived at the conclusions embodied therein after grave deliberation. They had visited the ground on a Saturday afternoon, and considered there was “ positive daxiger”—to-the onlookers and general public,- we 7 " presume—from the number of games going on simultaneously in so very contracted an area. They thought: that no club should .have the’right to use public reserves in' such a way as to preclude access to them by the citizens • generally. Councillor- Solomon supported the views of the chairman, saying that” it seemed to him that the Committe had arrived at a sensible decision. He was informed that on • the, preceding Saturday there were nine pitches on the ground, and “ the cricket matches formed a serious “danger to the people in the vicinity.” Councillor Miller took much the same view, declaring himself opposed to giving any authority in respect to a public recreation ground to athletic clubs. “The ground was too small for “ cricket matches ; he thought it was more “ adapted as a nursery for cricket—a place “ where young people might indulge in the “game.” The arguments on the other side— i.e., against the adoption of the report—were voiced by Councillor Mouat, and, in a sort of half-hearted manner, by Councillor Haynes, both being representatives of the ward within which the re-, serve is situated. Councillor Mouat expressed himself exceedingly surprised at the Committee executing such a complete “right about lace” without, so far as he could judge, any adequate reason. It was not merely, he said, in the interests of the athletic bodies that their requests in reference to the Northern Recreation Reserve should be granted, but also in the interest of the ratepayers, and, in fact, of the residents at the north end of the City generally. The reserve was greatly in need of improvement, and there were no funds available for tbe purpose. It was never likely to be improved unless the athletic bodies using the ground undertook the work. The report of the Committee was adopted without amendment, but we are inclined to think that it will not be carried into effect without vigorous efforts on the part of the athletic bodies and their sympathisers to have it either rescinded or materially modified. It will be noted that there are several issues involved in the matter with'which the Committee had to deal. There is, first, the improvement of the Northern Reserve, which is manifestly required, the condition now being- such that it Is anything but pleasing to the eye or ornamental to the City. This is owing to the tracks in all directions by which it is traversed between the numerous entrances, and to the tearing up of the ground by football in the winter and the cricket pitches in what in this climate is conventionally termed the summer. Improvement is simply impossible whilst this state of things continues, and any expenditure in the attempt would be useless. The recommendations of the Committee are to close up all the entrances except two, which would do away with most of the paths which now disfigure the ground, and to prohibit after the current cricket season adult athletic clubs from playing on the reserve, thus keeping it free for the children of the north end. There may possibly be a question whether the clubs who have been using the ground for many years have not acquired a prescriptive right —4he reserve being for recreation purposes —but we think the power of the City Council cannot be challenged with any prospect of success. As to the good judgment of carrying tbe report into effect, there is room for difference of opinion. On the one . side it may be Contended that the reserve is the only ground available for the clubs at the north end of the City, and that practically children are only prevented from playing on one or two afternoons the week. The fact remains, however, that "it is their, only playground—the alternative being the streets ; whilst Satmday, the day on which clubs ordinarily., play their matches, is the school holiday of the week. The truth is (and it is, no use mincing the matter) that the north end athletic clubs should have long ago provided grounds of their own, either by purchase or lease, with which they could do as they please as to conditions and charges of admission. They havd no just claim, beyond that of usage, to take possession of a public reserve, which they practically do in regard to football and cridket. No , doubt the site of the Northern Recreation Reserve is very convenient, and there is

decided financial convenience ia obtaining the use of it free, gratis, for nothing. The clubs can hardly be blamed for sticking to the proprietorshi{) so long as they are able, and thus avoiding the cost of obtaining grounds for themselves. The City Council, however, are bound to act in what they consider to be the interests of the citizens at large. As to the City receiving a quid fro quo in having the moneys .received by the clubs for admission to the-ground on certain days of the year applied to the improvement of the reserve; it is questionable whether,' if the Council should feel justified in excluding the public on the most interesting occasions, such an arrangement would work satisfactorily. The. ideas of the Reserves Committee and of the clubs might differ materially as to what constituted “improvements.” The clubs, for instance, would not bo likely to care one strawfor the amenities, but would have regard sololy to improving the ground for sport and providing good pitches for cricket and accommodation for members and spectatora If- there was to be material financial result from admission charges it would further bo necessary to close the view of the ground from outsiders. It is not a local tradition to pay for what you can see for nothing! A galvanised iron fence all round, about ten feet high, would possibly be one of the projects of improvement, of which residents and property owners in the neighborhood would hardly approve.

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THE NORTHERN RECREATION RESERVE., Issue 10465, 8 November 1897

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THE NORTHERN RECREATION RESERVE. Issue 10465, 8 November 1897

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