Madison County Recreation Department has adopted a new policy to manage requests from community organizations wishing to host special events at department facilities.

The Madison County Board of Commissioners voted on Monday, Nov. 30 to approve the recreation department’s special event policy. The policy, effective Jan. 1, applies to organized activities that take registration, provide food to the public, have a potential for revenue, have a heightened level of risk, and similar. Special events are nonrecurring and are less than seven consecutive days. The policy draws a distinction between special events and the general public continuing to use the recreation department’s facilities for recreational purposes.

“Families are still encouraged to use the picnic shelters for things like birthday parties, and groups of friends are still encouraged to play ball on one of our many ball fields,” explained program coordinator Justin Van Wicklen. “Use of department facilities remain first-come, first-served for families and individuals acting as private citizens as long as there isn’t an existing reservation or one of the recreation department’s programs is going on. We started seeing organizations taking advantage of the facility rental policy which is meant for the general public’s use —at no fault of their own — there just wasn’t anything in place to process these requests at the time.”

Department facilities can be rented for a fee by contacting the recreation department directly.

Examples of special events include events such as fundraisers, sport tournaments, and car shows, but organizers should contact the recreation department to determine if their activity falls under this new policy.

The differentiation between the general public’s use of facilities and what the policy defines as a special event, provides some new assurance to the general public using the facilities on a first-come, first-served basis.

“It levels the playing field in favor of the general public now,” said Van Wicklen. “There’s less pressure on these usually smaller groups using a ball field when a larger, organized group shows up without a reservation. Now, these organized groups will need to submit an application for their event and have it on our calendar before they arrive.”

The application process to have a special event requests details for all aspects of the event. The policy requires organizing bodies, as they are referred to in the policy, to submit an application for their event between six months and 45 days leading up to their event. This timing allows the recreation department to reserve facilities for the special event to ensure no other group or event is taking place at the specified times.

Once an application is submitted to the recreation department, milestones are set for the organizing body to meet leading up to the day of the event. The milestones outlined in the policy account for contingencies that may come up during the organizer’s event. Proof of insurance and any applicable food permits, among other items, are requested. After all milestones are reached, a contract that outlines responsibilities of both the organizing body, and the county will be drawn and the special event is officially approved.

“I’m excited to welcome these special events at the recreation department,” recreation department director Shelley Parham stated. “We look forward to working with event organizers to ensure they have safe, successful events at our facilities. The new policy will allow us to be good stewards of the county’s resources on behalf of the county’s residents.”

Those wanting to organize a special event should contact the recreation department starting on Jan. 1 for more information and to obtain an application.

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