THE putting and bowling greens are to remain closed to members of the public this year – but the Recreation Grounds trustees say they want to become more open to the community and find new ways to use the amenity.
Like everyone, the Recreation Grounds have suffered the impact of the pandemic – a £35,640 grant from the Third Sector Resilience Fund was needed to help pay bills.
The Grounds are now emerging from lockdown. The bar opened on July 15, with members returning to the bowling green a few days later on July 18. Tennis play is also in full swing – you can book and pay for a court online.
And for fans of its famous Smiddy Loaf, Terrianne’s Coffee Shop is now back in business.
But the putting and bowling greens will not be available to the public for this year – trustees cite concerns for competent hygiene arrangements at a pay desk traditionally manned by junior tennis club members.
With the swimming pool also unable to open for the season, the lack of putting and bowling at Recreation Grounds is a further blow to the town’s ability to offer summertime entertainment to visiting families.
Janice Langdon, who owns Molly’s Cafe Bar said: ”Every day we have lots of customers with children asking why the putting green is closed.
”So many disappointed children are desperately looking for something to do and looking for a bit of normality in their lives before they head back to school.”
Public Meeting to Look at Other Sports
Stuart Alexander told The Bellman the trustees want to open up the grounds to more sports and club use – seven-a-side football perhaps or more use of the indoor spaces.
”We aim to become more open. Club memberships keep it going but if we could have more variety of sports, it would be good as we could look for more sources of funds for more improvements.”
And Mr Alexander said the trustees intend to hold a public meeting – when possible – after the summer. They also aim to put together a website so information about the Grounds and their trustees is easily available – and to conform to the good practice protocol for private trusts.
Complex Ownership History and Management
Our Recreation Grounds, were first opened in 1884 (see the link below) by a Feuars’ Association.
In 1893, Stonehaven was formed into a Police Burgh, and the Feuars’ Association was superceded by the Town Council.
Then in 1902, an act of Parliament saw the ”Transference of a Lease of certain Recreation Ground in Stonehaven to an Elective Body of Trustees.” This lease was for 999 years – the land continued to be owned by the Town Council and all the successive forms of local authority.
A final dramatic turn came about with, the Long Lease (Scotland) Act which came into force in November 2015 and meant that the title to the recreation grounds land passed to the Trustees of the grounds.
The current trustees are nominated from the membership of the indoor and outdoor bowling and tennis clubs plus the convention is also to have local councillors.
Trustees currently comprise: Cllr. Sarah Dickinson, Cllr. Dennis Robertson, Cllr. Sandy Wallace, Stan Mitchell, Jean Houghton, Ian Howie, Madge Forbes, Stewart Aitken and Stuart Alexander.
There is no doubt the management of the Grounds is complicated. There are three membership clubs using the grounds – The Bowling Club, the Indoor Bowling Club and the Tennis Club. Each must consider both its own needs, help look after the Grounds as a whole, and be aware of their duty to the paying public.
This duty to all subscribers, including those paying for a day ticket, was highlighted in a landmark legal case back in 1929 – when 39,098 people paid tuppence for a round of putting . The case established the Recreation Grounds as a business, not a charity or mutual association, and liable for tax.
With the loss of income due to Covid-19, it is unlikely any tax will be due soon. And since you can’t support the grounds by playing putting or bowls, what else can you do?
If you can’t play a round, why not buy a round?
According to the Bowling Club website, drink in the two bars is ‘very competitively priced’.
And alcohol and soft drinks purchased in club can be consumed outside (around greens & tennis courts) – perfect for outdoor socialising and safe distancing.