SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – A popular park in Surfside Beach is at the center of a financial debate. Huckabee Park, a place where kids have played baseball and softball for years, could possibly lose its funding for youth sports.
The fields at Huckabee Park are home to more than 600 kids between the fall and spring months, but Surfside Beach Town Council may not deem that enough priority for the town to keep giving money for the park’s upkeep.
“It’s just home,” says Will Rabon, president of Surfside Beach Youth Sports Association. “It’s where I grew up playing.”
Rabon is behind the fight to keep the park, and all it offers for kids in the area, alive. He says town council has the power to destroy a memory-making custom for many Surfside Beach families.
“Without their (town council) help, it’s just almost impossible for us to operate the program,” admits Rabon.
Hurricane Matthew sparked the town’s withdraw from supporting the park.
“The hurricane hit in the middle of our fall season with two weeks of season left to play, and then the staff basically told us that they could not and did not have the man power to do anything with the field,” recalls Rabon.
The crew at Surfside Beach Youth Sports Association was determined to get back up and running, even offering to take over the upkeep of the field.
“So, they stopped dragging and lining the fields. So, that’s when we actually asked council, mayor, and staff, would they at least let us use the chalk machine and we would drag and line it ourselves? Their answer was ‘no’,” says Rabon.
Town leaders met with the Surfside Beach Youth Sports Association Board to see what it would take to keep the program running. News13 was able to get a copy of the list of needs the board presented to council leaders. The list asks the town relinquish ownership of the town’s machines to keep up the fields, three new pitching mounds, to use the storage rooms at Huckabee complex that are currently used by Public Works, for the town to take care of the cost of all power and water bills associated with the park, $13,500 to maintain and prepare the fields, for the town to continue paying for background checks on coaches, and for the town to maintain the buildings and scoreboards.
If Surfside Beach town officials refuse to offer the support needed, the more than 600 kids who use the fields at Huckabee Park will be forced to travel to an Horry County or Georgetown County field, or not play at all.
“I don’t think that there’s enough space available at those other programs to accommodate all the kids that play here,” voices Rabon. “So, if this program folds, it would be a while before an Horry County or another rec department would be able to accommodate all of the kids.”
Surfside Beach Town Council will discuss the park’s future at the next meeting scheduled for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
News13 reached out to four different town council members, all of whom refused to comment until after Tuesday’s meeting. We also left messages for Mayor Bob Childs, who did not return our calls, and the sports director had no comment.