For the past year I have been fortunate to work closely with the Parks and Recreation Commission and its staff and would like publicly to thank them for the services they provide our village.

The volunteer board works tirelessly to provide recreational programs of the highest order for young and old alike, and the staff works hard to ensure the most efficiently run and cost effective services possible.

All it takes is to attend one meeting and hear the board and staff talking about saving $10 here and $5 there to know they are doing their best with the resources they have.

With an effective workforce of just four full-time employees, the Parks and Recreation Department maintains eight parks and this year will provide 195 programs and 21 special events.

In 2007, over 5,000 adults and children participated in programs offered by the department (not counting such village-wide events as the July 3 concert and July 4 festivities). The Parks and Recreation Board and Staff are assisted by a wonderful group of benefactors and volunteers who together see the value and necessity of such programs and events.

It is difficult for me to imagine Riverside without games in our parks and the community camaraderie provided by events like our annual July 4 celebrations.

There are detractors, unfortunately, who prefer rumors of overpaid staff and “fiscal madness” within the department. In recent writings, some of these detractors have called the department’s offerings “frivolity,” termed its brochure “wasted paper,” denied the extensive maintenance performed by the department with the blanket claim that “it does nothing for the parks,” and described the department’s programs with derisive references to “pottery making” and “macramé.”

Worse still are repeated charges that the director is overpaid and that the department is “a sink hole for funds.” This despite the fact that the director’s salary is at the very low end of what other recreation directors are paid in comparable communities and that the department offsets the lion’s share of it expenses through course fees and facility charges.

Because such rumors have no relation to the truth, they must come from elsewhere, and that elsewhere is a stated desire “to see the Recreation Department go.”

Why? Because “folks in town without children already fund the public schools … they should not have to pay yet another taxing body for services not used.”

This is a view to which folks obviously are entitled, but it is tinged with bad feelings not only against the department but toward the people who use its services. In describing sports activities offered by the department, one detractor opines that they “coddle” our kids and comprise “a bunch of blowhard dads screaming at them or explaining how the game must be played.”

As he describes a typical game: “I always see a mob of SUVs pull up and the lawn chairs come out and organized screaming for an hour and then, like a bad dream, they all disappear.”

I attend a lot of games and events offered by the Parks and Recreation Department. What I see are kids having fun, running and playing and learning the valuable lessons that sports can teach.

I enjoy sitting in the bleachers-or in a lawn chair-and visiting with other parents and neighbors who have come out to support and encourage our children. What I see is a beautiful thing. It is sad to me that other eyes see only coddled kids, blowhard dads, organized screaming and bad dreams.

As a trustee, I welcome the fact that people of goodwill can disagree over the future course of our village. But I reject views that are not interested in the future and that resent the possibility that together we might create a tomorrow better than yesterday.

To me that is the promise of our children, and I believe they deserve a Parks and Recreation Department devoted to their well-being. It is my great hope that we as a village will always do what it takes to ensure its continued success.

Ben Sells is a Riverside village trustee