Field closures becoming an issue with P&R board

A sign on Joe Floyd Track and Field last week asks people to stay off the field.(Derek Clarkston photo)

Just like the chunks of mud making up Joe Floyd Track and Field after a rainy day of play, opinions at Wednesday night’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting about what direction to take with Kodiak sports fields were all over the place.

It’s no surprise what happens to the fields at Baranof Park and now Woody Way — which recently got grass instead of the dirt surface — when it rains. Both turn from the green groves of grass to muddy pits.

A cycle of rebuilding takes place every spring, with closings for half of the summer and fall at Joe Floyd Track and Field.

“We’re trying to get too much use out of these fields,” City of Kodiak Parks and Recreation director Ian Fulp said.

Many different opinions were thrown around when it came to the underlying problem and what should be done.

“I think you’re letting football guys play on it when it’s rainy and that’s why it looks like this,” said Marcus Dunbar, advisory board member and Kodiak High School’s track and cross country coach.

Board members were unsure of the priority given to a single sport for use on a community field.

“I think that kicking the public off of this and PE classes off of this is not the right move to make,” Dunbar said. “I’m not saying that we can’t have football on it, I’m just saying we should have everybody on it all the time.”

Fulp said the field has to be in top condition for football for a number of reasons.

“We have to have the field in good shape for high school football games,” Fulp said. “You’re talking about injuries. You’re talking about people paying thousands of dollars to come down here.”

Advisory board member Amy Fogle disagreed.

“It just doesn’t make sense, Ian,” she said. “I mean the basketball gym is used by soccer. I am the only person who has ever cleaned the high school gym and soccer is allowed to go in there and completely trash the gym floor, but we shut down the whole entire field for football.

“Everybody wants football. I want football. I love football. I’m glad we have football. We have way more kids involved. But, the field is closed to the public and to the middle school, to the high school and to the kids.”

Fulp said football doesn’t take away the whole field from the public, and said it boils down to only a month of restricted use.

“So basically it was about a six-week period that it was closed,” he said.

Fulp said that ultimate Frisbee players play a large part in destroying Joe Floyd Track and Field because they play on it constantly — even during winter. When the field is closed, the players move to the baseball field.

Artificial turf would solve the problem. Unfortunately, money is a bigger problem.

Replacing just the track would cost less than $500,000. Just over $4 million replaces the track and gives Kodiak a synthetic football field. Adding a synthetic surface to the baseball field gives the project a total estimated cost of $7 million.

This isn’t reasonable for a city council that is tightening its purse strings and has other projects to worry about, Fulp said.

“There’s a lot of city projects,” he said. “Pier 3 needs to be replaced and that’s a $18 (million) to $30 million project.”

He also added that if synthetic fields aren’t included in the high school renovation project, he thinks it’s highly unlikely the project will happen any time soon.

“We need to replace the track, make some modifications to the football field to make it better and get on with the program,” he said.

Fulp wants more fields and cited Dark Lake as a possibility for alleviating space issues.

The Kodiak Island Borough Parks and Recrecation Board endorsed a move to build a sports field there. But the borough used it as the high school contaminated soil site instead.

The idea with three fields would be to put different age groups and teams on them.

But problems with rain, mud and upkeep would persist, which led to the advisory board leaning toward getting enough public backing to pull for the turf project.

“What’s going to end up is we will get more fields, but after one football game in a downpour, this is what’s going to happen: (muddy fields) and the community still can’t use the field, right?” Fogle asked.

The advisory board wants to talk to the community and see what they want to do. They also plan on recruiting new advisory members to represent football, soccer and Little League so they have a voice and don’t feel like they’re getting ignored.

Fogle asked Fulp if he would support a public group that wants a synthetic field.

“I don’t see whether Ian Fulp supports it or not,” Fulp said. “I don’t see this project happening. I think we’ll be lucky to get the track.”

He did add that he would give his support for the football field and track being replaced, though he thinks it’s a longshot.

“We have to try,” Fogle responded.

George Griffing, a middle school teacher, said that either the policy or fields would have to be changed in the end.

“If you’re not going to have a (synthetic) field, then can one user group dominate us and keep you running around like a chicken with your head cut off making grass grow and us off the field?” he asked. “The policies are going to have to be examined or we need a new field.

“This is their problem, this is not the community’s problem,” Griffing said. “We didn’t have the resources or the field to do this. You can’t come in and just take over the community field and have them expect you to put that much money and that much resource into this. That’s outside the mission.”

The field didn’t have to be closed off before the football season, and that was the major issue the board was debating.

“As a Parks and Rec Advisory Board, I would like to see this be a community field first,” Dunbar said. “It’s for the community for people to use in the community like it was before football started.”

Fulp said he didn’t put the same amount of upkeep into Baranof and now Woody Way field before football, but also added that in addition to football there is now soccer and ultimate Frisbee on the island that wasn’t here in the 1980s.

“Don’t blame football for the way that looks totally,” Fulp said. “Most of it is due to football, but also I opened the field up.”

Dunbar and the board agree that the high school football program needs to have someone on the advisory board since the decision to try to gather support for a synthetic field would be something that directly affects their program.

If a synthetic field were put in, it would need to be replaced every 10 years.

Soccer and Little League

“Spring soccer is killing Little League baseball,” Fulp said at the tail end of the meeting. “People sign their kid up for spring soccer because they want to get them out of the house and it’s half the cost. And then they say the need is over, I’m tired of driving you around and Little League is cut in half.”

The way Fulp sees it, soccer is a Parks and Recreation program where Little League is volunteer-run, and that’s a problem.

“The volunteers who are organizing Little League are paying tax money to the unit that’s killing their program,” he said.

Fulp said the soccer program is huge, but starts at a bad time of the year, with snow still on the ground.

“I think it would be better if we drop spring soccer and did just a summer soccer program and let Little League have that first group,” Fulp said. “We need an advisory board with football people, soccer people and Little League people so we can make a good decision on this.”

Parks and Recreation will have another meeting in the fourth week of November, and finalize a Little League and spring soccer decision in January. They also hope to have members on the advisory board representing football, soccer and Little League.

Mirror writer Louis Garcia can be reached via e-mail at lgarcia@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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