Town Crier: Rain check a poor city park policy
by Brian Williams / For the Tracy Press
Dec 16, 2010 | 3378 views | 45 45 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As the cool, late-afternoon winter breeze sent chills through all who ventured out, two groups of amped-up teenagers met at the old Tracy Ball Park preparing to go to battle.  Like all teenagers, they were just a group of kids looking to fit in, burn off some energy and, in some cases, impose their superiority on the others.

The two groups of teenagers squared off. They sized each other up, staring at their rivals’ colors. The leaders of the two opposing groups met in the middle of the old field, and sides were taken.

Spectators gathered, anticipating a hard-fought battle by two groups bent of dominating the other.

As the now-early evening chill took hold of the park, darkness began to creep in. The soon-to-be combative parties looked up and wondered.

It was getting late. The lights to the field should have come on by now. The leader of the group in dark blue made a call.

Moments later, he passed on the bad news. The light would not go on. There would be no battle. Apparently, the very light and almost unmeasurable rain the night before had triggered a closure of the field.

With that disappointing news, the parents, coaches and players of the Tracy recreational soccer league gathered their gear and walked off the more-than-playable field.

As our city is challenged with the ever-increasing problems with gang violence, demands have been made to increase police presence. With money being short, costs are being cut at every opportunity. As the economy spiraled down, Tracy’s demographics changed. A small town that was relatively crime free now had nine murders in two years.

Just when one would think that we need as many youth programs available to keep the children busy with organized sports and after-school programs, the city of Tracy took a stance on saving the life of its lawns.

As the dozens of teenagers and their families went home again without being able to play, many wondered where the city’s priorities are.

This weekend, Tracy was represented by five of its recreational youth soccer teams that made their way to Fremont to compete in the Northern California Soccer Association’s Founder’s Cup. The tournament matched the best non-competitive youth soccer teams in a four-day event to crown the Northern California Division Four Championship. 

After a highly entertaining weekend playing some of the best recreational teams in the state on a huge field in Fremont filled with hundreds of kids playing soccer, we drove back to Tracy with our heads held high.

Driving along 11th Street, we glanced over at the Tracy Sports Park and saw the closed and empty fields. We continued down 11th Street and saw again the vast emptiness that was Plasencia Fields.

I could not help but wonder just what is wrong with our city. Why would we allow our fields to go empty, simply because there had been some recent rain?

Do we want our kids playing soccer and taking out their energy and aggression within the rules of an organized sport, or would we rather contribute to their free time of social networking, hanging out and — much worse — gathering in groups wearing colors not sanctioned by a youth sports team?

As a city in search of answers to the increased crime and gang activity, would it not make more sense to invest in youth sports and activities that help supply that support structure many kids need?

Just what happened to the days when kids could simply go down to a park or school ballfield and play? In today’s world of paid permits and ridiculous use limitations, no wonder our kids are not outside playing.

When did a little precipitation begin to demand a city shut down its youth sports? At what point did we decide that our parks are simply meant to look pretty and not be used?

While it’s understandable to close a city park based on a significant rainstorm, do we really need to shut down all our fields when the ground becomes soft? While damage to the lawn is inevitable, what is also true is that, unlike the hair upon my bald head, the grass will simply grow back.

While our team did its best to represent our city in the state Founder’s Cup this weekend in Fremont, one could only wonder how they could have played if they would have had a field to practice on for the past three weeks.

• Brian Williams has been a Tracy resident since 1993 and can be contacted at briansbrain2010@gmail.com.

Comments
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fantasyfootball
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December 23, 2010
problems related to astroturf happen when people play on different fields. In other words when inconsistent use of different fields are played that person is more likely to have injuries.

If that person played consistently on one type of field statistically they have fewer injuries. Wet fields and fields damaged by people playing on wet fields are not exempt and the damage (indentations) can cause uneven surfcaes.

In one case a local school had uneven surfaces resulting from damaged fields where someone got injured as a result. So you can't ask the city to take the risk of someone getting hurt. Or a lawsuit.

Besides, there is nothing these letters do to stop a lawsuit anyway, as the article was not titled poor lawsuits ruin it for everyone. The article focused on the disguise of symptom of lawsuits.

If they tried to keep fields maintained they would get criticized for closing the fields and mainting them. But if they let them open and get damaged they would get criticized too. So I honestly read these letters and comments with a grain of salt.

People complain no matter what.
shelly13
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December 22, 2010
There's many injuries when it is dry also. Many blown out knees are due to running on dry grass or astroturf and having your foot stop abruptly. There is no give and your knee or ankle take the brunt of it. Whereas if the ground was wet, you probably might have just slipped. Whether ground is wet or dry, there is always chance for injury.

People sue these days at the drop of a hat. If you are playing on a wet field and slip and fall and break your arm. Bummer. You chose to play and take that chance. You should not be able to sue for that.

I have been in the hospital many times with myself and my kids from sports and recreational injuries. Never once would I have thought to sue someone for any of the injuries.

I do understand that many others would and that the city needs to be cautious for that reason. But something needs to be done with our court system. People need to take more responsibility for what they choose to do and not find a way to blame someone else or make money off of it. We need to appoint judges who will throw out frivolous lawsuits.

Now I was not referring to 6 inches of rain. My point (again) was that they close the fields many times unnecessarily for a mist or light rain. How does England do it. Soccer is HUGE there. It is bigger that our baseball or NFL. They get much more rain in the UK than here. Yet I have seen many games played in the rain there. I suppose your going to say they don't care about their kids as much as we do? IDK

Well I must be a horrible mom. It is raining and my kids went out to play on our street tonight. Have a good night everyone.
HawkEyes2see
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December 22, 2010
shelly13,

People would not sue if there were no injuries. And if Fremont had 6 inches of rain they should have cancelled. Other Central Valley cities have all cancelled.

shelly13
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December 22, 2010
We have become a society of uptight, overprotective, sue happy crazy people.

There is a difference between playing on a damp or misted field which is akin to having a morning dew than a rain soaked field. That is the point I tried to make. From experience, our city closes fields many times unnecessarily.

SevenCoubjes
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December 22, 2010
More player injuries occur due to collisions or contact with other players than surface contact.

Players sliding on wet grass can increase the chances of collisions.

The after effect of uneven surface on Fremont's fields also can lead to tripping hazzards.

Either of these two hazards represent increased dangers to players.

Parents should be more aware of the increased risks if they expect our children to take these risks just because we also unknowingly took these risks as children.
briandub
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December 22, 2010
Are the safety concerns valid and based on supporting data? Or is simply an excuse to justify closing the fields not based on excessive rain but just somewhat soft ground? Do more football players get hurt on soft turf then on dry grass? As a coach my first priority is player safety. I would rather kids are playing on a soft and forgiving field than a hard surface

SevenCoubjes
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December 22, 2010
As a responsible and aware parent I realize there is a law that we should be following rather than our own emotional feelings.

The general rule is these parents should be warned the conditions are dangerous when playing on fields in Fremont, CA.

This does not just mean to say that the teams that played there are in the only ones who could suffer.

But the real damage has only begun. It means that Fremont, CA now has a duty to warn future players of the dangers incurred on their fields when muddy fields are left with uneven surfaces.

Tracy, on the other hand, will have safer fields for our children to play on.

Again, I commend the city for having and maintaining safer fields than Fremont, in spite of overbearing parents.
SevenCoubjes
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December 22, 2010
I'm over thirty and I remember playing ball in an abandoned field. But back then people were not inclined to chase you off their property. Although there was a lady who kept our balls if someone kicked one into her yard. Nowadays if someone owns an empty field and a few people show up to play ball the owner would call the cops.

To blame the city for wet fields is the epitome of griping.

To be honest there are a lot of things young people can do. In fact there is another article saying that youth basketball is open in Tracy.

And guess what they play indoors. So the courts are not wet.

As a responsible parent I'm not going to gripe about this one. Personally, I commend the city for putting safety first.

briandub
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December 22, 2010


"Additionally, the teams got to play in a city that experienced less rain, and the high costs of field repairs, insurance, and possible litigation was paid by the city of Fremont."

Interesting as Fremont has had 6.99 inches of rainfall to Tracy with 6.91 inches year to date.

Again, I have been on both fields and both were similar in regards to soil condition. In fact in Fremont they were playing and there were visable puddles of water.

Anyone reading this over the age of thirty knows that when we were children we played on soft fields, muddy fields and even in the rain. Most of made through our sporting adventures unscathed. Although dirty and full of mud that our mothers were not all that happy to see being tracked into their homes, but unscathed none the less.

These field closures are overreactions and instead of allowing our children a positive supervised outlet for play and constructive competition, we are taking away one outlet that could potentially keep our youth occupied and not getting into trouble. Not the only outlet but one outlet.

I dont want to get too deep into demographics, parenting, class and race and all the other reasons why gangs have become a real issue in Tracy, but we can agree that anything we do to keep our kids occupied, teach them about teamwork and let them get run off their energy can only help.

HawkEyes2see
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December 22, 2010
I really think the article is a moot point, although it is a wonderful demonstration of the mastery of liberal use of adjectives.

Anyway, all the other Central Valley cities are shutting down their fields too while the Governor is declaring parts of the state a State of Emergency because of drenching rains. So, it's really a moot point. And the other parent's safety concerns are warrented because a concussion from a fall can actually end up with a trip to the emergency room.

For those complaints about people tripping in city owned buildings I'm pretty certain that maintenance crews clean up any leaks in those buildings to avoid that problem. I'm guessing they would also shut down a hallway if it were also having a slipping hazard. In much the same way, we also observe closure of roads that are not safe.

Another point is the author cited murder statistics and uses mistakenly tried to show causal analysis between wet fields and crime rate. But surprisingly those crimes were purpretrated by adults. Meaning, the city probably did the right thing and saved some money and a potential lawsuit. But, more importantly, they prevented injury. Additionally, the teams got to play in a city that experienced less rain, and the high costs of field repairs, insurance, and possible litigation was paid by the city of Fremont.

So, I'm not really going to complain about rain.

Besides, the schools fields get played all the time and people complain about the state of those fields. Some of which have low spots (that have actually proven to be a tripping hazard) because of the rain.

If I recall correctly, there was an article in the paper about it. And the lawsuit was mentioned too.

So I think they did the right thing.

It's probably a moot point even with the liberal use of adjectives.

tommybahama
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December 22, 2010
I think you missed the point Ornley.

The parks are there to be used, not to be viewed from afar. We could take your logic on the issue of lawsuits and extend it to just about anything;

City buildings (why let the public in as they might trip, get injured and sue the city),

The water towers (why keep them standing because they might fall over and hurt someone, and God knows, we don't want to get sued for that),

Street repairs (we shouldn't work on the streets because those Public Works trucks can cause traffic jambs which may result in accidents and someone may sue us for that) etc...

I think you get the point but if not here it is;

City government exists to provide service to the people; The people don't exist to ensure we have a city government.

Much like any other business, when we pay for ammenities or services we expect to have them available for our enjoyment or our use. That's not happening. City staff is making unformed decisions on what our needs are and when our parks will be available based on city staff's "unwillingness" to spend our tax dollars on the things we want.

If the city is unwilling to make city parks available then it's time to revisit the issue of accountability, of city officials, to their employers, the taxpayers.
briandub
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December 22, 2010


"What happens ta youth sports an availability of sport parks fer kids ta play thair sports games when th field is torn up an th city has run out of money tryin ta repair these facilities cus someone just has ta go out thair an play in th rain or when th fields are too soft ta play on?"

Lets not overreact or overstate simple wear and tear from playing soccer on a sports field. Its not like we are talking about dirt bike racing. We are talking about the loss of some grass around the goals and high traffic areas. But moving the fields around addresses this issue. In addition, how much "repair" work is required to sprinkle some grass seed on a bare spot? Can a city of 80,000 not afford some grass seed and push spreader.

As for this injury scare tactic push back, is there documented stats that show more injured kids during wet months than dry? And of those how much litigation from organized youth sports has the city had to address that falls outside of the medical waivers required by those kids participating in organized soccer?

We simply compromise, take placencia out as it does take overflow run off, we still have the old tracy ballpark that requires no maintanance seeing as I dont think its had any TLC in decades.

Again, we spend and spend so much money on our fields and we should use them within reason.

Is it worth it to not let our kids play their organized sports to keep the fields looking pretty? A ballpark is not city landscaping, its community resource to be used. And with usage their will be some limited maintanance required. Just like building a road, but we dont stop folks from driving once the conditions change.

Ornley_Gumfudgen
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December 22, 2010
Ok tommybahama let's pay yer game a little here.

What happens ta youth sports an availability of sport parks fer kids ta play thair sports games when th field is torn up an th city has run out of money tryin ta repair these facilities cus someone just has ta go out thair an play in th rain or when th fields are too soft ta play on?

An when some kid trips an breaks a leg by fallin enta a mudhole, who's gonna pick up th tab when th parents sue th city fer allowin thair precisous little kid ta play on that muddy field?

It all sounds nice an rosy until ya sit down an figure out what th costs are. But if ya want, why don't ya launch a tax initiative ta increase everyone's taxes so we can have th money ta pay fer these thangs.

I am quite shore that all of th youth sports community would be happy ta pay more taxes ta th city fer th parks. Not quite as shore th rest of the community would feel th same way. But give it a shot, ya never know.

Now if ya can just figure out how ta leave th fields open an not have ta pay through th nose when it gets messed up, let th City know an if it's a viable solution they will probably go fer it.

An who really gives a crap whair th Finance Director lives? Do ya honestly thank that all our city employees live in Tracy? Yep, our elected officials have ta live in th City but as far as I know thair ain't no legal mandate that requires city employees, A.K.A. City Staff, ta live inside th City Limits of Tracy. An I seriously doubt that many if any communities in Calefornia require it of thair employees either.
tommybahama
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December 22, 2010
It's not that we (the city) puts the look of our fields before the needs of our kids Brian; It's that we (the city) puts the cost of repairing the fields before the needs of our kids!!!

That's what's so screwed up at city hall. We (the city) put the cost of everything before the needs of the community, regardless of public need, the publics will or anything else the public demands. This attitude doesn't come from the elected officials, it comes from the staff (specifically the Finance Director). And to think he doesn't even live in Tracy!!!
SevenCoubjes
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December 21, 2010
Parents should teach their children to be less judgmental. Soil conditions in the central valley are different than Fremont. A clay or sandy root system makes a difference in how the water drains. If you put you foot on the central valley wetlands and see water squishing up around your toes it is a big safety problem. Type of grass used also makes a difference delta bluegrass, ryegrass and bermudagrass (or a mix) make difference in which fields can be used and safety too.

Grass cutting schedule makes a safety difference. If the grass was scheduled to be cut during the heavy rain the grass will be slick and people could fall down.

Then the climate is warmer and less wet in Fremont so the fields dry, aerate, and drain faster.

Teach your children to get the facts first or they too will end up sounding like a hick from the styx.
TracyGuy
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December 21, 2010
Ornley_Gumfudgen:

Damn man, sucka's is still complainin' dat it be harda' dan hell t'read whut ya' scribble. ah' am sho' man dey mean no offense meant, but how do we convince dem dat ya' actually went t'schule? How do we convince dem ya' know how t'spell?
briandub
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December 21, 2010
This has nothing to do with parenting. This is simply pointing out the fact that we have fields created and paid for so that the community can have but one resource to help us provide an avenue for our kids to play, learn, compete, and exercise in addition to whatever they do the other parts of their life. We for some crazy reason put our fields looks before our kids. When other cities townes and countries embrace encourage and support youth sports we choose to put the lawns first. Grass grows back. Its not that we want the kids playing when there is obvious danger with soaked fields but let's let them play when the fields are safe and playable. Let's keep our kids busy and let them play.
shelly13
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December 21, 2010
Nobody said anything about not following the rules or that the rules don't apply to them. Get that straight.

What I am saying is that I have seen them close fields unnecessarily. Period. I have seen them close a field due to a mist for Pete's sake. I have seen them close them because there was a forecast for rain and then the rain did not come. All I am saying is that they need to pay more attention and not jump the gun in closing them at times unnecessarily.

When I was kid we played n the rain and mud and it was no big deal. Our taxes paid to keep the fields in tact and back then there were not as many sue happy people. Those were the days.
TracyGuy95376
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December 21, 2010
I think this is bad parenting, in teaching your children that the rules should not apply to them. It is not up to this parent to decide if the rule is silly, it's just up to her to respect it. As a parent, we have an obligation to not only prepare our children for the positive aspects in life, but also the negative. By trying to ensure that they never experience disappointment (even as small as ending the game due to nightfall), you are setting them up for much bigger issues down the road. You are entitled to nothing in regards to this field. You may use it when it is open and dry, and you may not use it when it is closed and wet. End of discussion. I'm sure there are plenty of cities that did not have wet fields that day. Why not go there?
avtkrmn@gmail.com
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December 21, 2010
Ornley_Gumfudgen,

Damn man, it is harder than hell to read what you write. No offense meant, but did you go to school? Do you know how to spell?


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