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Work on sports fields moving forward despite setbacks
Crews are working six days a week, 12 hours a day, in an effort to complete a Vashon Park District project to transform a lumpy expanse of grassy fields into a high-quality athletics complex just north of Vashon town.
On a sunny afternoon last week, Mike Mattingly, the site superintendent, and Tom Ossinger, the project manager, said the project is going well as crews work long hours to meet a weather-imposed deadline at the site off of Vashon Highway: They need to plant grass in September to take advantage of the fall rains and a long growing season.
“We want to hit the growing season,” Mattingly said. “It’s a push, but we’re going to make it.”
The $1.5 million project will result in what sports enthusiasts say is much needed field space on Vashon. The fields will take heavy-duty, three-season use, Mattingly and Ossinger said, with field space for soccer, football, baseball, softball and lacrosse. All told, the 10-acre site can be configured to accommodate seven different practice fields at once.
Kids and adults have long played at the site, the former home of the Vashon Elementary School, but drainage problems and uneven terrain have made it difficult to impossible to use through large stretches of the season, Mattingly and Ossinger said.
Now, after an ambitious fundraising campaign and more than $500,000 in state grants, the two men are overseeing a project that includes a state-of-the-art drainage system that will keep the fields from turning into swamps in the fall, winter and spring months, they said.
“The native soils had a lot of fine particles that caused the ground to hold a lot of water. You end up with mushy fields much of the year,” Ossinger said.
He and Mattingly stood at the side of one of the unfinished fields — an open expanse of dirt and gravel — as they spoke. Long, symmetrical trenches filled with pebbles ran the length of the field from north to south, providing a drainage system that will take the water to a pipe on the southern edge of the field.
Also exposed was the infrastructure of an irrigation system. It, too, will provide support for three-season field use, ensuring the grass gets the water it needs during drier months.
“This is the part of the job people will never see,” Ossinger said as he surveyed the scene.
The wide-open pit will soon be filled with a foot of compacted sand, a substrate that will provide great drainage, the two men said. The grass seed will be planted in the sand.
Small mountains of sand dot the fields project. All told, Mattingly said, they’ve brought in about 13,000 tons of sand, all of it from Vashon Sand and Gravel on Maury Island.
“Modern fields are all being built with sand like this,” Ossinger said.
The project is about a year behind schedule, due to a slow fundraising campaign and other interruptions in the project, said Wendy Braicks, the park district’s executive director. Because the fundraising drive has not netted as much cash as the park district had hoped, the board recently agreed to borrow $400,000 — a non-voter-approved bond that the district will have to pay back at $96,000 a year over the course of five years, Braicks said.
What’s more, certain aspects of the project have been postponed. The team is currently doing all the earth-moving and field work, Braicks said. But installation of the restrooms and the pavers won’t take place until next spring — and other concrete work has been put off indefinitely, she said.
“We’re hoping when people see the field ... that will get some excitement and people will start stepping up and we can retire the bond early,” she said. “But even with the bond, we won’t be able to do everything.”
But the project’s ambitious summertime schedule has been hard on some of the neighbors.
Kathryn Bosler, a semi-retired woman who lives on the southern edge of the project, said the long hours, the dust and a recent spate when the crews were using heavy machinery to compact the dirt have made her summer miserable.
The compacting process made her house shake and her windows rattle, she said. A patina of dust, she added, covers her porch, her plants, even surfaces in her home.
“It’s not just the noise and dust,” she added. “It’s also the diesel fumes. Sometimes they have three or four vehicles working an area, and the fumes are awful.”
Another neighbor, Jodee Berube, said she too has been troubled by the long hours, noise and dust.
“It will end eventually. But I don’t know what it will be like to have a ballfield right next door,” she said. “I think it’s a great project. I think it’s wonderful. But I think where I’m living is not where I’d want to live, given the choice.”
Ossinger and Mattingly know the project — especially the compacting process — has been hard on neighbors. But they’re hopeful the result — expansive green fields that serve the community well — will eventually make up for the disruption.
“This is going to be such an addition to the community,” Ossinger said.