Agren Park got a major facelift this month, correcting vexing problems of the widely-used playing field that many say will benefit the groups that use it most.
Included in the renovation, the road and parking lot will be regraded this October, smoothing out what Vashon Park District Executive Director Elaine Ott-Rocheford called “a pothole hell.”
“It’s really bad,” she said, adding that the district’s maintenance crew had filled them in with gravel in the past as a short- term fix. But it was clear for some time that that practice couldn’t go on. “This is going to be nice to have done.”
The entire restoration is funded by a $250,000 King County Youth and Amateur Sports Grant that was awarded to the district in January of last year. Ott-Rocheford said the primary objective of the project was the field itself — its shortfalls have not been significantly addressed since 1995, when the county gave the property to the district.
One of the field’s biggest problems was related to water: a 5-foot slope from the southeast corner to the northwest corner often left some areas a muddy bog and others bone dry.
“With improved drainage, we hope to get a longer season of use,” said Ott-Rocheford. “When it starts raining [now] we have to shut it down.”
Agren Field is used by island softball teams and some soccer teams. For any recreation type, said Ott-Rocheford, weeds posed a slip hazard for athletes if the ground was wet. She highlighted that another safety issue — the number of sinkholes in the field — have now been filled in. The top layer of the soil was shaved away and then mechanically compacted to create a uniform playing surface.
Previously defective irrigation heads were upgraded, and an extra $10,000 left in the budget may be used to purchase add-ons, such as a new irrigation timer.
Crews re-centered the game infield and laid down rolls of fresh sod. They moved the pitcher’s mound, which was 3.5 feet off-center, and 4 inches lower than home plate — a big problem for softball games, said Ott-Rocheford. New gravel was laid on the walking path around the perimeter of the park, and tree limbs were cut back to allow for light onto the field in the shady, southeast corner, where water has made the ground mushy during the rainy season.
Ott-Rocheford noted that the renovation comes at a somewhat precarious time for the district, which faces an election this November for a 45- cent, four-year levy to provide for the district’s operating funds and maintenance needs.
In the event that voters strike down the ballot proposal, as they did with a 52-cent levy in April, Ott-Rocheford said the district would prioritize asset preservation but would be forced to close many of the parks and facilities it owns until the earliest opportunity to propose a new levy.
The project contractor for the Agren renovation was AM Landshaper, known for its work at T-Mobile Park in Seattle. Brandy Fox of CPM, Construction Planning & Management, was hired back to manage the project after her work on the Vashon High School athletic complex last year, with the Agren Field design by engineer Dave Anderson of Seattle’s D.A. Hogan & Associates.
In a twist, Seattle Mariners Head Groundskeeper Bob Christofferson — a friend of Anderson, who is affectionately known to the baseball team as the “sod father” — will personally assist district maintenance workers with the upkeep of Agren Field pro bono for 30 days after the project is finished next month.
“We’re feeling pretty fortunate that we’ve got that kind of talent making sure it’s fine,” said board chair Bob McMahon. “It’s top-notch, and it’s going to be fantastic.”
For her part, Fox agreed.
“You should go see it. It’s just beautiful,” she said, adding that the new field should remain in good condition for 10 to 15 years with a strong maintenance program.
Islander Morgan Defiglia is the coach of the Vashon Blue Ribbon men’s team. Now that their season has ended, he said they are looking forward to returning to the field next year after the sod takes root, and are appreciative of the district for seeing the renovation through.
“Everybody’s just so thrilled,” he said.
Defiglia said both the island co-ed and men’s softball leagues have played at the park for 15 years, but he noted that the game has been played at the field for much longer, after the Agren Family donated the 30-acre park to King County in 1956 in memory of Lieutenant Harold E. Agren, who died as a prisoner of war in World War II. One thing Defiglia said would not be missed about the old days is the dreaded “Agren Hop” — when a softball crossing the outfield hit an uneven spot, dramatically changing its course.
“It’s going to be so nice. We all just love to have a good time. It’s competition but still fun,” he said, inviting others in the community to join. “It really is a good activity for adults to get out and do something during the week.”
For more information, contact Morgan Defiglia on Facebook.